Jesus and His disciples have made the journey from Galilee to Jerusalem. People were being healed, demons were being cast out, miracles were happening and many believed. Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem was marked by crowds shouting “Hosanna” and the waving of palm branches.
But as the week progressed there was a growing darkness as the crowds began to withdraw from Him. There was an ominous tone in the murmuring of the religious leaders who were threatened by Jesus’ teachings.
As Jesus and His disciples shared this last supper together they already stood in the shadow of the cross.
Later that night, after the meal, as Jesus and His disciples were in the Garden of Gethsemane praying, Jesus was arrested and taken to Caiaphas the High Priest. On Friday He would die.
You might be wondering what Maundy Thursday is. It is the beginning of the three day celebration of Easter – The Last Supper, the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. It is the holiest time of the year for the Christian Church. Maundy Thursday commemorates the last supper Jesus had with His disciples. During the Last Supper Jesus redefined Passover, and that is the reason we celebrate the Resurrection instead.
Maundy comes from the Latin word mandatum which is usually translated commandment. According to the Gospel of John, Jesus washed the disciples’ feet to serve as an example of humility and a servant’s heart. After the meal, as they walked into the night toward Gethsemane, Jesus taught his disciples a “new” commandment that was not really new. (John 13:34-35)
It’s Thursday, the evening before Christ’s crucifixion. Jesus meets with His disciples for a last meal together, a last supper. It is Passover and Jerusalem is full of pilgrims who had come to Jerusalem for the celebration.
Jesus is spending His last hours with the men He had discipled. His teachings and illustrations are some of the most radical and amazing in all of the Bible. Five chapters of John’s gospel are the teachings from that evening. (John 13-17)
On His very last evening on earth Jesus, the Creator, washed the feet of the disciples, His creation.
The Passover, the reminder that it was God who set them free from slavery, embraced it’s full meaning that evening when the Lamb of God, who would in a few hours take away the sins of the world, helped the disciples see it in a fresh new way.
The Passover was deeply embedded in the Jewish consciousness. The traditions and the regulations had been passed down from generation to generation for almost 1500 years.
In that one night Jesus redefined what it meant in a way that radically altered history.
The Passover Meal
The Passover meal included
- unleavened bread, bread baked without yeast. It reminded them of the haste of the exodus, when there was no time to let the bread rise. And often in the Bible leaven represents sin. Jesus took a piece of the bread and broke it in half to pass around the table as men had done for generations but this time He said “take and eat, for this is My body”. The bread with no leaven represented the man with no sin.
- four cups of wine, each with a name taken from God’s promise to Moses in Exodus 6:6-8. The third cup is served immediately after the meal when the prayer of thanksgiving was offered.
And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins. Matthew 26:27–28
The name of the third cup? The cup of redemption.
Jesus’ blood redeems us from the slavery of sin. It was clear, they were sitting with the Lamb of God who would in a few hours shed His own blood to set men free from slavery to sin.
Why the church doesn’t keep Passover
In a recent conversation someone asked why the church today doesn’t celebrate/keep Passover.
- First, Christ is the fulfillment of the Passover, He is our Passover. When we celebrate communion we are remembering the freedom from sin provided by the Lamb of God.
- Second, every time we celebrate communion we are celebrating the Passover. Jesus changed the way we celebrate, and He added eternal value to the reason we celebrate. Every communion service is a Passover remembered.
During the Last Supper Jesus redefined Passover, and that is the reason we celebrate the Resurrection instead.
As the disciples made their way to the Garden on the western side of the Mount of Olives to Gethsemane the teaching continued. However, I chose to focus on this particular event – the event that radically changed history.
Something to think about
On Maundy Thursday Jesus explained Passover in a way the disciples had never seen it. Passover redefined, was all about the real Lamb of God whose blood was not just applied to a door post, but to the hearts of sinners. His blood cleanses us from all sin and sets us free. Wow!
Other events of the evening
There are several events that occur on this last day before Jesus was arrested.
The Last Supper (The Passover Meal)
The Institution of Communion
Jesus Praying in the Garden of Gethsemane while the disciples fell asleep
The Betrayal of Judas
This is the day that Jesus celebrated the Last Supper with the disciples, four days after His triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Only hours after the Last Supper, Judas would betray Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, setting the stage for Jesus’ crucifixion on Good Friday.
After Judas left the room, Jesus instituted something new, the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:23-24). He took two elements from the Passover Feast, the unleavened bread and the cup, and used them as a visual aide to picture His death which would bring forgiveness of sins.
