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Last meals and living hope

Asleep at the Wheel is the name of a group that plays western swing music. Several years ago they recorded a song called Last Meal. It is a fictitious account of a man on death row about to be executed. However, before his execution can take place, the warden tells him he gets a last meal that consists of anything he wants. If they don’t have what he wants the warden says, they’ll go and get it and “you don’t have go until we get back with it.” Inspired by this promise, the condemned man sets about the task of composing an impossible to fill meal order so as to prolong his life indefinitely. Here’s some of what he requests for his last meal:
Bring me two dinosaur eggs over easy,
Fried in butter and not too greasy;
Mosquito knees and black-eyed peas,
Pour a little bit of butter on my
be-bop bees,
A saber tooth tiger steak,
A whole hippopotamus – well baked!

The song is humorous at a silly level (mosquito knees, a whole hippopotamus – well baked). At a deeper level we laugh because here is a person who has looked death in the eye and found a way to beat it. We like that idea because deep down inside, we’d like to believe that this might be the case for us as well. We’d like to believe that we can laugh ourselves out of our problems, especially the problem of dying. In our heart of hearts though, we know this won’t work. Entertainment answers for real life problems melt away like the fog on a hot summer day. When someone has to dial 911 for us, we’re going to need something from the real world.

We find it when we look at Jesus taking His last meal as He faces His death. We see Him and His followers share in the simple Jewish Passover meal. In the middle of this last supper, Jesus institutes a first supper. He takes some unleavened bread and grape juice and introduces a meal His followers will share in His memory countless times over the millennia that follow.

Unlike the song, this meal is not about a guilty man looking for a loophole to avoid death. It commemorates an innocent man calmly facing a criminal’s death because it is His Father’s will. The meal memorializes a life that was not taken but freely given for all. And in embracing this death, He finds life. Because of His “indestructible life” (Hebrews 7:16), “it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him” (Acts 2:24). There is nothing more right, more in harmony with the universe than the fact that the One who is the epitome of life could not be held by the grave. It would make as much sense to think butterflies come from black holes as to believe that death could somehow defeat Jesus.

For the follower of Jesus, this means that we can calmly face our death knowing that life lies on the other side. We can go to death because Jesus went there and He waits for us, holding the keys of  death and Hades (Rev. 1:18). That’s nice to know, isn’t it? It should give us a quiet confidence that whatever problems come our way this day or this life, while they may be bigger than us, they are not   bigger than Jesus.

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us newbirth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead," (1 Peter 1:3).

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