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Devotional: April 1, 2021, Maundy Thursday

18-19 [Jesus] said, “Enter the city. Go up to a certain man and say, ‘The Teacher says, My time is near. I and my disciples plan to celebrate the Passover meal at your house.’” The disciples followed Jesus’ instructions to the letter, and prepared the Passover meal.

20-21 After sunset, he and the Twelve were sitting around the table. During the meal, he said, “I have something hard but important to say to you: One of you is going to hand me over to the conspirators.”

22 They were stunned, and then began to ask, one after another, “It isn’t me, is it, Master?”

Matthew 26: 18-22 The Message

Today is Maundy Thursday. On this day, the church remembers Jesus’ last supper with His disciples. Together, they were celebrating the Passover meal, as many Jews have done annually for hundreds of years.

Yet two unusual events would make this Passover meal different from all others Passover celebrations. The first is Jesus’ startling statement that He would be handed over to His enemies by one of His own disciples. Yes, betrayed by one of them. How shocking it must have been for the twelve to hear these words! They each begin to ask, “Is it me, Lord?”

It seems natural to take stock of our lives when we approach the subject of death: either our own, or someone else’s. Here, Jesus forces the disciples to examine their own lives, including their deepest motives, and all of their actions, with His simple statement of truth.

While Judas’ betrayal stands out as particularly shocking, none of the disciples were stunning examples of faithfulness as Jesus neared the end. In a sense, they all betrayed Jesus: some by denial, some by doubt, and all by being absent from His crucifixion. Yet none of the rest were in the same category as Judas. Still, each of them fell into sin as Jesus’ death approached. Yet in spite of their sin, Jesus shared the Passover with His twelve disciples.

The second and most important difference with this Passover meal was Jesus’s departure from the usual words of the ceremony. Jesus re-interpreted the words, seeing the cup as His blood and the bread as His body. He is telling the disciples that His body and His blood would become a sacrifice for their sins, and for all of our sins. Not an annual sacrifice, but a once and for all time sacrifice for all our sins. Jesus would become “the” Lamb of God, who would take away the sins of all humanity. Think of it: every sin of every sinner!

In a sense, Maundy Thursday is about both horrible news (Judas’ betrayal of Jesus), and the most wonderful and amazing news (Jesus’ sacrificial giving of Himself as our sin offering). The word, “Maundy” means “command” in Latin. Thus, Jesus’s command to “love one another as I have loved you” is a reminder of His desire for us. He longs for our behavior, every action and word, to be filled with love. Jesus wants us to treat everyone with love. Yes: every single person.

Maundy Thursday is a time to reflect upon both the gravity of our sin, and the deep, unconditional forgiving love of Jesus Christ. Sin and salvation meet at the Last Supper, yet salvation will win out in the end. Maundy Thursday is not the end of this story. It will be followed by Good Friday: the day of Christ’s crucifixion. Then comes Sunday: the Day of Resurrection, a momentous day of joy for every Christian, and indeed, for all of the world. It may be Thursday, but Sunday morning is coming! Praise the Lord!

Prayer

Loving and forgiving Lord,

I thank You for offering me daily unconditional love. Forgive me when I struggle, and do not love others as You love me. May I remember this day, when you celebrated Your last supper with Your friends. You loved them, even as You knew one of them would betray You. Help me to keep loving people the way You did. Forgive me when I do not love, betraying that gift of unconditional love, given to me by You. Teach me again and again how to love others as You have loved me. With a thankful heart, I pray this prayer in Your holy name. Amen.


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