Mar 2020

The Upper Room

Dave Rodriguez

Mar 15, 2020

I believe we are at a turning point in our lives. Something is going on around us and now in us that will fundamentally change the way we approach life. This, even if the world finds a way to arrest the coronavirus.

As previous generations were shaped by the plague, or the great famine or the civil war, or the great war, or the depression we will likely be shaped by this. This is a turning point.

Now pour all of those historical turning points into a bucket. Together, en masse, they pale in importance to the single most crucial turning point in cosmic history.

That moment in time...condensed to a few seconds... when Jesus heaved himself up upon the nails in his feet...sucked in his last gulp of air...an exhaled for the last time.

Last week Barry explained why this moment is THE turning point in history...

Barry Rodriguez:
It became clear that humanity was going to need something deeper than countless animal sacrifices to atone for human sin. Something lasting. Something that would not just save us from endless death, but would change us into sources of life. We needed a greater sacrifice.

It's as if every one of us placed our hand down on Christ's head and said, "this man is me" as he was executed. Because of his death, the curtain of the temple (which represented the gates of Eden) was torn in two. There was no longer a barrier between us and the presence of God.

It is that moment in time we will turn our attention to in the weeks ahead. We will actually look at 4 moments leading up to it. The moment itself and the moments immediately following.

These tension and horror filled moments in the last week of Jesus life take up a huge portion of all 4 gospels:

  • A third of Matthew, from Matthew 21-28

  • A third of Mark, from Mark 11-16

  • A quarter of Luke, from Luke 19-24

  • Nearly half of John, from John 12-20


These moments are so controversial, so frightening and in some respects so disgusting that we are forced every year to ask ourselves...
...what do I believe about all this?
...What do I believe about Jesus himself?
...What did he want me to do with this tragedy, this battle, this victory?

We'll ask ourselves those questions in these weeks leading up to Easter...we'll go in the moment and try to place ourselves smack dab in the middle of the story as if we were there.

  • We'll recline at the table and feel our feet being washed

  • We'll try to stay awake in the garden as Jesus prays his heart out

  • We'll experience the fury of the betrayal of a former friend

  • We'll agonize as we walk with Jesus through the trial

  • We'll sob at the foot of the cross

  • We'll feel the shock and awe of the empty tomb


And through it all we'll be standing right beside Peter.

  • We'll look at things through his eyes

  • We'll go in the moment with Peter

    • The most volatile...authentic...everyman of the disciples

    • The feeler, the passionate,

    • the guy who'd jump out of the boat to get to Jesus one moment and in the next drop expletives denying he even knew the man.


And like Peter, you and I will be left with the question - who is this Jesus anyway? What does he want from me?

Is he indeed the one of whom I must place my hand on his head and identify?

We may be in all 4 gospels today but let's start in Luke 22:14

  • Setting is a large room on the 2nd floor of a building

  • It is evening

  • The occasion was the annual festival of the Passover


Most of the events of the last 7 days of Jesus life happened at night or in the dark overcast of a massive storm.

  • We tend to treat the whole scene with an attitude of quiet contemplation and thoughtfulness. We light candles. We even tone down our musical worship.

  • It's the introspective subdued season of church.


But maybe it shouldn't be so somber or muted ...because as we go into this first moment with Peter in the upper room you'll see there was no hushed conversation...there was anger and argument, and false bravado and accusations, and in the end Jesus himself turned this dinner into an insurgency.

Luke 22:14-16
14 When the time came, Jesus and the apostles sat down together at the table.[ 15 Jesus said, "I have been very eager to eat this Passover meal with you before my suffering begins. 16 For I tell you now that I won't eat this meal again until its meaning is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God."

  • "I have been very eager" = "with desire I have desired this"

    • Same word twice...with deep passion I have passionately waited for this moment

    • He was worked up...agitated


Luke 22:24-30
24 Then they began to argue among themselves about who would be the greatest among them. 25 Jesus told them, "In this world the kings and great men lord it over their people, yet they are called "friends of the people.' 26 But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant. 27 Who is more important, the one who sits at the table or the one who serves? The one who sits at the table, of course. But not here! For I am among you as one who serves.

  • "Began to argue"...the word and grammar seems to imply that this had been going on for a while..."the love of contention"

  • These young mean were still first mountain people:

    • All about their identity and image

  • And Jesus determines to push them off the mountain into the valley of bewilderment

    • 26 But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant. 27 Who is more important, the one who sits at the table or the one who serves? The one who sits at the table, of course. But not here! For I am among you as one who serves.

And then he freaked them out by disrobing...and getting on all fours

John 13:4
4 So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, 5 and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples' feet, drying them with the towel he had around him.
6 When Jesus came to Simon Peter, Peter said to him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?"
7 Jesus replied, "You don't understand now what I am doing, but someday you will."
8 "No," Peter protested, "you will never ever wash my feet!"

  • Peter is freaked out - What the heck are you doing? Stop it! Don't even think about it!

This was a complete affront to Peter and likely the rest - why?

  • It was clearly a slap to the face of "contenders"

  • It was a shock to the cultural system - an attack on the caste system of the day

    • Have you ever had your feet washed? Have you ever done it?

    • At best its awkward. It is very hard to receive. The natural sense of superiority is overwhelming.

  • There was no tenderness here...there was shock bordering on anger.

8 Jesus replied, "Unless I wash you, you won't belong to me."

  • And Peter trying to mitigate the anger tries to turn it into some spiritual object lesson.

