It’s Maundy Thursday.
Thank you for taking the time to invest in this moment. This is one of those moments that defines us as Christians.
This past Tuesday we had our regular staff meeting and prayer time. Carroll Potter told a really cool story.
She said there was a group of children being interviewed. They were asked, “What is your favorite holiday.”
Some of them said Easter, because you get candy. Most of them said Christmas, because you get lots of presents.
One boy said, “Maundy Thursday.”
“Maundy Thursday is my favorite holiday, because once a year my Dad gathers us together, reads us a story, and washes our feet to show us how much he loves us.”
There it is. Maundy Thursday.
It’s called Maundy because it comes from the same Latin word where we get the word mandate, or command.
The Gospel of John tells us that on this night Jesus gathered his friends together
and said, “A new command I give you, that you love one another.”
Then he demonstrated that love by washing his disciples’ feet.
That’s the Gospel of John.
This year we are not reading from John’s Gospel, but we have been walking through the Gospel of Mark.
Mark’s version of this story is different.
We reenact this story every week.
Every time we share communion, we hear these words.
“On the night in which he was…”
What comes next?
Isn’t that interesting?
Why don’t we say,
“on the night in which he threw a big dinner party for his friends.”
Or, “on the night in which he showed us how to love.”
Or, “on the night in which Jesus saved the world.”
Why do we have to be so negative?
On the night in which he was betrayed.
Betrayal is not a fun word.
Do you know what it feels like to be betrayed?
It begins when we are kids.
Your sister rats you out to Mom and Dad.
Your best friend posts your dark secret on Facebook.
Your spouse says, “I don’t love you any more.”
On the night in which he was betrayed.
It’s not a fun word.
The reason we begin the words of institution with this phrase is because the whole story of the Last Supper in the Gospel of Mark is sandwiched by this word.
Our text for tonight begins in Mark 14:22, but look at the passage directly before it.
Jesus says, in verse 18, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me,”
and then, at the end of the passage, in Mark 14:41-42, in the garden, Jesus says, “see, the Son of Man is betrayed.”
Notice who betrays him, though, Back in verse 22, he says, “ one who is eating with me.”
Do you know what one of the prerequisites is for betrayal?
It requires first being a friend.
It requires being the kind of person with which you would share an intimate meal.
That is what Jesus means when he says, “one who is eating with me.”
We gather here tonight, in this dinner church, to be reminded of what the church is really supposed to be.
We are a community. We share communion.
We gather together to eat with each other.
To sit across the table and share a meal, to share our stories, to do life with each other. These are intimate moments.
Think about the people you “eat with” on a regular basis.
Who are the people who are closest to you?
The friends you hang out with and share meals with regularly.
Your partner or spouse.
Here’s a pleasant thought.
They are the only ones who can actually betray you.
On the night in which he was betrayed.
It is not a pleasant word.
The word itself, in the original language, literally means to give over.
It means to take something that at one time you were holding and to give it to someone else.
In this case, Judas took his good friend and teacher, Jesus, with whom he
had been traveling and
healing the sick, and
feeding the hungry,
and then gave him over to the authorities to be arrested, tried, and executed.
But, giving over is not the only way that Jesus was betrayed on this night.
In the next section, beginning in Mark 14:26, after the meal, Jesus led his disciples into the garden and he says,
“All of you will become deserters.”
Deserters is not a pleasant word either.
The Greek word is scandalizo. It is where we get the word scandal, or scandalize.
“Tonight, all of you will become scandalous.”
We’ve heard this word before in our study of the Gospel of Mark.
It is actually part of our theme for this entire year.
We haven’t talked about it much during Lent, but our big theme for this year was CULTiVATE: Making Room for God’s Promise.
It is based on Jesus’ parable of the four soils.
Do you remember that?
Jesus said that the word of God is like a seed that falls on four soils.
In Mark 4:17, the second soil is Rocky.
The plant sprouts up quickly, but when persecution comes, they are scandalized.
They fall away.
They become deserters.
On the night in which he was deserted.
He wasn’t just given over, or deserted.
Peter says, “Lord, I will never desert you. I will never be scandalous.”
Jesus shakes his head.
“Before the cock crows twice you will deny me three times.”
To deny is to claim that you have never known or been associated with someone. It’s as if you never existed.
When I was a boy, I would get really angry with my Mom when she would tell me I couldn’t do something. So, I would take a piece of paper, write her name on it, and then erase it, right in front of her face.
I denied her.
On the night in which he was denied.
He wasn’t just given over, or deserted, or denied.
Jesus took them further into the garden and asked them
to keep watch; to stay awake.
Then he cried out to the Father and asked that this terrible thing that was about to happen, this bitter cup he was about to drink, would be taken away from him.
The Father said “NO”
The disciples fell asleep.
No one was watching.
He was abandoned by everyone.
On the night in which he was given over, deserted, denied, and abandoned.
This is a pretty awful story.
Why do we tell it?
Why do we reenact it every week?
Why do we gather tonight?
What does the next line say?
On the night in which
he was given over to the enemy,
he took bread, broke it, and gave it to his disciples, and said, “this is my body.”
On the night when they
gave him away,
he gave his body to them, completely.
But it doesn’t stop there.
Then he took the cup and said, this is my blood.
It is the new covenant.
Covenant means promise.
This isn’t a new promise, it is the renewed promise made even deeper.
The first promise was to Abraham,
that he would be blessed to be a blessing. That all nations would be blessed through him.
God sealed that promise with the blood of a bull.
God made the promise to Moses and the people through the Law,
and the covenant was sealed by the sprinkling of blood on the altar.
It was a blood pact.
It was the most binding kind of promise someone could make.
On the night in which he was
Jesus made a blood oath, with his own blood,
that he would never give us over to Sin and Death;
that he would never desert us;
that he would never deny us;
and never abandon us.
The Gospel of John says that he washed their feet like a servant.
This night is called Maundy Thursday.
Jesus said, a new commandment I give you: love one another.
Greater lover has no one than this, that he lay his life down for a friend.
Only a friend can betray.
Here is the mystery of the Kingdom of God.
Who is this Christ?
That on the night in which we give him over.
On the night in which we desert him.
On the night in which we deny him.
On the night in which we abandon him.
Jesus spreads out his hands and gives us his body and his blood.
“I promise that I will make you whole.
I promise that I will heal your hurts.
I promise that I will save you from Sin and Death.
I promise that I will make all things new.”
Jesus gathered with his friends, with his community, to share this meal.
In this moment he teaches us the most painful truth of the universe.
In order to love, you have to risk.
The only way that Jesus could be betrayed was because he had friends.
To love is to risk.
To risk is to be willing to lose everything.
If you never want to feel pain, then never risk loving someone.
if you want to know the deepest kind of love,
then you need to be willing to lose everything for the sake of the other.
And that is how Jesus demonstrated God’s love for us.
This is the promise, and
this is why we gather
on the night in which he was betrayed.