Does your house have a guest room? The kind of room where grandpa and grandma stay when they come to visit – or, depending where you are at in life, your parents – or your kids? Maybe you are blessed to have a specific extra room in your home, designated as the guest room. Or maybe you have one of your regular rooms which you use as a guest room and make do as best you can, if at the time of receiving guests, you have more occupants than you have space – and so your house is filled with sleeping bags and air mattresses all over the place…, but you are really happy to have people around you that you love.
Jesus needed space for at least thirteen people — twelve disciples, plus the Son of God. He needed space because he needed a place where he could be alone with the twelve whom he had spent so much time with for three years, as he prepared them for the time he would be leaving, the process of which, even though those disciples were totally in the dark about it at the moment, would begin that dark night. Not only did he need a place to prepare them for his departure, but he also had prepared something for them that would get done in remembrance of him until his return – until the day we all drink it anew with him in the kingdom of God. And not only did he need a place to prepare them for his leaving, and not only did he need a place to present to them what he had prepared for them after he did leave, he also even chose the place – and prepared the place – where all this would take place, when Jesus sent two of his disciples to ask a man carrying a jar of water, “The teacher asks, ‘Where is my guest room.’” Tonight for these moments let’s recline with Jesus as we take our seats in that very special place — The Guest Room.
In the Guest Room chosen by Christ for the events of this holy night, I am going to ask that we think about two things: what was identified there and what was satisfied there.
A guest room can be a room in a house, and it also can be a room in a hotel or a restaurant – a meeting place. There are certain things that a guest or a business person can identify as necessary – a bed, a dresser, a closet — Wi-Fi connection, a projector, a screen. What was identified in the guest room Jesus chose for this night was that something wasn’t right. There was a need for rescue and saving. In fact, the very thing that was identified as being a problem was the very thing they were observing that night – the Passover. God’s people hundreds of years needed rescue and saving from their misery in the land of Egypt, just as they needed – and all of us today need – rescue and saving from our misery in our lives of sin. We cannot enjoy the peace and victory of the guest room of Jesus unless we first of all realize we don’t deserve to be in the room with Jesus – and that, just as the Israelites of old, we have no ability or power in ourselves to do anything about it, unless there is rescue and salvation from above. There was wonderful joy in eating that Passover lamb that night in the guest room, but eating the Passover lamb was also a reminder of the death of lambs – and of the Passover Lamb – yes, thousands and thousands of lambs lost in death, all of which pointed to the one death of the final Passover Lamb, who this night was hosting the final Passover meal – the Last Supper – in this Jerusalem guest room.
But something else was identified there, as well, of course. Jesus told his disciples the striking words, “I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me – one who is eating with me” – the one who later on in the evening Jesus identified personally when Judas asked if it was he, and Jesus said, “Yes, Judas, it is you,” the time which then became the point of no return as Satan entered him, despite how much Jesus wanted to bring him back to him in loving faith. For you and me not only is it beyond humbling that our Savior had to endure this just plain unbelievable treachery at the hands of someone he loved, but it also beyond humbling to realize that you and I take part in the same just plain unbelievable treachery every time we move Jesus over for the sake of our own desires or interests or outright uncaring rebellion against the one who gave us our life – and who gave up his life – as would so soon happen after he left the guest room.
But the very fact that Jesus left the guest room means that something else was identified there – something that makes this somber, reflective night also a night of awesome wonder and joy. What we can identify in that room is also a Savior who, though he knew what was going to happen to him that very night and the next day, was thinking about someone else. He was thinking about his disciples. He was thinking about you and me. He did not want to leave us – he does not want to leave anyone — only in the dreary thoughts of what can be identified there, but with the faith-filled confidence of what was satisfied there.
A satisfied stay in an earthly guest room can mean the peace of a good night’s sleep or the success of a meeting well-run. A satisfied stay in the guest room of Jesus means the peace of a life well-lived and the success of an eternity of peace once the well-lived life is done. One very important and extremely powerful way to have the kind of peace and success the way God defines peace and success comes through simple words connected with simple bread and simple wine: “Take eat. This is my body. Take drink. This is the blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many.”
One way to perhaps appreciate all the more what it means for our everyday life to know that the body and blood of Jesus are connected with the bread and wine of Holy Communion is to think about what Jesus first said that evening about how he wanted us to live our everyday life. Our Lesson for tonight doesn’t include this, but do you remember how this evening began when they arrived at the guest room? Jesus washed their feet. The one whose feet a few hours later would be dragged off to stand before the seat of unjust Justice, the one whose feet some eighteen hours later would be gruesomely nailed to a cross — this is the one who as the lowliest of servants washed the feet of those people, who, just like you and me, were responsible for where those feet would be going. And why did he do that? The Bible says it so simply, yet so powerfully: “He (wanted to) show them,” we are the old, “the full extent of his love.” And after he had finished this very real and symbolic act of self-sacrificing, others-serving love, he told them what he has told his disciples of all time, “My command is this: Love each other, as I have loved you.”
And then he gave us the ability to do so by giving us forgiveness for not doing so as he has commanded. That is one of aspects of the Christian faith which can only be understood by a Christian’s faith, given to him by God himself. God commands us to perfectly do things that we cannot perfectly do because of our sinfulness in the first place and because of our desire to sin. Yet God gives us his perfection by giving us what Jesus gave – his body and blood, given and poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins. That is our comfort – and this is our encouragement, compelling us to live a life of thankful love for the Lord who loved us so, with one way of showing that thankful love being loving others more than we care about ourselves and seeing in others what Jesus sees in them – a heart that Jesus himself lives in – or a heart that Jesus dearly wants to live in, if they don’t have a guest room for him right there right then.
There is no possible way to intellectually comprehend how Christ’s body and blood can be together with — really present with — earthly bread and wine, any more than we can figure out with our minds how such eating and drinking can give us the forgiveness of our many sins against God, any more than we can figure out how that certainty of forgiveness leads us to want to forgive and love others, any more than we can figure out how the Son of Man could be the Son of God at one and the same time, any more than we can intellectually comprehend how the Son of God became the Son of Man in the first place, which is the mighty miracle of Christmas – a miracle which we often sing about in this way at Christmas-time:
Ah dearest Jesus, holy child, make thee a bed, soft, undefiled.
Within my heart that it may be, A quiet chamber (Could we say guest room?) – a quiet chamber kept for thee.
What has been satisfied in the chamber or the guest room of our heart? The holy anger of a God who demands payment for sin – payment which was made by the once and for all time Passover Lamb who was enjoying a meal of the Passover lamb with his disciples on that night in that special room – a meal which he changed into something that we have the honor and privilege of enjoying so very, very often. So, “Take eat, the body of Christ given for you. Take drink, the blood of Christ poured out for you for the forgiveness of all of your sins. And, as you do so, may this true body and blood of your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ strengthen you and keep you in the true faith until life everlasting” – when you will be welcomed into the ultimate Guest Room, where you will be able to enjoy forever the real and everlasting Last Supper. Amen.