9 Simon Peter exclaimed, "Then wash my hands and head as well, Lord, not just my feet!"
10 Jesus replied, "A person who has bathed all over does not need to wash, except for the feet,[c] to be entirely clean. And you disciples are clean, but not all of you." 11 For Jesus knew who would betray him. That is what he meant when he said, "Not all of you are clean."

  • No you're missing the point....this isn't about some spiritual act of cleansing.

12 After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, "Do you understand what I was doing? 13 You call me "Teacher' and "Lord,' and you are right, because that's what I am. 14 And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other's feet. 15 I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. 16 I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. 17 Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them.

  • This was no sweet tender moment...

  • Jesus was making a social statement...mounting a protest against individualism and hubris, and self-protection...

He says...you're no better than me...you do this too! This is the way followers of mine from now on will be defined.

  • This is how you will now approach the needs of others

  • This is now your permanent posture - on your hands and your knees.

  • This is how you face a world of pain...and hatred...and loneliness

This is how you approach humanity in the day of the Coronavirus. And these are your tools - a towel and a basin

And the evening is just getting started...took another radical angry turn...
John 13:21-22

21 Now Jesus was deeply troubled,[a] and he exclaimed, "I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me!" 22 The disciples looked at each other, wondering whom he could mean.
Mark 14:19-21

Greatly distressed, each one asked in turn, "Am I the one?" He replied, "It is one of you twelve who is eating from this bowl with me. For the Son of Man must die, as the Scriptures declared long ago. But how terrible it will be for the one who betrays him. It would be far better for that man if he had never been born!"

  • Another emotional bomb thrown into the room.

  • Jesus pulls no punches ...the one who betrays me will face such torture that he'd wish he'd never have been born.

John 13:23-30 23 The disciple Jesus loved was sitting next to Jesus at the table.[b] 24 Simon Peter motioned to him to ask, "Who's he talking about?" 25 So that disciple leaned over to Jesus and asked, "Lord, who is it?"
26 Jesus responded, "It is the one to whom I give the bread I dip in the bowl." And when he had dipped it, he gave it to Judas, son of Simon Iscariot. 27 When Judas had eaten the bread, Satan entered into him.

  • Have you ever seen a person who is demonized?

    • Sometimes they exhibit mild signs of agitation but others - physical contortion

    • Something was evident for John to recollect it.

Then Jesus told him, "Hurry and do what you're going to do." 28 None of the others at the table knew what Jesus meant. 29 Since Judas was their treasurer, some thought Jesus was telling him to go and pay for the food or to give some money to the poor. 30 So Judas left at once, going out into the night.
John 13:31-38
31 As soon as Judas left the room, Jesus said, "The time has come for the Son of Man[a] to enter into his glory, and God will be glorified because of him. 32 And since God receives glory because of the Son,[b] he will give his own glory to the Son, and he will do so at once. 33 Dear children, I will be with you only a little longer. And as I told the Jewish leaders, you will search for me, but you can't come where I am going. 34 So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. 35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples."
36 Simon Peter asked, "Lord, where are you going?"
And Jesus replied, "You can't go with me now, but you will follow me later."
37 "But why can't I come now, Lord?" he asked. "I'm ready to die for you."

Uh oh...we know where this is going...

38 Jesus answered, "Die for me? I tell you the truth, Peter-before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.

Another emotional bomb...oh really...you will deny me.
At this point the room is a seething pile of anxiety and finger pointing and pearl cluthing and whoah is me-ing.
Jesus is pulling no punches:

"Spare me the egotism and false humility...when the way gets tough I'm afraid some or most of you are going to bail.
Are you? Are you a just a Jesus fan boy / fan girl who faints when it gets tough or are you an insurgent who are with him even if it kills you?
What on earth do you believe about this man??? What is happening? And then it gets REAL crazy...
The Last Supper
Luke 22:17
17 Then he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. Then he said, "Take this and share it among yourselves. 18 For I will not drink wine again until the Kingdom of God has come."
19 He took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, "This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me."
20 After supper he took another cup of wine and said, "This cup is the new covenant between God and his people-an agreement confirmed with my blood, which is poured out as a sacrifice for you.[a]

  • Now again, we treat this moment and have so in the last 2000 years as a meditative moment.

    • Sweet, tender, moving

But what really happened here?

  • The Passover is known as the watershed event in Jewish history. It was a defining moment for the Jewish people. God instituted the Feast of Passover as an everlasting memorial to their deliverance.

  • Each item has its place in a 15-step choreographed combination of tastes, sounds, sensations and smells that have been with the Jewish people for millennia.

    • four cups of wine.

    • veggies dipped in saltwater.

    • flat, dry cracker-like bread called matzah

    • bitter herbs,

    • charoset (a paste of nuts, apples, pears and wine).

  • The event was sacred, the elements in it were sacrosanct ...you don't mess with them ...but Jesus did

In this moment Jesus upended 1400 years of sacred tradition ... yes he came to fulfill the law but this felt more like he obliterated tradition.

What was going on here??? Let's try to look at this through Peter's eyes...

  • Am I full of myself?

  • Am I capable of betraying Jesus?

  • Could I come under the influence of Satan?

  • Am I strong enough to stay true to Jesus and not deny him?

  • Can I stand against culture and take the posture of a slave to other human beings?

  • Am I willing and able to ingest Jesus into the fiber of my being? And in so doing set aside long held religious views and traditions?

  • Is your idea of Jesus revolutionary enough? Is he outrageous enough to match this scene?

  • As you stand with Peter how would you answer his own questions?

And with those questions and feeling ringing in Peter's ears... they sing a song...and head out into the night...exhausted.