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Maundy Thursday

April 17, 2014

This past Sunday was Palm Sunday. Now, this moment when Jesus entered the city riding on a donkey colt was joyous, boisterous, and an extremely public display made by Jesus. Why did He enter this way? Luke 9:51 tells us that Jesus “resolutely set out for Jerusalem”. He knew the time and place His death was to take place in order to fulfill the Father’s plan of salvation for humanity, and the triumphal entry was just another step toward Calvary.

This coming Sunday is Resurrection Day, or as most call it Easter Sunday. This is also a joyous, boisterous time for those who are believers, as we celebrate Jesus’ victory over death and completion of God’s plan of salvation for humanity.

However… Just as Palm Sunday and Resurrection Day are celebrated, tonight… Maundy Thursday… as well as tomorrow night… Good Friday… are meant to be solemn and somber moments where believers experience the extravagant love of Christ.

**Maundy – A modern form of the Latin word mandatum, which is where we get our English word mandate from. Meaning: to hand over, to give as an order or a command. Over the years, mandatum has changed over time into maundy, which is what we use today.

What is mandated? At this point in the story of God’s salvific work through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, there are two things mandated, and three things demonstrated. Read on, and we’ll explore each of these from the lips of Jesus to our eyes and ears through Holy Scripture.

Let’s pick up the story in the book of Matthew.

Matthew 26:17-18 – 17 On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”

18 He replied, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.’” 19 So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover.

Travel over to the book of John and we’ll continue.

John 13:1-17 – It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”

10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.

12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

18 “I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill this passage of Scripture: ‘He who shared my bread has turned against me.’

19 “I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am who I am. 20 Very truly I tell you, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.”

21 After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me.”

22 His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. 23 One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. 24 Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask him which one he means.”

25 Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?”

26 Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. 27 As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him.

So Jesus told him, “What you are about to do, do quickly.” 28 But no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. 29 Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the festival, or to give something to the poor. 30 As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night.

Now, go with me back to the book of Matthew and we’ll finish the story.

Matthew 26:26-30 – 26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”

27 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the[b] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

30 When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

 

These passages are a familiar story for most, if not all of you who are currently reading this. We’ve read and heard the accounts in Matthew and John telling of Jesus’ meal with the disciples, and of Judas being identified by Christ and still betraying him even with that knowledge.  We also see Jesus being resolute and purposeful in his words and deeds that evening.

Remember the the things mandated and demonstrated I mentioned earlier? We’ve been shown all but one so far. First, let’s look at what is mandated.

Look again at the story of Jesus washing feet. What are his words?

John 3:14-17 – 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

Did Jesus tell them to wash each other’s feet? Yes, but only in a manner of speaking. Remember, one of Jesus’ favorite ways to speak was in parable and metaphor. His physical act of washing the disciples’ feet was an object lesson for them to follow. The servant in charge of washing feet was the lowest of the low, and Jesus put himself in the position of utmost servitude by choosing to wash the disciple’s feet.

Washing feet demands humility and a servant’s heart. Peter had to learn this the hard way, when in verse 8 he initially refuses to have his feet washed by Jesus. Jesus bluntly tells him that Peter will have no part with Jesus unless he allows him to wash his feet. See, humility must be shown on both accounts. It takes humility to wash someone’s feet, but it also takes humility to allow one’s feet to be washed by another.

In Luke Chapter 22, we see a picture of the disciples constantly bickering about who was greatest among them. Jesus’ mandate, wrapped in this humbling demonstration, effectively put an end to this debate. His mandate was that of loving each other enough to submit to one another… no one of higher station than another… all equal in God’s eyes, and all looking to each other’s best interests on earth.

We also find in Luke chapter 22 the next item mandated and demonstrated by Christ.

Luke 22:19-20 – 19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.

The second demonstration was one of remembrance. Jesus demonstrates what we now call the Eucharist, the Last Supper, or Holy Communion. The Israelite people learned the stories of the Old Testament by oral tradition for years prior to them ever being written down. The stories, the laws, the guidelines… all were there as reminders of what God had done for His people, what His people were to do in return in thankfulness, and the consequences of not staying in covenantal relationship with Holy God.

Notice that Jesus says “do this in remembrance of me.” As a Jewish man, Jesus understood the need for something to mark the occasion of His betrayal and death. Through the elements of food and drink He created a ceremony of remembrance for the disciples. I can only imagine that the bread and the cup took on a much deeper significance for them after Christ went to the cross.

