Today is widely recognized as Maundy Thursday. From the washing of the disciple’s feet, the Last Supper and Jesus foretelling of Peter’s denial and Judas’ betrayal, we see so much happening in Scripture before Jesus is arrested and crucified. It is also the night that He prayed one of the most sacred prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane. Tomorrow we will reflect more in-depth as we remember His sacrifice made on the cross. But today, before your social media feeds are filled with “Sunday is coming,” stop and reflect with me. Let’s not rush past the preparation of the Lamb before His blood is spilled tomorrow.
Like any sacrifice being prepared, Jesus spent time in His last moments teaching His disciples, loving His disciples, and praying to His Father. In one moment we have Jesus kneeling before the disciples and washing their feet. Appalled at first, Peter said no, but Jesus continued with, “Unless I wash your feet, you can have no part of Me.” (John 13:8) Can you imagine Peter at this moment? Unworthy and ashamed, he let Jesus wash his feet. The feet that had walked onto numerous boats and carried in so many nets of fish; The feet that carried a brave but scared man onto the water as he walked towards Jesus then swiftly sank; The feet that followed Jesus for the course of three years and stood in the midst of miracle after miracle, and the feet that would soon be in the middle of crowds denying the One whom was dying for him. Jesus was there, washing his feet as a sign of servanthood. The amount of love at this moment alone, before the cross, shows the heart of the Father towards His children. He knew all that Peter had done and was going to do, yet He still did this act of love for each disciple. Then commanded each of them to do the same for each other.
We then find them gathered around the table listening to Jesus explain the elements of communion at the Last Supper or Passover. His body broken and His blood shed for us. Jesus ate and taught among His disciples, and in the middle sat Judas. Jesus was not ignorant of Judas’ soon coming betrayal. As John 13:18-30 points out Jesus foretelling of his betrayal as he dipped the bread into the wine. This morning Beth Moore wrote one of the most powerful descriptions of Peter and Judas at this moment. She said, “That Thursday night Jesus knew the difference between a faker and a failure.” Peter was going to fail Jesus, but Judas was faking all along. How marvelous to be a failure over a fake! Peter came back over and over to Jesus, but Judas ran full of greed. Like us, we will fail over and over, but because of His love and mercy, we can come back over and over.
We also have Jesus teaching on the commandment to love your neighbor as I have loved you (John 13:34-35). He imparted one of the most significant statements that we are commanded to carry out today. To love as Christ loves, and to honor the words of John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Every day our walk with Christ should be a reflection of this commandment.
As we continue to reflect on the events this night held, we can look around the room as Jesus told of His betrayal. We see John, the beloved disciple, resting on Jesus. (John 13:23) Before the crucifixion and resurrection, this intimate moment stands out so much to me. John unaware of what was to come in the next hours, still chose to rest on Jesus. He still wanted to be close because he knew that in Jesus there was no fear. As the coming hours would unfold, we see the Messiah take on the sin of the world and the Father turn away as His Son bore our sins. We see the disciples scrambled, Judas dead, and hell rejoicing as Jesus drew His final breath. But none of that was on John’s mind at this moment. He only sought to be closer to Jesus. To be near to the One whom he had followed and loved for three years. That is what John chose to do. He didn’t question Jesus, he just rested in Him. Perhaps that is one of the most beautiful images we can walk away with today. That we love as He loved – close and at peace.
Lastly, let’s not move past the garden. Jesus returning back to the garden is symbolic of Adam’s original place in the Garden of Eden – to be in close communion with God and carrying out His Kingdom. But after the fall, Adam was in need of a Savior, just like us. Here we find Jesus praying on top of the Mount of Olives in the Garden of Gethsemane. In the middle of olive trees and an olive press, Jesus is being crushed like oil. Poured out for us and anointed as the perfect Sacrifice. Mark 14:32-42 reads:
They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.” Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Couldn’t you keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him. Returning the third time, he said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”
As I read this passage, I see Jesus praying what I struggle to pray during difficult circumstances, “Not my will, but yours.” Jesus, again, shows us how to pray despite death looming over Him. We also see the disciples who were sleeping tirelessly. Jesus’ words to Peter, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” is for us, too. Stay alert, be on guard, and don’t fall into the lies of the enemy. Our spirits are made for battle, but our bodies give out quickly. Don’t let your spirit and mind succumb to Satan. With the help of the Holy Spirit and the word of our testimonies, we are overcomers.
Today, all of this might be swirling in your head as it does mine. The wrestling of the Easter season is one I love dearly because it’s beautiful, hard, and holy. As I am reminded of each moment that today holds in lieu of tomorrow, I’m drawn to my knees in remembrance of His love. Like John, I pray you listen a little closer to the heartbeat of the Father for you during this season. Easter is a marker celebrated by many, but it’s also the reason you and I get to sit near to Him today.
A prayer for today:
Jesus, as I remember today what you went through in preparation for tomorrow, I am thankful. I pray, Lord, that you help remember to love my neighbor. Despite my failures and shortcomings, I thank you for choosing me to die on a cross for. I am not worthy, but you are. I pray today that you draw close to me. Let me hear your heartbeat, as I rest in your presence. Amen.