In Palestine, 2000 years ago, the days were counted sunset to sunset. This means that Good Friday as we think of it started on a Thursday night.
Of course as best as we can tell it was all one night for Jesus too. He went up the mountain to pray and came back down in custody, a prisoner on the way to the cross. But before the betrayals and kangaroo courts, before the beatings and the cross, Jesus was in a room with his closest friends sharing a meal.
In the light of the rest of the Bible this isn’t surprising. Close fellowship is often tied to meals together. You can imagine what it would have been like to walk in the cool of the day with the Lord as we are told Adam did and to eat a meal from one of all the trees of the garden that they were given for food. Later, Abraham welcomes the angel of the LORD with a meal. The prophets envision celebratory feasts. Christians later would be known for their “table fellowship”, always eating together and sharing their lives together.
All of this awareness only heightens the sense of irony that this meal–Jesus’ last meal–is all about broken fellowship. Look at what they talk about. Someone will betray him (Matt 26:21) . Peter insists that he would never fall away from Jesus, though Jesus tells him he will (26:33-34). In the end, even the weapon used against Jesus will be a kiss (26:49). Every symbol of friendship, of fellowship, of community, every symbol that ought to direct us back to God and his perfect, loving, Trinitarian fellowship is now turned into a symbol of pain, loss, and broken fellowship.
But that isn’t all there is to this Thursday night. There is also hope.
Jesus says, “I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s Kingdom” (26:29). On the other side of the cross there is a new kind of community, a new kind of fellowship where families are no longer broken apart by strife. Where friends don’t betray one another. Where enemies that seemed they could never be reconciled will at last sit at the same table and rejoice. Where the shouts and tears of trauma and war will at last give way to joyful singing.
After all, the last thing Jesus does before leaving that time of fellowship with his disciples is sing a hymn. That song, whatever it was, is a beautiful foretaste of something to come that is greater still.
So consider the places in your life where you see broken fellowship. See it for what it is: the tragic result of rebels trying to live apart from God. That rebel is me. It is those around me. It is people I have never met, but whose lives still touch mine in some way that only God sees.
Only when we see this broken fellowship for what it is can we look with hope at the cross.
Only then can look forward to the table and the feast.
Only then can we sing.