Maundy Thursday: The Meal Jesus Gave Us
April 6, 2023

Maundy Thursday: The Meal Jesus Gave Us

Passage: John 13:1-15, 2 Samuel 9:1-13
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Maundy Thursday: The Meal Jesus Gave Us
2 Samuel 9:1-13 & St. John 13:1-15
by William Klock

 

On Good Friday we recall the death of Jesus, but every year, on the night before—on this day we call Maundy Thursday—the lessons we read from the scriptures prepare us by telling us why Jesus died.  In our Epistle from 1 Corinthians 11, St. Paul recalls Jesus words at that last Passover meal he celebrated with his disciples and, specifically, how Jesus identified himself with the Passover bread and the Passover wine.  They didn’t understand at the time, but he was saying to them that a new exodus was about to take place, this time not from the bondage of Pharaoh, but from the bondage of sin and death.  And then our Gospel, where St. John tells us about the events after that Last Supper, when Jesus knelt to wash the feet of his disciples, the master, the Lord, becoming the servant of his disciples, once again preparing them for those events that would happen in the coming hours.  There is no proper Old Testament lesson appointed for Maundy Thursday, but at Morning and Evening Prayer we the Lord’s promise through Jeremiah that will establish a new covenant with his people, and we read about the manna from heaven in Exodus 16.  Those are certainly appropriate Old Testament lessons for today, but every year when Maundy Thursday comes around and we recall how Jesus instituted this meal that we share with him every Sunday, I can’t help but think of the story in 2 Samuel 9 about the young man with the hard-to-pronounce name: Mephibosheth.  And you know that, because I always find it hard not to mention him whenever I preach about the Lord’s Supper.

 

Mephibosheth was the grandson of King Saul and the son of Jonathan and that put him in a difficult spot.  As much as David had the utmost respect for Saul and would not raise his hand against the Lord’s anointed king, Saul saw David as a rival and sought to kill him on more than one occasion.  David, himself, could have killed Saul more than once, but he refused to do so.  Again, for all his faults, Saul had been anointed King by the Lord—and his son, Jonathan, the father of Mephibosheth, was David’s best friend.  And so David grieved at the fall of Saul and the death of Jonathan.  We read a few chapters earlier about the defeat of Saul by the Philistines.  And that’s where we’re first introduced to Mephibosheth, in a brief note.  When Saul’s capital, Gibeah, fell to the Philistines, one of the palace servants fled, carrying little Mephibosheth.  As she ran, she tripped, fell, and dropped the little boy.  We’re not told exactly how he was injured, but whatever happened, he was left “lame in both legs”.

 

Years later, after David had defeated his rivals and enemies and cemented his kingship over Israel, he summoned a man named Ziba, one of Saul’s former servants.  And David asked him, “Is there anyone remaining of the house of Saul to whom I may show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” (2 Samuel 9:1).  Saul’s family was gone.  Jonathan was dead.  It was common in the Ancient Near East that when a king was defeated, the victor hunted down any claimants to the throne and had them murdered.  Israel was supposed to be different, but even in Israel we see Baasha doing just this, murdering the family of King Jeroboam after he took the throne.  This is probably why the servant woman fled with Mephibosheth, hoping to save his life.  This is why, after all these years, David has heard nothing of any survivors.  He has to summon one of Saul’s servants.  And this servant tells him, “There remains a son of Jonathan; he is crippled in his feet” (2 Samuel 9:3).

 

David sent for Mephibosheth.  Every indication is that David only wanted to show kindness to his best friend’s son.  But Mephibosheth trembled in fear as he came before the King.  “Mephibosheth son of Jonathan son of Saul came to David, and fell on his face and did obeisance” (2 Samuel 9:6).  Imagine his fear.  It’s not hard to imagine that he’d been raised to fear David.  He’d been raised in hiding.  He knew the common practises of the day.  He may have had no aspiration to the throne, but David wouldn’t have known that.  And so he came before the King.  This was it.  He was going to die.  And David roars out, “Mephibosheth!”  And I imagine this young crippled man trembling all the more.  His voice shook as he lowered his head to the floor and pleaded as humbly as he could, “I am your servant.”  But then the unexpected happened.  Suddenly he realises that David’s roar, was not a roar of victory over the last of his enemies, over this poor, lame man who posed no threat, but a roar of happiness as he met, for the first time, this son of his long-dead best friend.  Imagine a grin spreading over David’s face.  “Do not be afraid,” he said to Mephibosheth, “for I will show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan; I will restore to you all the land of your grandfather Saul, and you yourself shall eat at my table always” (2 Samuel 9:7).

