Yesterday, day five of Jesus’s final week, is most commonly known as Maundy Thursday. In order to catch up and be in sync with the timeline of events for the rest of this sacred week, I’m posting today for day five of my Holy Week reflections, and another post will follow later with my reflections on Good Friday. These days are days of grieving, and it is good for us to confront the truth about ourselves and our sin and to grieve the consequences. But may we never grieve like those who have no hope (1 Thess 4:13), because Sunday is coming and death is about to be swallowed up in victory (1 Cor 15:57)!
Maundy Thursday was the night Jesus ate His last Passover Seder on this earth. Passover was a one-day feast that commemorated God’s deliverance of Israel from the bondage of slavery in Egypt. Every item on the Seder plate signifies something being commemorated about their hasty exit from Egypt and their salvation at the Red Sea. There is an order of service observed in each home where the meal is eaten, even to this day, that involves reciting the history to each other and exhorting each other to never forget God’s faithful deliverance and His promise of peace for Israel and the world.
Today we call that particular Passover meal The Last Supper. How fitting, since it was indeed His last Passover supper. It was also the last time it would be observed as an unfulfilled prophetic observance, because Jesus was about to fulfill everything that feast stood for. That meal was an act of remembrance, for sure, but it was also a meal of anticipation for when the Messiah would come and set them free indeed; what they didn’t understand was that Jesus was about to do just that! As Pastor Russ Ramsey points out in the “Holy Week in Real Time: Maundy Thursday” devotional reading,
“This meal would no longer primarily remind them of how God delivered their forefathers from the external tyranny of Pharaoh. Now it would remind them of how Christ delivered them from the internal tyranny of their own guilt and sin against God (Luke 22:14-23).”
As I meditated on the Scripture passages in the She Reads Truth Lent study for Maundy Thursday, I was struck by how the external events of the week seemed to be converging upon each other and transforming into spiritual realities.
Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday deeply grieving over the reality and consequences of sin. He entered that Passover meal still deeply troubled and sorrowful over all that was about to transpire (John 13:21), and He spent several hours in agonizing prayer after the meal, sufficiently distressed that His body sweat droplets of blood and His heart cried out to the Father for strength to obey (Luke 22:44, Matt 26:37-39).
Jesus cleansed the temple on Monday declaring that His Father’s house was meant to be a house of prayer for the nations, a place of rest and belonging and peace, but had been turned into a den of robbers, salesmen, and lies that kept people away from God. While eating the meal, Jesus was contemplating the betrayal he would experience later that night, and in response He got up, humbled himself, and washed His disciples feet—yes, even Judas’s feet—declaring that love was the command and that they were already clean because of His Word in their hearts that they had believed (John 13:2-20).
On Monday and Tuesday He took the time to teach in the temple, to heal, to draw His precious ones close, to reveal the lies He had come to silence and point His people to the truth, and to comfort them in advance of the confusion and suffering that was to come, both that week and in the ages ahead. That night, both before and during the meal, He was honest and frank with His disciples. He revealed Himself and what He was really doing for them, even though He knew they wouldn’t understand yet, and He made sure they knew that even when they felt unworthy, alone, or abandoned, that all they were about to experience and witness was necessary for their good and God’s glory. He made sure they knew that He would never leave them alone, that even in their sin they had nothing to fear, that He was coming back for them, and that their deep sorrow would turn into a joy that would never be removed from them again. He prayed for them—and for us (John 13-17; Matt 26:17-46).
On Wednesday He spent time with His friends: he received the gratitude, love, and adoration of Mary, and He invited his friends and followers that were gathered around into that with Him, all while one of His own was off sealing His death sentence for the price of thirty silver coins. On the night he was betrayed, He shared a low-key meal with His closest friends. He shared His sorrow and His hope and joy with them, and He invited them into His own observance of the truth (the meal and its deep significance) and the comfort found in recalling to mind God’s unfailing faithfulness (the singing of psalms and hymns, specifically Psalm 118). Yes, He sang with them, and they worshiped the Father together (Matt 26:26-30).
Thousands of years of prophecy and waiting. Thirty-three years of preparation. Three years of proof. One week of declaration. And now the moment was upon them for everything that had been written to be fulfilled.
And He was the same Jesus in those moments of fulfillment as He had been since before time and during the years they had known Him. He grieved with them, celebrated with them, served them, comforted and consoled them, prepared them, provided for them, all so He could secure them. . . and us.
And then, quietly and just like that, “the Son of Man [would] go, just as it is written” (Matt 26:24):
“Like a lamb led to the slaughter and like a sheep silent before her shearers, He did not open His mouth. He was taken away because of oppression and judgment . . . yet He bore the sin of many and interceded for the rebels.” (Isaiah 53)