- The broken bread was a picture of His body given for the sins of the world.
- The cup of wine pictured His blood which was shed for the remission of sins.
The Lord’s Supper reminds us to look ahead for Christ’s return. We will observe this supper until He comes. (1 Corinthians 11:26)
The Passover pointed ahead to the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world. (John 1:29) The Lord’s Supper announces that this work has been accomplished.
Later that evening Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane, there Jesus surrendered His will to God’s will. We see such a clear picture here of both his deity and humanity. It was here that the victory was won.
As Jesus was agonizing in prayer His disciples were sleeping. He woke them up with the news that His betrayer was coming and they must go to meet him.
Readings for the day
Questions to ask yourself
Have you been set free?
Have you ever totally surrendered your life to Christ, and bowed before the one who died for you?
In case you have missed the previous blogs, I’ve included their links below. It is not too late to read them and meditate on the events of Holy Week prior to and including Christ’s journey.
Wednesday of Jesus’ Journey
It was probably Wednesday when Jesus had just finished His conversation with the disciples on the Mt of Olives, (known as the Olivet Discourse). He reminded the disciples that the Passover feast was only two days away and that He would be handed over to be crucified. (Matthew 26:1-2) This was not the first conversation He had with them about this, but they still hadn’t really grasped what that meant.
Up to this point Jesus had told His disciples He would be handed over to the Gentiles and be killed but had not used the word crucifixion until now. He was very clear there as He spoke to them, there could be no doubt as to His meaning. His death was only two days away.
About the same time only a few miles away, the chief priest and elders had gathered in the court of the high priest, Caiaphas, and were plotting to sneak up on Jesus and kill Him. However, they didn’t want to do it during the festival because they were afraid that it might cause a riot among the people. (Matthew 26:3-5) Perhaps the memory of the crowds shouting “Hosanna” and waving palm branches was still on their minds.
There they were scheming to kill both He (Jesus) who raised men from the dead, and he (Lazarus) who was raised from the dead. (John 12:1-11, Matthew 26:3-5)
It is really hard to miss the irony here. It appears as though they had no tolerance for men who were raised from the dead or for the Savior who raised them dead.
The Alabaster Vial
Jesus was in Bethany eating dinner at Simon the Leper’s house when Mary, Lazarus’ sister, approached Him with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume. She poured it on His head. (John 12:3-8, Matthew 26:6-13, Mark 14:3-9). (Only John calls her by name.)Despite discussion over whether or not there were two similar incidents or one the meaning was clear – The King was anointed for His coronation!
What is so significant about the anointing?
In Jewish tradition the kings were anointed to indicate they were the chosen one. For example:
- David was anointed by Samuel to be the new king of Israel (1 Samuel 16:13).
- The words “Messiah” and “Christ” both mean anointed. Jesus the anointed One, was the chosen One, the King of Glory.
As Jesus lay reclining at the dinner table, the woman entered and in an act of impulsive love, she broke a bottle of very expensive perfume and poured it over our Lord’s head and his feet.
As if that had not been loving enough, she began to wipe his feet with her hair. The woman’s hair was her glory (1 Corinthians 11:15) and she laid her glory literally at the feet of the King of glory!
When was the last time your love of Christ was seen in your impulsive generosity?
Anointed for His Rise to Glory!
Some of the disciples were incensed. This was too extravagant! But, Jesus reminded them she had anointed him for His burial. Jesus’ death was on the horizon. The leaders were plotting His demise and this one forgiven sinner was anointing Him for His rise to glory.
Only a few days later Jesus hung on a cross and over His head in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek stood the placard Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews (John19:19). The anointed king, crucified for the sins of the people.
This one forgiven sinner in an impulsive act of extravagant generosity anointed the King of Glory for His coronation day. That is Extravagant Love!
And later that evening one unrepentant sinner (Judas) went to the chief priests and sold the King for the price of a slave, 30 pieces of silver (Matthew 26:14-16)
The King of Glory was crucified for the sins of His people, buried, and raised to ascend back to His rightful place in heaven. And maybe, just maybe the aroma of the anointing oil still fills the rooms of heaven.
Something to think about
- Have you bowed and left your glory lying at the feet of the King of Glory?
- Is your love extravagant?
Recommended Scripture Reading
Sunday the crowds were going crazy waving their palm branches and laying their coats in the road as Jesus arrived in Jerusalem, riding a donkey, just like the prophets said. Their streets were alive with cries of
“Hosanna! BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD” (Mark 11:9–10)
But, on Friday they would scream “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” (Mark 15: 12-14)
What happened between the cheers of the crowd and the cross?
