An Open Invitation
In the upper room on the night before Jesus died, many things were said, many things happened, but perhaps the most beautiful and most significant of all was what we have come to term the Last Supper. From the Gospel according to Matthew, the 26th chapter beginning at the 26th verse. This is the Word of God.
“Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread and blessed it and broke it and gave it to the disciples and said, ‘Take, eat. This is my body.’ And He took a cup and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them saying, ‘Drink of it all of you for this is my blood of the covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I shall not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s Kingdom.’ And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Then Jesus said to them, ‘You will all fall away because of me this night for it is written, “I will strike the shepherd and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.” But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.’
“Peter declared to Him, ‘Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.’
“Jesus said to him, ‘Truly I say to you this very night before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.’
“And Peter said to Him, ‘Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you.’ And so said all the disciples.”
Soli deo gloria. To God alone be the glory.
Let us pray. Now may the words in my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O God, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
We read these words in the Gospels, Jesus took a cup and when He had given thanks and blessed it, He gave it to His disciples and He said, “Drink of it, all of you.” All of them? Was He really serious? All of them? Yes, He said it and He meant it, “Drink of it all of you.” But you see, they were all He had. That’s right. All He had in the world save the garment on His back. All He had. Those twelve gathered about that table. His own blood kin had deserted Him. His countrymen who earlier had sung His praises now cried for His death. Even His mother, though she stood loyally by, did not completely understand what He was all about. Those twelve about that table, they were all He had in the world. They were His. They weren’t much. And any way you read the Gospels, you have to come to that conclusion. They weren’t very much. But they were all He had. And they were His. And that was enough.
You know, in my own imagination, I have tried to imagine what must have been going through His mind on that night as He took the cup in His hands and proceeded to move around that table to each one, offering to them that cup, knowing what the cup symbolized. I’ve often wondered what must His thoughts have been as He came to each one. Could they have been these?
“Matthew, drink this cup. You who once were a tax collector, a social and religious outcast turned against by all of those who are around you because you sold yourself for gold and you sold your people to the Roman oppressors. And people hated you. They turned on you and I can see in your eyes tonight that all of your sordid past is rising up before you in your memory. Let it be there. Let those events parade before you. But remember, Matthew, remember it all only as a way of recognizing who you are now, a child of God and a friend of mine. Remember that no one will ever be turned away from me. No matter how shredded their garments of decency may be, I will simply wrap them in the splendor of my love just as I have you. Oh, Matthew, I accept you just as you are so that I can make you into what I want you to be. Yes, Matthew, drink the cup because you are Mine.”
“Peter, oh, please, you must drink this cup. There is a weakness in you what you will not admit. There is the cowardice of denial within you and you refuse to acknowledge it but it’s there and it will come to the surface. But then that’s the way your whole life in the faith has been. It’s been a story of fits and starts. One day the glory of God shines in your face and the next day your whole life is distorted by sin. Oh, Peter, drink this cup. It will give steadiness to that impulsive spirit of yours. Drink this cup because no matter what failure you may wreak in your life, I will never ever let you go. Drink this cup because you are Mine.”
“Thomas, drink the cup, Thomas. You need it. I see in your eyes the depths, the struggle of doubt. Doubt has made your heart into a battleground when in fact your heart ought to be filled with love. But you’re capable of that kind of love. I’ve seen that in you and love, Thomas, love can cover a multitude of sins. I only hope and pray that someday you will come to see Me for who and what I really am. Until then, it doesn’t matter what you believe or what you don’t believe. Drink this cup because you are Mine.”
“Judas, my heart breaks within me. I offer you the cup. I know the money’s already changed hands. I hear the clink of it in your money bag. Go if you must. Do what you pledge yourself to do, if you must. But if only you would take this cup, if only you would understand what it really means, if only you would understand that, yes, you are still Mine.”
“John, my beloved friend. I call you beloved but I should also call you angry. Do you remember the time when you came to me with fire in your eyes and a blaze on your tongue and some town had spurned us and you demanded that I call down fire and consume them all? John, drink this cup that that towering pride of yours may be humbled. Drink this cup that that blazing temper of yours may be curbed. Drink this cup and learn to love the way God loves. God’s love is so deep that it can swallow any sin. God’s love is so wide that it can embrace all who come to Him. John, learn to love as I have loved you. Drink this cup because you are mine.”
One after another He looked them in the face and offered them the cup and said “drink of it all of you,” one after another, thinking all the while, seeing in them all the glory and the shame, all the magnificence and the miserableness, all the triumph and dismay that are a part of the human experience. He saw it all in their faces. And yet – and yet, they were His. They were His. And if you ever needed a jolt of encouragement in your life, here it is. It’s the fact that Jesus with all of the power of heaven and on Earth at His fingertips, He could have chosen 12 of the most powerful, the strongest, the most influential, the most intellectual, the most capable people in all of the earth to be His followers. He could have done it and He didn’t. Instead He chose 12 frightfully ordinary human beings, people just like you and just like me. It’s incredible to think those are the people He chooses. People like you.
Sure, our talents and abilities are limited. Sure, our achievements and our accomplishments are insignificant. Sure, our sins and our shortcomings are numerous. And yet, what does He say? He says, “You are Mine. You, every single one of you and you and you and you, you, you, you are mine, and I need you and I love you. Drink this cup, all of you.”
Not some of you. All of you. You with a breaking heart which is aching because of the blow of some loss or sorrow or bereavement. You of the battered will which has gone down again and again before some temptation. You of the superficial hardness that has caused you to turn a closed ear and a clenched fist toward your fellow human beings. You with a trembling spirit which is haunted by doubts about God and thus is haunted by fears about life. You of the casual, callous indifference which sees the world and the human need about us and says, “I don’t really care.” You with a smoldering faith that needs to be fanned into a great burning, consuming fire again. You, He says, drink of this cup, all of you.
And what I want you to understand today is simply this, that here in this place as nowhere else on earth, here is where the broken heart is made whole again. Here is where haughtiness and insensitivity are set aside. Here is where faith replaces doubt and concern replaces indifference and courage replaces fear and love replaces hatred. Here is the place where the wandering, wavering will is seized by the Spirit of Jesus and set forth on a path of new meaning and new purpose in life. Here as nowhere else on Earth, here is where you see Jesus. And here is where your life is transformed into all God intends you to be. Here is where God’s Spirit enables you to begin to live up to all of the glorious capacities which God has planted within you. Here as nowhere else on this earth is the place where you will be accepted just as you are. Here as nowhere else you will be loved into wholeness and into glory. Here as nowhere else.
On that night so long ago the invitation was open. He said, “Drink of it all of you. Not some of you. All of you. And the invitation is open still. In His name I bid you, come to this table, all of you. Eat of this bread and drink of this cup, all of you, because you are His and you shall be His forever. So come and eat and drink all of you. All of you.”
Let us pray. Almighty and most gracious God, it’s incredible to think that Jesus would call the likes of us to be His very own. And yet those twelve are made of the same stuff we are. The same triumphs and the same defeats. The same glories and the same shames. And yet they were his and because they were His, it made a difference and they made a difference. Our Father, we are His too. That makes all the difference. Now in His name and by His power, let us make all the difference in the world. Amen.