Luke 2:41-52

52 Weeks at the Table – Week 32

A boy of twelve goes missing, and we immediately fear the worst. Jesus was no ordinary boy, however, and not until a day out of Jerusalem headed for home did Joseph and Mary begin to be concerned (Luke 2:41-52). They went for the Passover feast every year, and He probably knew the way. They looked for Him among their kinfolk in the caravan, but after no more than a day and a half went by, they turned back. If you know the Story, you know that they found Him in the temple, listening and asking questions among the teachers. The teachers had obviously asked Him what He thought, for they were amazed at His answers and his comprehension.

Like any parents would, they asked, “Why have you treated us like this?” Like any twelve-year-old boy who thinks his parents know every fascination of his that makes time seem irrelevant, he answered, “Why were you looking for me? Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”

Here in the temple – where He would one day be the greatest Teacher of all (Matthew 23), where his opponents would twice try to stone Him (John 8:48-58; 10:22-42), whose guards would arrest Him (Luke 22:52), where His followers would daily meet after His ascension (Acts 2:46) – was still His Father’s house, whatever destiny it might later hold.

Until the time came for His Spirit to take residence in our bodies, His new temple (1 Corinthians 6:19).

Father God, we can only admire the inimitable faith of Your Son; His confidence that You would care for Him at Your temple. And we know that His faith in Your deliverance (Luke 9:22) is our example, even though that temple was no sanctuary from evil and treachery. We pray that You will nourish us with this bread of remembrance, fill us with Your eternal Spirit, and put us about Your business in Your house now and forever. Amen.

Holy One and only God, we recognize the blood of Jesus in this cup, the blood of Your Passover Lamb, Your Son. We read that He grew in wisdom and stature; in favor with man and with You. May this cup of remembrance help us to grow in all these ways as well, ever wiser, ever stronger, ever more loving, ever more spiritual – and always closer to You. In His name, amen.

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Luke 1 and 2

52 Weeks at the Table – Week 31

Luke’s opening chapter leaves no doubt that the Child foretold in centuries past will be born an extraordinary child. Angels appear. A forerunner is prophesied. A Messiah is promised. The fetal forerunner John leaps in his mother Elizabeth’s womb. Mary sings. Zechariah sings. And in chapter two, all of heaven sings while dazed shepherds keep watch over the innocent, newborn Lamb of God.

But the prophecies are not all kind and fair. When the parents bring their eight-day-old Son to the temple for circumcision, the elderly prophet Simeon seems to sing his praise and prayer for God’s salvation – and for release from this life. He holds the Child and blesses Him and confirms His destiny: to cause the rising and falling of many in Israel … to be a sign spoken against … to reveal the thoughts and hearts of many. And he tells Mary that a sword will pierce her own soul, too. It is a dark revelation, relieved only a moment later when the prophetess Anna begins telling everyone around that this Child would bring the redemption of Jerusalem.

God and Father, You behold past, present and future. You weave them to Your purpose. You create life, give life, restore life. Your promises never fail. So we sing to You our praise of thanksgiving for the redemption of our lives, our bodies … through the Body of Your Son. We cherish Him in this bread, which nourishes body and soul. Amen.

Merciful and Just One; Loving and Righteous God: thank You for giving Your Son, the Only of Your creation to remain innocent as a newborn throughout the span of life. Through His blood, we fallen may rise again. Through His blood, the thoughts of our hearts are revealed. Through His blood, a sword pierces our own souls, too. Through His blood, we find redemption from sin. Through His name, we thank you for this cup: Amen.

Isaiah 53:8-12; Luke 22:35-38

52 Weeks at the Table – Week 30

Moments before His arrest, Jesus quoted a snippet of Isaiah to the remaining eleven, and told them that it was a prophecy about to be fulfilled in Him (Luke 22:35-38): “It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.”

If those disciples remembered their scripture as well, they would have recalled that Isaiah (53:8-12) also foretold the arrest, the judgments at trial, the suffering, the taking of His life, and – above all – the reason for it: He was to be “a guilt offering” … to “justify many” and “bear their iniquities.” And the prophecy also hinted at His victory, both with the question “Who can speak of his descendants?” as well as the triumphant answer: “He will see the light of life and be satisfied” … “I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong.”

