The Last Supper: the Elephant in the Room.

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2015-08-09 by Jeremy Clarke


Preacher: Ruth Goldbourne
9th August 2015
Reading: Luke 22: 7-23

Luke 22: 7-23

7 Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed.
8 Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.”
9 “Where do you want us to prepare for it?” they asked.
10 He replied, “As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters,
11 and say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’
12 He will show you a large room upstairs, all furnished. Make preparations there.”
13 They left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.
14 When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table.
15 And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.
16 For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfilment in the kingdom of God.”
17 After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you.
18 For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”
19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.
21 But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table.
22 The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed. But woe to that man who betrays him!”
23 They began to question among themselves which of them it might be who would do this.


There was an elephant in the room – right there with the bread, the lamb, the bitter herbs and the wine; there was an elephant.

They were afraid to speak of it, but it lurked all the same. For three years they had travelled with him, worked with him talked and argued and laughed with him; they had wondered and been confused and delighted and worried. They were a group – a close group, a committed group, sometimes standing against the opponents, sometimes, trying to protect him – especially from, demanding needy people, sometimes just being with him, and with each other, and enjoying it. This had become their life, this was who they were, this was all they wanted.

And now the elephant.

It had started small; the conflicts had been getting more intense, the crowds had been getting smaller edgier.

And it had grown, gradually but unmistakably; there had been moments when he had spoken of it – referred to those who would object to his teaching, talked about what might happen. And they had sometimes asked question. But on the whole they had tried to avoid it. Peter had even tried to deny it and drive it away. One of the days when he had been speaking about what was to happen to him, Peter took him aside and said never, this shall not happen to you – and been told off roughly for his trouble.

But they had conspired to ignore it.

And now it was unignorable.

Today was Passover; today was the time to celebrate, to rejoice in what God had done, to remember in security the times of danger and distress – and to be glad for the way God had freed them.

But instead, there was hiddeness, plotting to meet – and now the elephant was looming large, and could not be ignored

And he didn’t ignore it.

I want to eat this with you before I suffer.

I will not eat with you, drink with you until the kingdom comes.

A broken body, poured out wine, words about betrayal.

It could not be ignored any more.

Oh yes, he did talk about the coming kingdom he did talk about the future beyond the horror, on the other side of the elephant.

But they couldn’t hear him, they couldn’t understand what he was talking about, they couldn’t see beyond the elephant of threat, violence, death, whatever it was that was lurking, but that was definitely there.

And so they were afraid, they tried to stop him, they did what they could to make it not happen.

And we meet too around bread and wine, and we meet too in the presence of his words about death, about broken body and spilt blood, we meet to knowing that death waits on the other side of the meal.

And we know there is resurrection, we have heard the stories, we have committed ourselves to believing it is true.

But still – still.

Still death in all its forms, death as the end of what we know of life, death of our bodies, the deaths that come when we have to come to terms with physical limitation, the deaths of ambition, hopes, dreams, the deaths that come when our lives change without our control – the loss of job, the end of a relationship, the giving up of a cherished hope or something we have invested in and committed to; all of these deaths lurk like elephants in the room.

We know, like they did that first evening, the words of resurrection, the promise that the deaths we fear are not the end.

And here is bread and wine to sustain us on the way.

And among us is the risen one, promising us that life, love, hope and possibility will never be taken from us, will hold us forever.

There is always a question if we, like they, can speak of the elephant, hear Jesus name it and define it.

And the question behind that is can we hear him say to us – the kingdom is coming, there is life beyond death, the love that creates us will never let us go.

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