Monday an angry Jesus drove the money changers out of the Temple. They had a good thing going and were not happy when their meal train came to a stop! However their business was interfering with those Gentiles who came to the Temple seeking the One True God! Jesus would not tolerate that.
Tuesday was a busy day. Matthew dedicated four full chapters and part of two others. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John also devote a lot of time to the events of Tuesday.
Since this is a blog and not a book I want to simply focus on the early events that set the context for the rest of the stories of that day.
As Jesus walked back into the Temple area He found the religious leaders waiting for Him!
The chief priests, scribes, and the elders were demanding to know by what authority He acted and taught as He did! (Mark 11:27-28, Matthew 21:23). Translated that means, “What gives You the right to interfere with our business?”
Why did they ask that question now?
The priests, scribes, and elders were the religious leaders of Jesus day. They were the “Spiritual Formations” Team of their time. It was their duty. The Sanhedrin, the ruling religious body, even had teams who would go out and investigate every popular teacher or rabbi to make sure their teaching was appropriate and to challenge any messianic type claims. And there were a lot of men claiming “to be somebody” in that day as the Pharisee Gamaliel noted (Acts 5:33-39)
Because of their responsibility to oversee the things being taught, their question was legitimate. Well at least on the surface.
The Pharisees and scribes had been following Jesus’ ministry since it began. They had already studied Him. They objected when He forgave sins, and were furious when He healed on the Sabbath. They knew His authority and His power. So our question is, why did they decide to ask this question now?
Perhaps they were feeling threatened as they saw and heard the reaction of the crowds on Sunday.
To be perfectly honest, it was probably Jesus’ outburst of anger and the authority He demonstrated as He drove the money changers out of the Temple area. That display by Jesus hurt them deeply, in their pocket book!
How does Jesus answer their question?
Honestly they had their answers. For the last three years they have followed Jesus’ ministry – they knew the answer to their question. The problem was not a lack of knowledge, it was much deeper.
And Jesus said to them, I will ask you one question, and you answer Me, and then I will tell you by what authority I do these things. Was the baptism of John from heaven, or from men? Answer Me. (Mark 11:29–30)
It’s seems like an odd answer, even evasive. But, it’s not. Jesus was asking a very straight question of the leaders, and it was one they refused to answer!
The Jewish leaders were looking for a safe answer
They reasoned among themselves to try to find the safe answer.
• If we say the baptism of John was from God then He will ask us why we didn’t believe him.
• If we say it was from men then the people might stone us because they think John was a prophet. Hmm…
What is the safest answer? Their safe answer was “We do not know”
In the words of Warren Wiersbe “The Jewish leaders were caught in a dilemma of their own making. They were not asking “What is true?” or “What is right?” but “What is safe?” This is always the approach of the hypocrite and the crowd-pleaser.” (Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 1, p. 151). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.)
In the crisis of the moment they wanted to be safe!
That appeals to many of us. Safety is always a great concern for most of us, however
- John the Baptist never played it safe. “You brood of vipers” he said to the Pharisees and Sadducees when they came testing the waters.
- Jesus never played it safe either. He formed a one man revival team and drove the riff raff out of the Temple area. Knowing that death by crucifixion was only a few days away Jesus walked right into their back yard and declared the truth of God.
With His next breath Jesus tells them a thinly veiled the parable of a man who owns a vineyard and rents it to vine growers. When he sent his servants to collect the rent, they beat, shamed, and even killed the servants. Finally he sent his son. The vine growers killed the son and threw him out of the vineyard.
And the chief priests, scribes, and elders knew He was talking about them. That is not safe. But, then again, perhaps it is right and true. Jesus came to die, so safety was not really the issue.
Have you been playing it safe?
When was the last time “playing it safe” kept you from bold obedience to Christ? How often have you traded safety for obedience?
Too many times I have not shared the gospel because it just seemed awkward (unsafe) at that moment.
Or how many times have you chosen not to be involved in things around you or in people’s lives who needed help, because
“This is just not a good time”
“If I say anything it won’t make a difference anyway”
Don’t those sound like a good and safe answers?
Something to think about
- John the Baptist never played it safe. He spoke the truth, without compromise.
- Jesus never played it safe. He walked into the vineyard and confronted the vine growers who had beaten, shamed, and killed the owner’s servants. He walked in knowing that they would also kill the son.
- Your God is not safe. He sent His only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. And He sent His Son to die. And that is the point of Easter or Resurrection Sunday!
