The story is familiar to every child who has ever attended church and observed the ritual of Communion.
As Jesus and His disciples celebrate the Passover, Jesus holds the bread in His hands and breaks it. “This is my body which is given for you. Take. Eat. Do this in remembrance of Me.”
He passes the bread around the table. Each man takes a piece, not fully understanding this change in wording as they re-enact the night of the Passover Lamb before the Jews left Egypt in the time of Moses.
After dinner, He takes the cup holding the traditional wine of Passover. “This is My blood of the new covenant which is shed for you. Drink this in remembrance of Me.”
Again, the cup is passed to each member of the group, and they partake.
The scene is imprinted on my memory. Years of church attendance. My first communion upon confirmation. Hollywood’s versions of the Last Supper depicted with a dozen or more variations.
Yet, during my most recent reading of the passage in Luke 22, the phrase, “The hour had come,” struck a chord I hadn’t noticed before. Starting with Palm Sunday–this coming Sunday–Passion Week begins for the Church. A week of somber reflection and ending with victorious celebration.
The hour had come.
All of His life on earth, Jesus was aware this hour would come, and in His humanity, He could set that apart, compartmentalize, file it in a drawer for the future. He spent His childhood experiencing humanity, learned Joseph’s trade, studied the Torah in the way the priests taught Him. Even in His three years of ministry, He knew He still had time to teach the crowds and mentor the Twelve. He didn’t dwell on fear of the future that awaited Him.
Until this final Passover. Time was up. The file on His primary mission lay open before Him. In the next twenty-four hours, He would endure mockery, scorn, torture, and worst of all, His Father would turn away. Jesus would hang on the cross.
For the first time in all of existence, He would not sense God’s presence beside Him and in Him. While sins crawled all over Christ’s body and mind, the Father would not touch Him, nor would He even look at Him.
Together, They had made the decision long ago. This was the solution to save man from sin, to snatch people from the clutches of Satan. Jesus would pay the price instead of them. Jesus would pay for all the sins that had occurred before His Coming and all the sins that would occur before He returned.
One. Perfect. Sacrifice.
Let’s make His sacrifice personal instead of a narrative we’ve read over and over. Jesus made the sacrifice for us. It doesn’t matter who is reading this. He made the sacrifice for you, for your sins. He made the sacrifice for me and my sins. There is no way we can repay what we owe Him. We can’t make it up to Him through our perfect behavior because none of us has mastered perfect behavior. Not one of us is totally good.
Jesus’ body was broken for me, for all who have ever lived, and for all who will live after I have passed on.
His blood was poured out for me, for all who have ever lived, and for all who will live after I have passed on.
The hour had come.
For those who believe Christ is Lord and who believe the Creator is our Father as well as Jesus’ Father, God has a mission for us, probably more than one. And our ultimate calling is to stand as His follower in every circumstance.
When God birthed the Church through the Apostles, every single one of them suffered persecution and/or martyrdom. They accepted the hatred of Satan and his pawns and surrendered to death with joy, realizing their enemies found them to be as worthy of vicious cruelty as had been poured out against their Master.
Proclaiming our Christian faith has been relatively easy in America. So far, the worst we’ve endured is ridicule from those who don’t believe. But in Communist nations and places like Iran and the Sudan, Christians are imprisoned, tortured, or killed for their faith.
For over two millennia, countless Christians have chosen to stand with Christ in the midst of pain and sorrows, or they’ve turned tail out of fear and denied their Lord. We can read stories throughout history of those who kept the faith. Foxe’s Book of Martyrs provides a lengthy list of people I’d like to meet someday. We can find similar stories in the news if you know where to look. The Voice of the Martyrs is a magazine which comes to mind.
The hour will come.
We’ve always known persecution of Christians existed. Somewhere far away from us. We locked the idea in a secure file drawer, never expecting to be threatened by such terror. However, we see the perversion of souls in the violence surrounding us. We can’t go a day without news of another atrocity where the innocent fall prey to evil.
If God allows hatred toward those of faith to escalate, you and I will find a similar file open in front of us. We’ll have a decision to make. Are we willing to be broken for the Lord’s sake? Are we willing to allow our blood to be spilled, to follow the Master to the end?
We don’t need to worry if we’re strong enough to handle the pain. We already know we can’t. But we do have His promise that He will give us the strength we need for that moment.
Pain and persecution may never happen to me or to you, but we would be wise to prepare and to trust His promise if the hour comes.