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Rev. Dr. George Hancock-Stefan

The question that became the title for this article was asked by one of our daughters as she was trying to figure out how our family will celebrate the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. For the past 30 years this was not a question for us, because we were in the same place. We went to the Easter Sunrise Service at the Atlantic Highlands Harbor, we came home and prepared ourselves for the worship service at Central Baptist Church, we worshipped with our church community, and then we had family members and friends share in the Easter meal. But this year, we are regrouping, and we have to figure out where we will meet for Easter and which years our daughters and their spouses will celebrate holidays with us and which they will spend with their in-laws.

In the Scriptures, the Lord’s Table preceding the Easter celebration starts with a question. The disciples ask Jesus, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?” In the Gospel of Mark, we find the answer: So, he sent two of his disciples, telling them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. Say to the owner of the house he enters, ‘The Teacher asks, Where is my guestroom, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large upper room furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.” The disciples left, went into the city, and found things just as Jesus told them. So, they prepared the Passover.

During this Lent I will look at various questions that the disciples or Jesus asked, and how those questions have been answered.

The first thing that impressed me is how many people are involved in this story. The initiative comes from the disciples, as they ask Jesus how they will observe Passover in Jerusalem. The majority of the disciples were Galileans, and we do not know how familiar they were with the big city. The Lord Jesus Christ could have given them a direct answer, but he wants to build faith by showing that they can trust Him when he sends them out into the world. Jesus, who knew all things, knew where the Last Supper would be held. However, he involves other people. He sends them to find a man carrying a jar of water and then tells them to follow that man to a house where the master of the house has furnished the upper room. It is in that place that the disciples have to prepare the last meal that Jesus and the disciples will share.

This story reminded me of another story from the Old Testament. Abraham sends his servant into a distant land to find a wife for his son, trusting that God will take care of the details. The servant prays that the young lady coming to the well will give him water to assuage his thirst and give water to his camels. Once she gives him the water, she goes to see her father and brothers and tell them about the stranger in their town. They invite the stranger into their home, and the conclusion of the story is that Rebekah becomes the wife of Isaac. According to many scholars, Isaac is a representation of Jesus because God asked for a sacrifice and while Isaac was spared, God did not spare his own Son. Instead, he gave him for our redemption as a sacrifice.

As I thought about this story of Jesus and the disciples, I was impressed that there are always people who are making preparations. I am not one who prepares meals in our family, but I have seen my mother, my wife, my daughters, and my sons-in-law prepare thousands of meals. During the time that I served as the pastor in five churches, there were so many people who made extensive preparations—from the people who made the sanctuary look beautiful inside and outside, to the people who taught Sunday School classes and Bible classes, to those who led the worship service, those who read the Scriptures, and those who were choir members and soloists. How thankful I am for those people who made ample and superb preparations. Somebody has already prepared the upper room!

Thomas Gillepsie, the former president of Princeton Theological Seminary, wrote an article with the title “Then Came Jesus.” He writes about the people who prepared for the wedding at Cana. While they did everything necessary for the wedding, it would not have been a miraculous day without Jesus. The people involved in the story of the Last Supper are only there because Jesus was coming to celebrate with them. All the preparations without Jesus are important, but Jesus is the one who brings life to all of our gatherings. Jesus is there to remind us that resurrection, not death, was his final action on this earth. He reminds the disciples and us that this earthly celebration called the Last Supper is a foretaste of the heavenly banquet when he shall celebrate His Second Coming in glory.

Composer and lyricist Bryan Jeffrey Leach was aware that we are intricately reenacting the Lord’s Table every time we take communion in our worship services. He wrote additional verses for the hymn Brethren, We Have Met to Worship. One of his verses goes, “Brethren we have met to worship, to adore the Lord and God, will you pray with expectation as we preach the living Word? All is vain unless the Spirit of the Holy One comes down, Brethren pray, and God’s great blessing will be showered all around.” That is my prayer for your meetings this year with your family and with your church – may the Holy Spirit of God come in abundance so that you will celebrate being in the presence of the Holy God.

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