Thursday, April 17, 2014

What is Maundy Thursday?

Today is Maundy Thursday.  It is also sometimes known as Holy Thursday.  It commemorates the Last Supper when Jesus shared the Passover meal with his disciples on the night before he was crucified. 

Before the Passover meal, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples.  By performing this lowly act of service, Jesus “showed them the full extent of his love.”  (John 13:1) Through his example, Jesus demonstrated how Christians are to love each other through humble service. 

During the Passover meal, Jesus took the bread and wine and asked his Father to bless it.  He broke the bread into pieces and gave it to his disciples and said, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”  Then he took the cup of wine, shared it with his disciples and said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”  (Luke 22:19-20)  These events are typically referred to as the Last Supper and form the basis for what we call communion. 

What happens next?  Jesus and the eleven (Judas has already departed) go to the Garden of Gethsemane.  (John 18)  Jesus knows that what is about to happen will change all of history and yet he also knows how painful and difficult it will be. 

Jesus leaves Peter, James, and John and tells them to pray.  Jesus goes on a little farther and prays alone.  He prays, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39)  What happens next – an angel comes to strengthen him.  (Luke 22:19-20)  In other words, the angel was God’s answer to Jesus’ first prayer.  The angel symbolizes that there is no other way but I will help you through it. 

Jesus prays again and this time he says, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” 

In this second prayer, Jesus indicates that he understands that this is the only way.  He submits completely to the Father’s will.  I think by the time Jesus was done praying, he not only knew that there was no other way but he also knew that this way would succeed.  He would see a reward for his suffering.  Hebrews 12:2 says “for the joy that was set before him he endured the cross.”  Jesus was able to see beyond the present agony.  The angel had come to strengthen him and to clarify and confirm the coming joy.

Philippians 2:9 says, “he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross.”

What if Jesus had not been obedient to death?  If Jesus hadn’t been perfectly obedient, then when he died, he would have stayed dead.  There would have been no resurrection, no salvation, and no hope for the future.  Even one sin on Jesus’ part would have ruined the entire plan.  He needed to be the sinless lamb of God – that was the only way he could take away the sin of the world and satisfy God’s wrath for us.  Knowing this, is why he prayed as fervently and earnestly as he did.  He prayed with such intensity that he sweat great drops of blood.  Every hope of the gospel rested on his being able to be obedient unto death. 

So today is Maundy Thursday.  Go through your day and meditate on the importance that this day played not only in Biblical history but in your salvation and hope for the future.

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