 

Imagine Mephibosheth’s shock.  Even he couldn’t quite believe it.  It didn’t make any sense.  He responds, “What is your servant, that you should look upon a dead dog such as I?” (2 Samuel 9:8)  But David proceeds to instruct his people to return everything that belonged to Saul: his estates, their produce, his wealth—all of it—to be restored to Mephibosheth.  And we’re told, “Mephibosheth ate at David’s table, like one of the king’s sons….[he] lived in Jerusalem, for he always ate at the king’s table” (2 Samuel 9:11, 13).

 

What is it about being invited to someone else’s table.  What is it about sharing a meal?  David didn’t have to do that.  He wanted to show kindness to Mephibosheth.  He could have restored Saul’s estates and their revenues to him and sent him on his way.  But that wasn’t enough.  Mephibosheth was a prince and David honoured him by welcoming him into the royal household and to the royal table.

 

On Sunday, as we read about Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, we were also reminded that our King is not like the world’s kings.  Cyrus, Alexander, Caesar…their kingdoms came by violence and the sword.  They came riding into town on great war horses or in chariots with armies of armed men at their backs.  They put their enemies to the sword.  But Jesus rides into Jerusalem, humbly on the back of a donkey and surrounded by women, children, and the common folk.  He is the king who became one of his own that he might die for the sake of his people.  This Lord is just the opposite of every other lord the world has known.

 

And now on this last night before his arrest, he does two things to help his friends understand just what was going to happen at the Cross and why it had to happen.  He washed their feet and he gave them a meal.  It’s fascinating to me.  As someone who loves a good theology book, it’s amazing to me that when Jesus wanted to explain what the Cross meant, he didn’t give a sermon; he didn’t give a lecture on theology and theories of atonement.  He just washed their feet.  And he gave them a meal.  And now he’s given us that same meal.

 

Brothers and Sisters, if you want to understand the Cross, come to the Table.  Jesus is the Son of David.  David summoned to his Table the son of his enemy and a man who could easily have been a rival and a thorn in his side.  David made himself vulnerable.  And he did so to show kindness to the man.  In fact, if you go back and look at 2 Samuel 9, when he asked his court who might know if any of Saul’s family lived, he said that he wanted to show kindness on behalf of Jonathan.  But when he asked Ziba, Saul’s servant, he said—more specifically—that it was because he wanted to show God’s kindness.  God had made David king and David wanted that kindness to exemplify his reign.  The Hebrew word is one you might have heard before.  It’s the word chesed.  The King James translated it as “lovingkindness”.  Chesed is a deep kindness, like that between a parent and child, that shows love and loyalty and grace.  It never fails.  And now the Son of David summons us to his Table.  Tomorrow we remember his death and on Maundy Thursday we remember that meal in which the King shows us his humility and his servant character.  Today we remember the meal that explains his death.

 

The Son of David invites us to share in his meal.  As the lamb, the bread, and the wine of the Passover reminded the Israelites of their deliverance from Egypt, and as the Israelites down through the centuries participated in that Exodus as they ate that meal, so the bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper remind us of this great exodus from sin and death in which Jesus had led us, and as gather at his Table we participate in those events ourselves.  Each time we come to the Table, each time we eat the bread and drink the wine, the Lord renews his covenant with us, each time he reminds us: I am your God and you are my people.  But we come, too, like Mephibosheth.  He knew he was the enemy of the king.  He knew he was unworthy of the meal.  We pray, “We do not presume to come to your Table, merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in your manifold and great mercies.  We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under your table.  But you are the same Lord whose nature is always to have mercy.”  The Lord’s Table reminds us of the death of God for sinners, the death of God for his enemies.  And so we come, both like and unlike Mephibosheth.  He cowered in fear.  He knew nothing of David’s mercy.  But we come to the Lord’s Table in light of the Cross.  We know the Lord’s mercy and his lovingkindness.  As we read on Sunday from Philippians: He did not grasp at his divinity.  He did not exploit his position as God for his own gain.  Instead, he emptied himself, took the form of slave, was born in our likeness, and became obedient to the point of death on a cross.  If we will come, resting on his mercy and trusting in his death, we can also pray, “Grant us, therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of your dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body, and our souls washed through his most precious blood, that we may evermore dwell in him and he in us.”

 

Let us pray: Almighty Father, whose dear Son, on the night before he suffered, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood: Mercifully grant that we may receive it thankfully in remembrance of Jesus Christ our Lord, who in these holy mysteries gives us a pledge of eternal life; and who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

 

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