The Earnest Host
by Austin Ariail
Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, "Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it." They said to Him, "Where will you have us prepare it?" He said to them, "Behold, when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him into the house that he enters and tell the master of the house, 'The Teacher says to you, Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?' And he will show you a large upper room furnished; prepare it there." And they went and found it just as He had told them, and they prepared the Passover.
And when the hour came, He reclined at table, and the apostles with Him. And He said to them, "I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God." And He took a cup, and when He had given thanks He said, "Take this, and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes." And He took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is My body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me." And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, "This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood. But behold, the hand of him who betrays Me is with Me on the table. For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!" And they began to question one another, which of them it could be who was going to do this.
A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest.
One of my fondest childhood memories were the Sunday lunches at my grandparents' house after church. In the small fifteen hundred square foot house gathered my immediate family, uncles, aunts, and cousins too. But the guest list did not end there, no, in fact other relatives would join us-second, third, and fifth cousins twice-removed, friends from church, and other family friends. Anyone who knew my grandparents knew there was a place on Sunday afternoons for them where they would be welcomed by hearty food, warm smiles, and lots of laughter. They were truly generous hosts who earnestly wanted any and all to come for a meal and fellowship.
The text from this past Sunday's sermon brings us to a climatic point in Scripture. Up and to this point, Jesus has spoken about His impending death and resurrection, yet the disciples are, at different times, confused, perplexed, or enraged about what He says. They cannot quite understand the true meaning of Jesus's words. Before Jesus is to endure the agonies of the cross and rise from the dead, He gathers His closest friends for one last, intimate meal. For them it was once in a lifetime experience, but for Jesus, the Earnest Host, it was not unfamiliar territory. If we go back to Genesis 1-3, the Earnest Host lays out a bounty of good for our first parents, Adam and Eve. However, the meal has parameters; no partaking of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. And yet we know both Adam and Eve disobey God, partake of the fruit, and the Earnest Host is incredibly furious and offended. Fellowship is cut-off. Relationship is broken between the Earnest Host and His image bearers. Rather than never to offer another feast again, the Old Testament teases us with portraits of a grand feast that is to come, where God will be reconciled to His image bearers and His Creation so that they may enjoy Him forever. Whether is it with Melchizedek king of Salem (Genesis 14:18), or the offerings in the Mosaic Law that included both feasts and sacrificial offerings (Leviticus 16, 23), there is something more to the Story that continually builds to this moment in the Upper Room.
In the Upper Room, the significance of moment and the meal is still muddled for the disciples. While Jesus spells out, at least to us, the apparent reality of what is to come both physically and spiritually in His crucifixion, speculation and one-up-manship break out among the disciples. The Earnest Host, again, lays out a bounty, a feast to partake, and the moment is lost in self-absorption. But this feast in the Upper Room is not the end; it points to a greater feast to come. This greater feast will happen in the Age to Come, where all the redeemed will gather with our God for forever (Rev. 19:6-9; 21:1-4). God will welcome communion and host His redeemed image bearers for a party of delight in Himself. God earnestly seeks out His people for that feast (Luke 19:10). Until that glorious day, we continue to gather at the Lord's Table to proclaim His death and look for His return.
We can have confidence that the Earnest Host will make a great feast for His people again, and this time there will be no interruptions, no self-absorption, no one-up-manship. There will be no end to His feast either. This feast will be about the enjoyment of our God for forever. As the prophet Isaiah wrote,
On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,
of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.
And He will swallow up on this mountain
the covering that is cast over all peoples,
the veil that is spread over all nations.
He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces,
and the reproach of His people He will take away from all the earth,
for the Lord has spoken. (Isaiah 25:6-8)