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.
Daily blog readings