WALKING with JESUS: PASSION WEEK MEDITATION for APRIL 9, 2020
Thursday: Matthew 26:17-75; Mark 14:12-72; Luke 22:7-71; John 13:36-18:27
Alas, we come to Thursday, and the stage has been set. Jesus has returned to Jerusalem for the last time. All four Gospel writers seem to indicate during this final week, Jesus did not sleep in Jerusalem. Instead, he bedded in Bethany, perhaps at the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, according to John; possibly at the home of Simon the leper, according to Matthew and Mark; or maybe somewhere between Bethpage and Bethany, also according to Luke.
He made a scene in the Temple attracting the attention of the Jewish leadership and the general population when he disturbed the Temple’s money-making machine while prepping for the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Passover. His speech and teachings were more confrontational, stoking the wrath of the Pharisees, Sadducees, chief priests, and scribes - just as he intended. Jesus knew what he was doing! Matthew, Mark, and John describe how Jesus was anointed by a woman. John says it was Mary, the sister of Lazarus and Martha. Whereas, according to Luke the anointing took place outside of the Passion narrative found in Ch.7, verse 36. There, Jesus ate in the home of a Pharisee. A woman, a sinner, having found out Jesus was there, came in unannounced and bathed his feet with her ointment, tears, and hair. This unnamed woman, a prostitute, positioned herself as a servant of the Lord and followed him in his ministry. Remember Luke’s writing perspective, he uplifts the marginalized: no one is excluded from Jesus’s care and concern.
Reflection: How did you feel when you realized Jesus didn’t judge you to condemn you, instead he loved and forgave you?
Matthew, Mark, and Luke all speak of preparations the disciples were asked to make for the meal they would share later. It was the day in which the Passover lamb was sacrificed by the chief priest according to Mark 14:12 and Luke 22:7. Luke specifies which disciples were dispatched, Peter and John, to find the room where they were to share this fellowship. As they ate the meal together, Jesus revealed his betrayal. The collective reaction of the disciples was a curious one…I’ll share more tonight at 7pm! Join us for our Maundy Thursday didactic homily with demonstrations of Matthew 26:17-29, Mark 14:12-31, Luke 22:7-14, and John 13:1-35 via Zoom. https://zoom.us/j/3362735268 Meeting ID: 336 273 5268 or mobile: 1-646-558-8656,3362735268# US.
Reflection: When I think about how the disciples reacted to Jesus's declaration, I realize it could have been me. There are times when I’ve heard the Lord tell me what I did not want to hear. At times I have related to Peter as he pulled Jesus to the side. When I think about the Jewish authorities scheming to take Jesus out because they perceived him as a threat to their position, I must remember it could have been me. When I think about Judas choosing to betray Jesus, I am reminded it could have been me. But when I look at the woman with the alabaster jar of ointment, I hope it would have been me!!!
John has Jesus giving away the identity of the betrayer much to the relief of the other disciples! The Synoptics portray Judas as the man destined for this act, but the fact of the matter is, it could have been any one of the disciples. In fact, if you and I were there, it could have been you or me! As if the night could not have been more awkward, they somehow continue with a traditional meal given a new meaning. Each writer narrates the Last Supper in their own way, yet they all contain the same elements: after giving thanks for the bread, Jesus broke it and gave it to the disciples with instructions:
Matthew: “…While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you ;28for this is my blood of the [a]covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom...”
Mark: “…While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it, he broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” 23Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks, he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. 24He said to them, “This is my blood of the[a] covenant, which is poured out for many. 25Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God...”
Luke: “…He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer;16for I tell you, I will not eat it [a]until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17 then he took a cup, and after giving 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.” 19Then he took a loaf of 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.” 20And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood..."
John: The Gospel writer does not emphasize the meaning of this last meal with the disciples. His emphasis is upon the demonstration of love. John speaks of the body and blood of Christ elsewhere in Ch 6, verses 51-58 NRSV: “…51I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever, and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” 52The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; 55for my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. 57Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. 58This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.”
According to John once the devil entered into Judas, Jesus knew fulfillment of his mission was at hand. He arose from the table while laying his garments to the side; then took a towel, and wrapped it around his waist, grabbed the water basin and began to wash the feet of the disciples. Peter was flabbergasted but relented when he realized unless Jesus washes him, Peter will have no part of the Kingdom.
Why is this day called Maundy Thursday? Maundy comes from the Latin word, mandatum, which means commandment. What is commanded in John’s Gospel is to love one another. The act of taking the role of the servant was an intimate demonstration of love. Jesus says, “…Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example that you also should do as I have done to you...” Serving is an act of love. Notice when Jesus asked Peter if he loved him, Jesus would then reply, “Feed my sheep.” Love is not a mere feeling, love is an action. “For God so loved the world He GAVE…” In John 13:34, Jesus says, “…I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this, everyone will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another...”
Reflection: When a stranger meets you, what evidence do they have assuring them they are encountering a disciple of Christ?
General Summary of the remainder of Thursday
John’s Gospel includes four more chapters presenting Jesus’s teachings on the way to the Father, the promise of the Holy Spirit, Jesus as the True Vine, the world’s hatred of disciples, the work of the Spirit, sorrow turned to joy, peace for the disciples, Jesus’s prayer for his disciples; his betrayal, arrest, his appearance before the high priest, and Peter’s denial.
Luke writes about the dispute among the disciples as to who would be regarded as the greatest, a discussion of politics in the church, and predicts Peter’s denial. Jesus gives the disciples instructions on what to take with them when they go out, admonishing them to prepare themselves for what is to come. When they reach the Mount of Olives Jesus prays while they slept instead of keeping watch. When the authorities arrive to arrest Jesus, a violent skirmish erupts; the disciples thought it was time for Jesus to begin the revolution! Despite Jesus’s warnings, they still believed he was an earthly king gifted with the ability to heal, teach, and prophesy. Before Jesus’s appearance at the Sanhedrin, the Jewish Council, he is beaten.
Matthew and Mark’s versions of the events following the Lord’s Supper are remarkably similar. They recount Jesus foretelling Peter’s denial, praying in Gethsemane, his betrayal and violent arrest. They also tell the story of the young man who followed Jesus wearing nothing but a linen cloth. When the authorities detained him, he left the linen cloth and ran off naked. Meanwhile, Jesus is brought before the Jewish Council as Peter denies knowing him.
Scriptures for Friday: Matthew 27:1-66; Mark 15:1-47; Luke 23:1-56; John 18:28-20:29
Scriptures for Sunday: Matthew 28:1-20; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-53