All praise and honor are due You, Father God, for You have revealed Yourself – Your justice, Your mercy – to us through Your Son. You have willed that He should serve to intercede on our behalf. And, sharing Your very nature, He has poured out His life unto death for our sins. Through this bread we see the body of Jesus, pierced for our transgressions; crushed for our iniquities. Forgive us, O God, through the power of this, Your promise. Amen.

We can only continue our praise and thanksgiving, Almighty God, for the giving of Your Son, Jesus, the Christ. As He poured out His life unto death, may we see His life poured out in this cup. May we dedicate ourselves to the imitation of His selflessness in pouring out our lives in gratitude and living sacrifice that honors You through Him. May we find strength in His strength, and be counted among His portion. Amen.

Isaiah 53:1-7; Matthew 26:62-63

52 Weeks at the Table – Week 29

The prophecy Isaiah has been given to share seems incredible, even to him: “Who has believed our message?” He expresses it in past tense, so certain is it that it may as well have already happened. God sends a Servant – not handsome, not esteemed – and suffers not only as we suffer, but actually bears our suffering and our guilt. And we misunderstand. We see Him struck down by God. But the truth is, He is stricken and smitten by us; by our sins. All of us have wandered away from God like bleating sheep … but this Lamb of God is led to slaughter silent.

“The men who were guarding Jesus began mocking and beating him. They blindfolded him and demanded, ‘Prophesy! Who hit you?’ And they said many other insulting things to him.” ~ Luke 22:63-64 … “Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, ‘Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?’ But Jesus remained silent. The high priest said to him, ‘I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.’ ~ Matthew 26:62-63 … “The Jews insisted, ‘We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.’ When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, and he went back inside the palace. ‘Where do you come from?’ he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer.” John 19:7-9

Holy God, one of your wisest once said that there is a time to be silent and a time to speak. You speak even in Your silence, and before You now we listen. We hear the sheep-brained bleat of our own lives echoed in the mockery of the soldiers and the high priest and hear our fear in the words of Pilate. Remind us in this bread that Your Son’s body was given for us; that we are now that body in Him. Amen.

Father God, only One could claim to be the Son of God; the Suffering Servant foretold by Isaiah, and that is Jesus. He was silent in response to cruelty and cowardice, yet could not remain silent about that truth. He gave His consent through silence to the brutality that results from sin. He gave His blood to remove our transgressions, and we remember Him in penitence through this cup. Forgive us, we pray; embolden us that we too might never be silent about the truth of Your Son – however difficult to believe that it might seem to others. Amen.

2 Kings 13:20-21; Matthew 27:52-53

52 Weeks at the Table – Week 28

It reads almost like a footnote to the main narrative – the two verses of 2 Kings 13:20-21 – “Elisha died and was buried. Now Moabite raiders used to enter the country every spring. Once while some Israelites were burying a man, suddenly they saw a band of raiders; so they threw the man’s body into Elisha’s tomb. When the body touched Elisha’s bones, the man came to life and stood up on his feet.” The man’s name isn’t given. His fate isn’t disclosed. Something so astounding – life arising from death, without a breathing, speaking prophet as the channel of it – should seemingly deserve more information! But, like the army raised from dry bones before amazed Ezekiel (chapter 37), no more is said of the matter.

In fact, the short passage reads almost like the two verses of Matthew 27:52-53 – not disclosed in any of the other three gospel accounts: “The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.” No names. No details. And yet, those few words communicate the power of resurrection unleashed on the earth at the very moment Jesus died. Who these “holy people” were seems to be of little or no consequence compared to the fact that they lived again, and that the power of resurrection was associated with Him even after His death.

Two spare verses say it all.

Creator and Sustainer, we are completely humbled by Your power to create life from the dead; to raise children unto Abraham from rocks and earth; to bring dead works to life through faith in Christ; to bring life back to those who have passed beyond it in the body of Christ. For this bread, which both recalls it and builds it up, giving life to the dying, we give You our awed thanksgiving through Jesus: Amen.

For the lifeblood that flows through our veins and arteries, O God, we give You thanks. It should have been required of us to atone for our self-filled sins, but You provided Your very own dearest blood; that of Your Son Jesus. It took the place of ours as His life took the blame for ours. We remember it throughout this life in the sharing of this cup, on which we ask your blessing through Christ: Amen.