It is clear in Scripture that Jesus’ demonstration stuck with the disciples, as the Apostle Paul echoes his words in a letter to the church at Corinth a few years later.

1 Corinthians 11:23-26 – 23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

We’ve seen Jesus mandate and demonstrate humility, equality, and servants’ attitudes toward each other, as well as remembrance of His sacrifice until He returns. However, this part of the story doesn’t simply end with Jesus and his favorite disciples singing a hymn and going out.

Luke 22:39-44 – 39 Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. 40 On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” 41 He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

Some might see Jesus’ prayer here as a “can I get out of this whole dying on the cross thing Dad?” moment. However, this is not the case. Notice what verse 39 says? Jesus went out AS USUAL to the Mount of Olives.

Jesus was intentionally going there, as He knew it would be one of the places Judas would take the authorities to find and arrest Him. Jesus spent a great deal of time praying and meditating in the garden there, and Judas would have been familiar with it. Jesus wasn’t looking to get out of dying on the cross. He had any number of opportunities prior to this one to stop the process. The cup Jesus asked His father to pass wasn’t that of the physical pain and suffering He would endure. Rather, it was the cup of God’s wrath… the cup of separation from the Father. In all eternity, the Father and Son had been one, and for the first time ever, the Father would not be able to be in relationship with Jesus when He took on the sin of the world… past, present, and future…

Have you ever experienced a child dealing with separation anxiety? We dealt with that when our daughter, Allyson, went to Kindergarten. It was so bad at the beginning of the school year that we had to do “the hand-off” with her teacher and walk away, tears welling up in our eyes, as she wailed and cried for us down the hall, screaming at the top of her lungs for us not to leave her alone. It appears as though Jesus experienced a similar separation issue. It grieved Jesus so much that the stress caused Him to physically sweat drops of blood.

While we are called in Scripture to pray without ceasing, there is no mandate to pray so hard that we sweat drops of blood. However, there is still something to learn here. Jesus had anxiety over being separated from the Father, even for a moment. Each of us knows someone who may end up separated from the Father for eternity. How hard do we pray for them? How earnestly do we seek for God’s cup to pass from them, and for them to know a relationship with the Father? Just as Jesus desired not to lose connection with God even temporarily and prayed for that cup to pass Him by, we have an opportunity to pray with the same fervor for those in our lives who are currently separated and may spend the rest of forever in the same condition.

Just as Jesus grieved over the separation from the Father, I have to believe God grieved over the separation from His Son as well. I also believe that God grieves over the separation between Himself and those whom He has created. If He didn’t there would have been no reason for Christ to come.

We’ve talked about Jesus’ mandate for us to love and serve one another in humility. We’ve talked about Jesus’ mandate for us to remember His sacrifice through Holy Communion. We’ve talked about the example Jesus set for us to pray and grieve over those who are separated from God by praying and grieving over His separation from God. However, as the old saying goes, talk is cheap.

With that in mind, take an opportunity to experience each of these things in the days leading up to Resurrection Sunday

Spend time communing with Jesus. Take some bread, some juice (or wine if you want roll that way), and stop for a moment to remember and reflect upon what Christ’s sacrifice has done for you. Break the bread and remember His body which was broken for you. Eat it in remembrance of His body being torn apart for your sins. Take the drink, and as you touch it to your lips and swallow, be reminded of His blood shed to cleanse you from all unrighteousness. Through His sacrifice you are made holy and clean in God’s sight, and therefore able to have close relationship with Him.

Make a list of those in your circles of influence who may very well spend eternity separated from God without intervention. Take that list, and spend some focused time and prayer on each individual. Plant the seeds by interceding on their behalf, and allow God to bless your efforts.

Lastly, take a moment to “wash someone’s feet”. Speak with humility. Walk with humbleness. Serve with gratitude and thankfulness even if you don’t receive it in return! While you don’t necessarily have to actually wash someone’s feet, it really is a humbling exercise between family and close friends. You might consider doing some actual foot washing in your close-knit circles like  your immediate family or small group. From experience, I can tell you that washing the feet of your wife and children is an amazing experience, but having your feet washed by your children is humbling and life-changing.

May God bless you during this Easter season!

 

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