Thursday, April 05, 2007

Holy Week - Day 5

Are your plans for Easter dinner set into motion? I suspect they are. Today we see the preparation set into place for the Passover meal and we will get to the garden tonight, when the last thing that happens is that Jesus heals Malchus' ear.

Our texts from today come from Matthew 26:17-56, Mark 14:12-52, Luke 22:7-51 and John 13:1-18:13.

Matthew and Mark begin this by telling us that the disciples came to Jesus and asked where He would like them to make preparations for the Passover. Luke, on the other hand, says that Jesus sent Peter and John to deal with it. They couldn't just do it on their own, but had to ask where He wanted them to set it up.

Jesus always had a plan. "As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, and say to the owner of the house, 'The Teacher asks, Where is the guest room, wher eI may eat the Passover with my disciples?' He will show you a large upper room, all furnished. Make preparations there."

I'm terribly curious about this. Had Jesus set it up before? Or did He have divine knowledge of a random guy walking around the city carrying a jar of water? Fortunately for all of us (and for the United Methodist Church when they wanted to establish the devotional guide "Upper Room"), the disciples found things just as Jesus had said.

We skip forward through the day and get to evening. Remember, this is a Jewish feast and these things start at sundown. Jesus and the twelve were reclining at the table, eating. There is a distinction that I think we miss sometimes. They are eating dinner. The traditional Passover meal, with all of its rituals was celebrated much the same then as it is now. Unleavened bread, fruits, nuts were all part of the meal. The Lord's Supper - or communion comes later in the evening for Jesus and His disciples. This passage actually speaks of both events.

John tells us that the evening meal was being served when Jesus got up, took of his outer clothing and wrapped a towel around his waist. He then began to wash his disciples' feet. This event is nearly impossible for me to participate in. This level of servitude is amazing. And that it came from their leader? Wow. I think that if my pastor asked me to allow him to wash my feet, I'd run from the room - an emotional mess. Peter reacted much the same way. "NO!" But, Jesus persisted. And when he finished, he asked if they understood what He had done for them. He had taught them a lesson in serving others - by setting the example.

Luke is the only one that tells us of the dispute among the disciples over who would be the greatest. Isn't it amazing. Jesus keeps telling them that His time is short. But, all they can think of is themselves! But, this goes along with the words from John's gospel when Jesus teaches them that the greatest among them should be like the youngest - and that He (Jesus) is among them as one who serves. What a lesson that is that we need to learn ... servanthood ... true servanthood.

John 13:21. "Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, 'I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me.'" As He was washing Judas' feet, He knew this was going to happen. Can you imagine? Matthew and John are the gospels that have Jesus identifying Judas during the evening.

It seems that this announcement of the betrayal happens during the consecration of the Lord's Supper. I wonder how much His disciples understood when He said, "Take, eat ... this is my body ... This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many." Oh my but we take these words for granted.

They sang a hymn and went to the Mount of Olives. Matthew and Mark tell us that they were on the Mount of Olives when Jesus predicted Peter would betray Him. Luke and John put the event in the Upper Room. Wherever the words occurred ... the reality would hit Peter in the face the next morning!

John's gospel goes into much greater detail regarding Jesus' evening with the disciples at the Upper Room. Chapters 14, 15, 16 and 17 contain a lot of words of Jesus. He had plenty to say to them. I'll let you read through them for content on your own, but He comforts them with words that are comforting to us. "I'm going to prepare a place for you. I will come back for you." "I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." He promises the HOly Spirit in John 14:16 "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever - the Spirit of turth." John 14:23 "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him and we will come to him and make our home with him."

These are some of the amazing promises and words of Christ. We find the teaching of the vine and the branches in John 15. Jesus teaches that the world hates His disciples. John 16 begins with the words "All this I have told you so that you will not go astray." Then, in John 17, Jesus looked toward heaven and began to pray. He prayed for himself, for His disciples, and for all believers. I'm thankful for these prayers ... we have Jesus as an intercessor for us with the Father - He began that work when He was on earth - just before His crucifixion.

John gave us the prayer ... the other gospels tell us that the disciples fell asleep during that prayer. Poor guys! They had no idea the impact of the evening in the Garden of Gethsemane. They were just exhausted from traveling and Jesus' teaching. I'm certain they weren't sitting around while He had been teaching all week long. There was a lot to do in dealing with crowds the size of those in Jerusalem during Passover week. They were exhausted!

Jesus finally woke them up for good. "Rise! The hour is come! Here comes my betrayer!" We are told that Judas knew the place well and knew that Jesus would be there. Now, while the fact of the matter is that He betrayed our Lord, the little nugget I pulled from this was the Jesus prayed in this garden enough times for it to be habitual. No wonder the disciples went to sleep. They probably had no idea how long it was going to take Him to talk to His Father this time!

The betrayal was a kiss - a form of intimacy - a welcoming greeting. How awful ... to be betrayed like this by a man you spent three years teaching, loving and caring for. But, God's plan was in motion and there was nothing anyone could do to stop it.

The soldiers stepped forward to seize one man. They were carrying swords and clubs, to capture one man with 11 very frightened disciples. Peter had a sword though and lopped off the ear of Malchus. John gives him a name while Luke tells us that Jesus healed him. Mark tells us that everyone then deserted Jesus and fled.

If you read Mark's account, you will find the short story of the young man, who wore nothing but a linen garment, following Jesus. They seized him, he fled naked and left his garment behind. We're pretty sure that is Mark himself.

The evening is over. Jesus has loved His disciples this evening. He gave them the Lord's Supper, He washed their feet, He prayed for them ... and they ran away. I'm sad. The end is approaching at breakneck speed.

Tomorrow at noon I will be at a Good Friday service. Blackness and darkness will fall as the curtains rip and the earthquakes destroy. I'm not looking forward to it.

1 comment:

Rebecca said...

I am always moved by this particular passage of scripture all of it is beautiful but the part that continues to strike the deepest cord in me is to picture our Savior washing judas feet... and to remember that He did not "hold any love back" as He did that even knowing what Judas would do... If it were me I would have maybe washed his big toe but that's it.. but Jesus still KNELT before him.. and used his own hands to wash and tenderly dry those feet... uuuuggghhhh that just moves me to tears really.... I pray to ge tto that point in my life... that I will be able to take the feet of a betrayer in my hands and still tenderly douse them with love... that is beauty unrefined...
great post as always!