Sermon: Maundy Thursday – “Upper Room”

“On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, [Jesus’] disciples said to him, “Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?” And he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us.” (Mark 14:12-15)

The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci is perhaps the most famous, but many others have attempted to capture that scene. The one on the cover of your bulletin was painted by Titian, an Italian artist from the 16th century. If you study it, you will discover many symbols that help identify who each person represents. 

Second, from the left, I believe, is James because of the shell on his shoulder. Second, from the right, I think, is Bartholomew. You see, he is wrapped in a cloak, and the edge hangs over the side of the table. If you look closely, the part that hangs over appears to be an upside-down face. Bartholomew was flayed alive, and he is often pictured holding his skin. And, of course, beside him is Judas, the money bag in his left hand. Behind Jesus and to the right is the tree—a representation of the cross that was near to Jesus since his birth. You can notice all these things as you study the painting, but then you see Jesus’ eyes. Everyone else is distracted, looking here and there and engaged in some conversation (except for John, who is sleeping on our Lord’s breast), but not Jesus. Jesus is looking at you. When you see Jesus’ eyes, everything else becomes a bit blurry. Less important. With his hand, he is gesturing. He is inviting you to pull up a chair and join him, but there are so many years between that meal and today. How could we?

Link to higher resolution image.

in Book 4, Chapter 12 of The Imitation of Christ, my friend, Thomas à Kempis, speaks about Jesus preparing for that last meal with his disciples. Thomas imagines the words of Christ—“I AM the Lover of purity, the Giver of all holiness. I seek a pure heart, and there is the place of My rest. Prepare for Me a large room furnished, and I, with My disciples, will keep the Passover with you. If you wish that I come to you and remain with you, purge out the old leaven and make clean the dwelling of your heart.”

We cannot join Jesus in the upper room that was prepared those years ago, but we can prepare the upper room of our hearts. We, through our confession and devotions, can set the table within. A table covered in fine white linen, adorned with our very best. We can prepare this table of our hearts and say, “Come, Lord Jesus. Dine with me,” and He, with His disciples, will enter in.

Following such a meal, the Lord will get up from the table, take off his outer robe, and tie a towel around himself. Then he will pour water into a basin and wash the feet of all those in the room, including yours, cleansing you of the final remnants of your former self. Making you worthy to enter into His Kingdom.

Look into the eyes of Jesus. He is all that matters. Allow him entry into the banquet you have prepared for Him within your heart.

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