Lamentations 2; John 19

52 Weeks at the Table – Week 27

After the death of Elisha, another succession of wicked kings ruled Jerusalem – with the exception of Josiah, the reformer-king who sought to destroy the altars and worship-objects of the detestable false gods and rebuilt the temple and re-instituted Passover. It was not enough to turn the hearts of Judah back to God or to turn His wrath away from their sin – so God turned His back on them, as it had been with Israel to the north. Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem, and when he had starved its populace into submission, he razed its holy and royal buildings to the ground. Those who escaped deportation to Babylon, fled to Egypt. The second of the acrostic Lamentations mourns:

My eyes fail from weeping, I am in torment within, my heart is poured out on the ground because my people are destroyed, because children and infants faint in the streets of the city. They say to their mothers, “Where is bread and wine?” as they faint like wounded men in the streets of the city, as their lives ebb away in their mothers’ arms. (2:11-12)

It was a meal featuring bread and wine which preceded the capture of Jesus and His final exile to a cross on a hill outside of Jerusalem. The apostle whom he loved records that there He entrusted the care of his mother to John just before a spongeful of wine vinegar was lifted to His dehydrated lips. Then He surrendered His Spirit and bore the weight of sin not-His-own to the death He did not deserve. (John 19)

Holy, Righteous, One God … what You have done for us in giving Your Son exceeds the boundaries of love and grace that man can perceive. It is inexplicable, inexpressible and incomprehensible. We cannot grasp nor measure its dimensions. We can only bow, with this bread – His body – dissolving in our mouths as His sacrifice dissolves our sins, and remember Him in gratitude a for which we have no sufficient words. Amen.

Sovereign Lord God, if we can only begin to understand the grief and pain of Jesus’ mother at the cross, then we can surely do no more to comprehend Your own as His Father. We remember the trembling of the earth; the rending of the temple’s veil; the moment of Your wrath expressed to and yet withheld from us by the grace of His blood. Bless this cup – His blood – and we who share it to always remember Him, and remember why. Amen.

1 Kings 17, 2 Kings 4; Matthew 14, 15

52 Weeks at the Table – Week 26

When a drought caused Elijah’s brook to dry up and he had to move on from where ravens fed him, the Lord sent him to the house of a widow in Zarephath and her son. God provided for them through containers of flour and oil that were always, miraculously, full. When the boy died, Elijah’s prayer restored his life (1 Kings 17). Similarly, following Elisha’s instructions, a prophet’s widow and two sons found relief from debt through a vessel of oil that did not cease pouring until there were no more vessels to pour into. And Elisha was hosted in Shunem by a woman whose husband was old – yet Elisha’s prophecy of a baby in her arms came true. And when the boy later died, Elisha did as his master had done with the widow’s son – and the child revived. Not much later, he fed a hundred with a mere twenty loaves of barley bread (2 Kings 4).

Jesus, known as a prophet during His incarnation, also fed bread to five thousand (Matthew 14) and four thousand (15) and, shortly after healing the illness of a centurion’s servant, raised a widow’s son to life (Luke 7) as well as His dear friend Lazarus (John 11). In the end, His compassion led to His demise, for there John records: “Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin. ‘What are we accomplishing?’ they asked. ‘Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.’ ” Then, Matthew adds: “So from that day on they plotted to take his life.”

Undiminishable Father God, we praise You because Your mercy toward us has no end, pouring forth like the oil and flour that made bread for Elijah, the widow and her son. In our spiritual poverty, You have provided Your Son through Your limitless compassion, to let Him be consumed like bread. Through Him, You give us the strength of His righteousness and we are filled. Bless now this bread we pray in the name of Jesus: Amen.

Holy, Unchanging One, there is perhaps no miracle more powerful than the way the blood of Your Son changes us; transforms us into Your likeness with ever-increasing glory (2 Corinthians 3:18). Through Him, we cross over from death to life (John 5:24). For this incomparable miracle – the ongoing resurrection of our lives from dead pursuits to eternal glory; for this incomparable blood and the cup it fills, we thank in Jesus’ name: Amen.