Thursday Provides Lessons on Power, Prayer and Pain

Thursday was perhaps the longest day of Passion Week, since events occurred deep into the night and continued straight on into Friday. On Thursday the disciples shared the Last Supper and heard Jesus speak about things they didn’t understand. “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it. “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.” (Mark 14:22-24, NIV)

Little Bible Mysteries

On Thursday Jesus and the disciples ate the Last Supper together. While they were probably still a little giddy over the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Jesus continued to prepare them for what was coming. First, he reminded them that God provides when we do not see a way. Mark 14 recounts how he told them to find a man carrying a water pot, who would show them a large room already prepared for their supper. Who was that man? Who prepared the Upper Room?

I have a feeling that in the Kingdom we will get to know many such anonymous heroes of the faith, who quietly worked behind the scenes to fulfill God’s mission and to do what Christ asked of them without seeking credit. How many good deeds would we do if nobody ever knew? Jesus was showing the disciples that there was more about love than public display of affection…

Thursday supper

Bittersweet Moments

He knew that Judas was going to betray him and that Peter was going to deny knowing him. Certainly the sacrifice of the Passover lamb was not lost on him, and if you think about how Jesus must have felt during dinner, it is an incredibly poignant moment. At dinner he told them frankly that they would all desert him, and all protested that they’d never do such a thing! He knew they loved him, and he knew they’d fail.

Have you ever had good intentions, and promised the Lord you’d never forsake him? And then you did it anyway? Remember what happened with the disciples and take heart! (During Passion Week they turned their backs on their best friend, and ended the week feeling hopeless and defeated. But something happened that changed their minds and changed the world!)

Human Desires, Heavenly Instruction

In Luke’s account they argued about who would be the greatest in the new kingdom, and he used this time to teach them. If you knew you had but two days to live, what would you share with your family and friends? What final things would you say to them? Jesus told them (and us) to love one another. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35, NIV).

Christians celebrate this day as Maundy Thursday, and I always wondered what that meant. “Maundy” comes from the Latin word mandatum, or commandment, reflecting Jesus’ words “I give you a new commandment.”

In this case, Jesus literally demonstrated his lesson by humbling himself as a servant and washing their feet. (And in a land without indoor plumbing, dust was not the only thing that made feet stinky and dirty—which is why foot washing was such a degrading task.) Jesus told them to serve one another, and to lead through service.

“Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” (John 13:14-15, NIV) The church today celebrates this as “Maundy Thursday” as the day Jesus performed this act of service, but the word actually comes through old French and Middle English from the Latin mandatum, or mandate. Jesus said, “a new mandate I give to you, that you love one another”, and demonstrated it by serving.

Thursday wash

The Opposite of Congress

Servant leaders are a rare commodity, and you have to believe Jesus thought this was a pretty important concept, since he emphasized it with this very personal object lesson. Imagine having Jesus kneel in front of YOUR chair, looking up and locking eyes for a moment as he cleanses your dirty feet. What kind of person have those feet carried? Where all have those feet been? His eyes see deeply into yours, full of knowledge and forgiveness as he washes the unwholesome residue of your journey away. Along with Peter (that OTHER cowardly denier) we say, “No Lord! I am not worthy!” Still looking compassionately into our eyes, Jesus says, “Yes, my child, you are.”

On Thursday night they go out to the Mount of Olives to Gethsemane, where Jesus prays, and the disciples fall asleep. (We are incredulous that they do, but seriously, have YOU ever fallen asleep while praying? Thought so!) Judas brokers his deal with the Pharisees, and they come out with armed guards to arrest Jesus.

The Impossible Arrest

John’s take on this is interesting, to me one of the most fascinating vignettes about Jesus’ power in all of Scripture: “Judas came to the garden, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and the Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons. Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?” “Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “I AM he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.)

When Jesus said, “I AM he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.” (John 18:3-5, NIV, emphasis mine). When just the sound of his voice was enough to make a group of tough armed guards fall down, do you think they could have taken Jesus by force unless he allowed it? No way! It would have been impossible for guards to capture Jesus, which he demonstrated over and over.

Up until now, Jesus avoided capture whenever he chose (See Luke 4:30, John 2:4, 7:30, 8:59, and 10:39) but at this point he allowed himself to be taken. He told Peter to put his sword away because he intends to drink from the cup that has been set before him.
Again, he is a volunteer on this mission, not a victim of circumstance.

Lots Going On

Thursday is a busy night. Judas betrays Jesus with a kiss. Peter denies knowing Jesus three times, locks eyes with Jesus across an open courtyard, and then goes out and weeps bitterly. John is close enough to Caiaphas’ house to record what transpired there, but technically ALL the disciples betrayed Jesus because there is NO ONE who tries to stand up for him against the Sanhedrin…

It’s easy from a distance to judge these cowards until you stop and think: has there ever been a time when YOU didn’t acknowledge knowing him? When YOU didn’t stand up for him, if even in the quietness of your own heart when temptation to sin beckoned you? I understand the cowardly disciples better when I take an honest look at MYSELF.

All the Way

The high priest’s guards blindfold and beat Jesus, saying, “Prophesy! Who hit you?” This sleepless night initiates an exhausting journey to the cross, which Jesus could have chosen to avoid at any time. The Son of God did not HAVE to go through with this. He had a choice in every moment, and could have called upon Angels to minister to him, to end the exhaustion and the pain and suffering. Yeah we all might have been lost, but HE would still have been the Son of God. So what made him do it?