This is just one of Tuesday’s stories but it carries a heavy punch!
So that you don’t miss out on the events of Jesus’ journey to the cross I recommend you read the Scriptures listed below.
- Matthew 21:20–26:5
- Mark 11:19-14:2
- Luke 20-21
Have you been playing it safe? I would love to know what your plan is for not playing safe in the future. You can start the conversation by writing in the comment box below.
I am looking forward to tomorrow as we move forward in the journey.
On Sunday Jesus rode into Jerusalem, not on the back of a powerful prancing white stallion, but on the embarrassingly humble and small back of a donkey. He came in to Jerusalem that day just as Zechariah promised almost 550 years earlier (Zechariah 9:9). That evening He returned to Bethany, probably to the home of Lazarus (John 12:1).
The next morning Jesus walked back into Jerusalem, back into the Temple area.
It is Monday of Holy Week.
Three years prior Jesus had opened His public ministry with a scene very similar to this one. (John 2:13–25) The business men of the Temple had encountered the angry Jesus. That day Jesus’ cry was “Stop making my Father’s house a place of business!” Now towards the end of His life He cleansed the Temple for the second time! This time it was recorded by Matthew, Mark and Luke.
Why drive out the business men?
Once again the temple is defiled by the “religious business” of the leaders. They had turned the court of the Gentiles into a place where foreign Jews could exchange money and purchase sacrifices. What had begun as a service of convenience for visiting Jews soon turned into a lucrative business. The dealers charged exorbitant prices and no one could compete with them or oppose them.
The exchanging of local currencies for money that could be used to pay the annual Temple tax had become quite a money making operation with the High Priest himself getting a percentage of the profit.
Animals for sacrifice were also sold in the Temple area. Animals used for sacrifices had to be free from any blemish or imperfection. And of course all of the animals sold in the Temple area were “guaranteed” to be acceptable by the priests for sacrifice. The priests of course received a percentage of the profits. Some of the lambs being sold were from the priest’s flocks, raised outside of Bethlehem.
The court of the Gentiles in the temple allowed the Gentiles (non-Jews) an opportunity to enter the temple area and learn from Israel about the true God. They were permitted to go in it but were forbidden to go any further than the outer court. The entire Temple area was considered holy, but it became increasingly more holy as one entered farther in east to west.
The presence of this “religious market” turned many Gentiles who may have been seeking, away from the witness of Israel. The court of the Gentiles was used for mercenary business, not missionary business.
And He said to them, “It is written, ‘MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER’; but you are making it a ROBBERS’ DEN.” (Matthew 21:13)
By calling the temple My house, Jesus was affirming that He is God.
Jesus is quoting Isaiah 56:7 where God declares that one day gentiles will come and worship with joy and prayer at the temple. Actually it was part of a long sermon that Jeremiah delivered in the gate of the temple, rebuking the people for the same sins that Jesus saw and judged that day.
Jesus called the temple a den of robbers because the place where robbers hide is called a den. The religious leaders, and some of the people, were using the temple and the “Jewish religion” to cover up their sins.
Ironically the only place the gentiles were allowed to pray and worship in Jesus’ day was the outer court where buying and selling had taken over.
One has to wonder how many gentiles seeking after the true God were turned away by the noise, and the greed at the edge of the temple.
What does God want in His house?
• Prayer among His people (1 Tim. 2:1ff).
Real prayer is an evidence of our dependence on God and our faith in His Word.
• People being helped (Matt. 21:14).
The needy should feel welcome and should find the kind of help they need.
• Power in God’s house
The power of God working to bring new life and to change people into the image of His Son!
• Praise is another feature of God’s house (Matt. 21:15–16). Here Jesus quotes Psalm 8:2
Something to think about
- What about us today? If Jesus were walking around our churches what are we doing that would offend Him because it is driving away people who are seeking Him?
- What about you? As a believer your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). What activity is going on in your life that may be keeping others from getting to know Jesus?
Readings for Monday of Holy Week
- Matthew 21:12-16
- Mark 11:15-18
- Luke 19:45-48
- Isaiah 56:1-8
It is my prayer that as we focus on the events leading up to the cross that you can fully grasp the magnitude of sin and its consequences in order to fully understand the light and hope of Sunday morning!
I would love to start a conversation of what God shows you as a result of taking this journey with us this week! You can do that by writing in the comment box!
Today is the start of Holy Week, the week right before we celebrate Easter or Resurrection Sunday. During this time many churches pause to remember the suffering and death of Jesus through various traditions and worship services. (more…)