A Farewell Meal
John 13:1-17; 31b-35

Tonight I’d like to focus on the last few verses of our Gospel reading, where Jesus gives the disciples and us a new commandment.  “That you love one another.  Just as I have loved you, you should also love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another”.

On Monday night Terri and I took Pastor Thomas and his wife Lyn out for a farewell dinner.  It was our way of saying thank you for their prayers and support over the last three years since we came to Melbourne and also to wish them well for their new adventure.  To show them love in return for the love they’ve shown us.  It was a lovely night, with good food and good company, a chance to relax for them in the midst of packing and moving, and a chance for us to stop for a bit of a breather in the preparation for our Easter celebrations.

One of the other great things about the night was the opportunity to be served by someone else.  You know how it works, you come in and the nice waitress finds you a table and sits you down.  You’re asked if you would like any drinks, and they hand you the menus, then they come back to find out if you’ve managed to make a decision about what you would like to eat tonight. 

Decisions are made, orders placed, and you settle in with your drinks and await the arrival of the meals.  When you are eating with friends the conversation usually comes easily, you relax and enjoy the time together.  Then once the main course is over the nice waitress brings the dessert menu.  Sometimes, when it’s a special occasion we even order something, and we did on Monday.  We got to enjoy some magnificent dessert and continue our conversation.

Almost unnoticed throughout the evening the staff collected dirty dishes and looked after our every need.  It was all very pleasant.  Then once we were full to overflowing it was time to get up from our tables and head for home and the inevitable goodbyes and the moving on to a new phase in life for our friends.  We didn’t really want it to happen, we perhaps weren’t overly ready for it, and yet we knew that it was coming.

The meal that Jesus was having with his friends was a bit similar, but with longer term effects on all of us he was preparing to say goodbye.  One of his friends didn’t stay to the end of the night; it appears that Judas excused himself early.  This is a pivotal point in the text.  When Judas left, he went on a mission, to betray Jesus, there was no turning back for any of them once Judas left the room.  The wheels were set in motion, the brakes were off and the downhill run was starting to gain momentum.  This was the beginning of the end, or to be more accurate, the beginning of the beginning. 

Jesus had just shown them a great example of love, he’d washed each of the disciples’ feet and he had broken bread and he drank wine with them, all of them, even the one that he knew would soon betray him.  Just as he had done throughout his life, Jesus share a meal with sinners, and in doing so showed them how much he loved them.  They weren’t served by paid staff, Jesus served them.  Their dessert was to be his body and blood, shed for them for the forgiveness of sins.

The role Judas was about to play was also serving a purpose; he was playing his part in the events that had been put in place by God the Father to fulfil the ultimate redemption.  That is, to restore his beloved people to a loving and forgiven relationship with him.

We all have a role to play in that restoration today.  We are God’s people, many of us have betrayed him, turned our backs on him, denied him, and rejected his gifts, even if only for a time.  The fact that we are here tonight shows that we have heard his calling to return to him.  We are here in his presence, being served by him in this place.  We are gathered around the table together as guests at his meal.  He wants us to receive today what he gave to the disciples at the Last Supper, his body and blood given and shed for us for the forgiveness of sins. 

He is showing us how much he loves us, and he wants us to reflect that love by loving others in return.  That’s the role we play in the restoration, by showing Christ’s love to others they might see him through us and return to him too, to receive again or even for the first time, the wonderful gift of forgiveness of sins.

The events that we are hearing about again tonight took place in order for all people to be restored to him, to be reconciled, to be in a right relationship with God the Father through his Son.  To be called into his presence to share this meal with him.  This is a meal for friends, for loved ones, to be enjoyed together as he serves us.

It is no longer a farewell meal, more of a housewarming meal, where we come into God’s house and feel the warmth of his love and share in the forgiveness of sins as we eat and drink and share his love with one another.  And by this everyone will know that you are his disciples, if you have love for one another.