One of my favorite verses is tucked quietly into John’s account: “It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” (John 13:1) Jesus went to trial, endured betrayals and beatings and humiliation and the cross because he loved us all the way to the end. May we love one another in the same way, and not just at Christmas and Easter…

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The Amazing Story of the Victim Who Was Really a Volunteer

One of the things that Passion Week helps us to see (mentioned yesterday) is that Jesus was not a victim but a volunteer. Today is Palm Sunday, and Jesus is traveling with his friends. After the Sabbath, Jesus and the disciples walked from Bethany NW through Bethpage to Jerusalem, a journey of 8-10 miles.

The Victim who Walked Right Into a Trap?

He rode the last part on the colt of a donkey, fulfilling this prophecy from Zechariah 9:9, “Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” As he approached, “A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Matthew 21:8-9, NIV).


Some say that Jesus was simply a great rabbi who got swept up in events, and who became a victim because of the tumultuous political climate in Jerusalem. They surmise that these adoring crowds called attention to him, the authorities reacted, and things got out of control. (And yes, these are probably some of the same crowds who will be calling for his crucifixion in just a few days…)

A Strange Event in a Jewish Hero Story

Even so, Luke 19 tells us that he wept compassionately over Jerusalem as he approached the city. Some Greeks came to see Philip, who took them to Andrew, who helped introduce them to Jesus. (We don’t know much about Andrew, but we could all do a lot worse than to be remembered as someone who introduced people to Jesus!).

This is one of the clear signals indicating that Gentiles will be included in the New Covenant. It is an interesting fact to be included about the triumphant entry of a Jewish Rabbi… Why even speak about Greeks at such a time? Shortly after meeting them Jesus announced, “When I am lifted up, I will draw all men to myself”, indicating that these Greeks and “all men” were included in his crucifixion and his kingdom.

No Victim in This Murder Mystery

It’s interesting to note that Jesus taught his disciples several times that he was going to die, that he was a volunteer and not a victim.

Jesus was on a mission, and he was proclaiming it to everyone. Here’s another notable statement that Jesus made in front of his followers outside of Jerusalem: ““Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” (John 12:27, 28, NIV). Knowing what was to come, he is troubled but not desperate; he is aware but not anxious.

Jesus knows exactly what he came to do and what his purpose is. He is not a chance victim, swept along the current of events, wishing that God would save him from this fate. He is a man on a mission who plans to see it through.

The Question Is, What Do YOU Believe About the Cross?

Luke 17:2 [Jesus taught them] But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.
John 7:3 “For a little while longer I am with you, then I go to Him who sent Me.”
John 18:3, 6 Judas, having received the Roman cohort and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, came there with torches and weapons. When Jesus said to them, “I am He,” they drew back and fell to the ground…
Matthew 26:52 Jesus told Peter to put his sword away

What do you believe about the cross? Was Jesus a victim or a volunteer?
While the cross is history, it’s also a bit of a mystery; What caused the crucifixion?
Some say it was caused by politics in the area; others claim it was mob hysteria.

Was it Jesus’s heresy? The Pharisees’ jealousy? Herod’s legacy? Judas’s zealotry?
Was Jesus swept along by a current of events, or was he in control of everything?
In the panoply of history, was he a Rabbi who overplayed his hand, or a King who had total command? Was he a mistreated milquetoast, or a man on a mission?
The cross wasn’t circumstantial; it was strategic.
For Jesus the cross wasn’t by chance, it was by choice.

So, WHY the Cross?

It wasn’t based on an accident; it was based on his authority.
The Cross wasn’t a random disaster; it was a deliberate design.

He said, “Destroy this Temple and I will raise it up!” & “Father, I will drink from this cup”
Jesus predicted it; he projected it; he presented it; and he prepared for it: Jesus explained it to his disciples; he expounded upon it to the Pharisees;
and he expected it to happen.

Jesus knew about it; he talked about it; he prophesied about it; and he prayed about it.
He could have protested when he was arrested, but it wasn’t contested because
It was what he expected. Jesus told Peter to put his sword away; he told Pilate he had nothing more to say;
The cross wasn’t the result of a bad day, or a roadblock along the way; It WAS the way…

Still, It Comes Down to YOU

What do you believe about the cross? Was Jesus a victim or a volunteer?
For Jesus, It wasn’t unexpected; it was premeditated.
The cross wasn’t coincidental; it was calculated.
It was not incidental, and it wasn’t accidental; it was intentional. The Cross wasn’t capital punishment, it was cosmic punishment.

Jesus allowed the Pharisees to plot, so he could do for us what we could NOT.
He allowed the Romans to execute him, so he could execute God’s plan.
God’s Son wasn’t laid low, he was lifted up.
He wasn’t horrified, he was glorified.
Jesus wasn’t a victim of circumstance; he was a voluntary sacrifice.

What do you believe about the cross? All the sinister plans the Pharisees could ever concoct, all the Temple guards they could have ever sent, could never have taken the King of Kings against His will. Jesus wasn’t a pitiful loser who got caught by surprise;
He was a powerful leader committed to salvation!

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here:
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here:
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here:
For the Kindle Edition, go here: