By Trey Brunson, Director of Development
“7Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. 8 So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it.” 9 They said to him, “Where will you have us prepare it?” 10 He said to them, “Behold, when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him into the house that he enters11 and tell the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 12 And he will show you a large upper room furnished; prepare it there.” 13 And they went and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover. 14 And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. 15 And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”17 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. 18 For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. 21 But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. 22 For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!” 23 And they began to question one another, which of them it could be who was going to do this. 24 A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. 25 And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26 But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. 27 For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves. 28 “You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, 29 and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, 30 that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” 33 Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” 34 Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.” 35 And he said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” 36 He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. 37 For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.” 38 And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough.”
The Thursday of Holy Week is a very significant day in the worship calendar of the nation of Israel. It was the day before Passover which kicked off the week of Unleavened Bread that would last for seven days. That day would have been the day of preparation for Passover. Jesus sends Peter and John out to get everything set including their location. They would have had to have gone to the temple to get a lamb because you could only get a Passover lamb and have it slaughtered at the temple, the center of the Jewish religious world. They would have also purchased bitter herbs, unleavened bread, and wine. In the course of the day they would have found the man that Jesus told them to find and secured the location for their Passover meal as well. So, the bulk of the day was given to preparation and the evening was given to explanation and transition.
Here’s a quick timeline of Maundy Thursday:
- Peter & John prepare the Passover meal
- Jesus shares the Passover meal with the disciples
- Jesus has a series of conversations with the disciples
- Garden of Gethsemane prayer and agony
- Judas betrayal and Jesus arrest
- The Sanhedrin meets
- Peter’s betrayal
The Meal and the Ministry.
The day really revolves around the Passover for the disciples and the way that Jesus repurposes this traditional meal to not only explain what He would do but what they would do in light of His work. Jesus spent the day in fellowship before the day of suffering in order to prepare and care for the disciples. He was truly a good Shepherd because up until He would spill His blood out for them He was pouring His life into them. He didn’t just go through this Jewish practice but Luke tells us that He desired this moment with His disciples before He suffered. So, He took this opportunity to help them see who He was from the Scriptures and the Passover meal.
In Luke 22 we have Jesus pulling elements from the Passover meal, identifying them with Himself and then instituting the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper. To be clear, the Passover meal is not the Lord’s Supper. Christians can find worshipful value in a Passover Seder but it is specifically a Jewish meal that anticipates and demands whereas the Lord’s Supper is a Christian ordinance that celebrates what has already been done and commands. What I mean is that the Passover meal demands faithfulness in hopes of salvation whereas the Lord’s Supper reminds believers of their salvation and commands us to live in light of it.
Jesus begins by lifting up the bread, breaking it, and connecting it to Himself. In the Exodus, the bread was unleavened because they didn’t have time bake bread. It represented their affliction and need in Egypt. Jesus was saying that His body would be broken for their afflictions, again telling them that His death was immediately ahead of them. It was a picture not just of the pain that awaited Him but of the New Exodus that they would experience in light of His suffering. Then Jesus lifted the cup and said that by pouring out the wine it held, a new covenant would be inaugurated in His blood. The Old Covenant had been inaugurated at Mt. Sinai through the institution of the sacrificial system. Peter and John had participated in that very act that day as their lamb had been slaughtered. The problem was that the system was used, abused, and never produced heart change. Jesus was now saying that His blood would be shed just like the lambs that had been slaughtered earlier that day. His blood being poured out would be a sacrifice that would cover them, cleanse them, and just like the blood on the door posts of the Israelites in Egypt, cause the wrath of God to pass over them as innocent. It was only victory for them because of the wrath that would be visited on the Lamb. This was not the old covenant, just as this meal was not the Passover meal… it was new. The New Covenant would not be based on their work or cleanliness but on His powerful work done in their place. It would be all on Him. So, the day focused around this fellowship where Jesus carefully, powerfully, and lovingly explained exactly what He was doing and why He was doing it.
A Series of Serious Conversations.
I doubt there could be any more awkward follow up to that meal than the one that we get. We go from this gracious and glorious lesson that was no doubt affectionately given and somehow the disciples manage to turn from that moment to a conversation about who would be regarded as the greatest among them. It seems so out of place but I think it makes perfect sense because it shows that they still, after that lecture, had no clue what was going to happen nor what they really needed. The disciples are just like you and me, we rarely know how sinful we are, how desperately we depend on grace, and how lavishly our Heavenly Father pours out His love for us. Notice that Jesus refers to the “one who serves” three times in that conversation trying to refocus them for what was ahead. Politics and power cannot and will not accomplish what the cross has. Though their minds went to influence and position, it was not what they needed most, what they needed most was the service that Christ was about to perform for them that would eternally empower them. Don’t lose your focus.
Next, Jesus turns to Peter and shares some startling news, Satan has asked for him. It’s hard to not think of Job when you read this passage. Peter’s life was about to be dismantled for a greater purpose. Peter has no clue how the next 24-hours will impact the rest of his life. While he is the regular head strong Peter who keeps charging, in reality he will crumble under the weight of everything. Notice the tender words of Jesus, “I have prayed for you.” Jesus cared so much for Peter, just like He cares for us. Not only was there care, notice the future grace for Peter, “when you have turned again, strengthen your bothers.” That implies a ministry falling that we see explained in verse 34 but it also includes grace to get back up. The heaviness of life can not only knock us down but seemingly knock us out and yet, there is greater grace that doesn’t require another sacrifice but has already been paid for in Christ. Don’t lose your heart.
Lastly, Jesus turns to the disciples and attempts to prepare them for the hostility that awaits them. He reminds them of their ministry experiences where they went out in pairs to share that the Messiah had come. Now He warns them that what awaits them ministry-wise will be difficult. He is not encouraging them to fight, because He would later that evening warn them that “all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Matthew 26:52). His purpose was to prepare them for the difficulty ahead of them. Each of these men, except for John, would be martyred for their faith in Him. They obviously had no clue in this moment what was going to happen in the next 24-hours much less in the next 24 years. Jesus was caring for them and pressing them to know that they had such love and security in what He was about to do on the cross, that they could literally give their lives away! It wasn’t just that difficulty was ahead of them but the powerful opportunity to give all joyously because all would be given for them in the death of Christ. Don’t lose your mission.
Humbled by Love.
Maundy Thursday is a bit of a mixture of emotions. From the affections of fellowship over the meal with Jesus, to the corrective conversations, to the Garden and all the agony that went along with it; it was an emotion filled day. Here is the underlying message of the day, Jesus loved us enough to go through everything he spoke of in that Passover meal, to go through the agony of “drinking the cup” the Father had for Him, to go through everything that lay ahead of Him in the next 24-hours maybe most painfully the Father’s wrath and alienation that He would experience for the first and only time. The love of God the Father for His children is utterly unbelievable. The whole point of Jesus life was His death and resurrection. The repurposing of the Passover was to point out the New Exodus. God would dwell with His children again because of the atoning work of Christ. Jesus even looks ahead to another meal when He said in Luke 22:16 that He would “not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” Jesus looked ahead to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb and saw their future fellowship, our future fellowship.
Love like this is humbling. Why should we be cared for like this? Why should our sins be forgiven? Why is His body given for us? Why is His blood poured out for us? Because if He didn’t endure all that was ahead of Him there would be no forgiveness of sins. There would be no reconciliation with the Father. Hebrews 10:1-10 explicitly says that there was no power in the blood of the animals, it was a picture of what Christ was coming to do. There would be no hope for us apart from Christ. Have you considered that as much as Easter is about the agonizing death and victorious resurrection of Jesus it is also about the offensiveness of your and my sin? We were rebels that were God’s enemies and yet, God loved us. We have not cleaned ourselves up, produced some work of merit, or had some lovely trait with in us that procured this grace. God is love. We were just like the disciples who couldn’t grasp what was right in front of them and even like Peter who in the face of sacrificial love betrayed Jesus. Yet, God loved us. This kind of love should humble us.
So, as you go through this day consider how much God loved us that He sent Christ to die for us so that we could be near to Him. Charles Spurgeon says, “Thus there will be three effects of nearness to Jesus humility, happiness, and holiness.” Be humbled today that you necessitated the death of God’s only Son to pay for your sins. Be happy today that Jesus willingly came and died in your place because He loves you. Be holy today because you have been freed by Christ’s work to love and worship your Heavenly Father. Most of all, enjoy your fellowship with your Savior and God who has drawn near to you.