Maundy Thursday 2021
I read the following and I think it is helpful to begin this message:
Do you know where you are going?
The place? Dublin, Ireland. The time? Toward the end of the nineteenth century. The event? A series of blistering attacks on Christianity, especially the “alleged resurrection” of Jesus of Nazareth. The person? Thomas Henry Huxley.
You remember Huxley. Devoted disciple of Darwin. Famous biologist, teacher, and author. Defender of the theory of evolution. Bold, convincing self-avowed humanist. Traveling lecturer.
Having finished another series of public assaults against several truths Christians held sacred, Huxley was in a hurry the following morning to catch his train to the next city. He took one of Dublin’s famous horse-drawn taxis and settled back with his eyes closed to rest himself for a few minutes. He assumed the driver had been told the destination by the hotel doorman, so all he said as he got in was, “Hurry . . . I’m almost late. Drive fast!” The horses lurched forward and galloped across Dublin at a vigorous pace. Before long Huxley glanced out the window and frowned as he realized they were going west, away from the sun, not toward it.
Leaning forward, the scholar shouted, “Do you know where you are going?” Without looking back, the driver yelled a classic line, not meant to be humorous, “No, your honor! But I’m driving very fast!”
Do you know where you are going?
Jesus knew where He was going. Jesus knew His mission.
Traditionally, Maundy Thursday (the English garbled form of the Latin), has been a day to remember the Last Supper, the prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, the betrayal with a kiss, the taking captive of Jesus, and his abandonment by the male disciples— betrayal, desertion, and a threefold denial are the coup d’grace. It is on any showing a somber season.
In Jesus’ life, on Maundy Thursday Jesus shared with the disciples what is called the upper room discourse which is recorded in John chapters 13-17. Included in this is the Last Supper which is the Passover meal. We also find this in the other Gospels. From there Jesus went to a time of prayer at Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46) prior to being betrayed and handed over to the authorities.
We have already read the passages this evening. Let’s review:
- In Matthew 26:20-25 Jesus announces His betrayer.
- In Matthew 26:20: The Bible says that it was evening and Jesus reclined at the table with the disciples. Jesus announces that one of them will betray Him.
- In verse 22 the disciples were grieved and each one denied it would be them.
- In verses 23-24 Judas is named as the betrayer, though he says it would not be him.
- In the history of Israel, Passover was celebrated both on Thursday and on Friday because the customs in Galilee differed from the customs in Judea. And so, the Lord on Thursday evening celebrates a Galilean Passover Day, and yet there is another Passover Day on Friday which means that Jesus can keep the Passover one day and die during the Passover as the Passover lamb the next day. And God had arranged history and tradition and custom and circumstance to make that a reality.
- Remember now, it is after 6:00 on Thursday evening. Christ will be captured later in the night, brought to a mock trial early in the morning, crucified and He will die at about 3:00 on Friday afternoon. So, it’s only a matter of hours before His death and they’re eating the Passover meal. It has to be eaten, you remember, that night. It has to be eaten before midnight. It can’t be that anything is left for the morrow. And so, as we come to verse 20, He is at table with His disciples, preparing to eat the meal.
- Now, why this final Passover?
- Passover was the oldest Jewish institution, older than any other Jewish institution except the Sabbath itself.
- For 1,500 years they had celebrated Passover, even before the Aaronic priesthood was instituted, even before all of the Levitical ritual and the giving of the Mosaic Law.
- The Passover was very old, very ancient.
- And it was ordained by God to be held every year and every devout Jew did it every year.
- But now, listen, this Passover, after 1,500-plus years of Passovers, was the last divinely sanctioned and authorized Passover ever held.
- In Matthew 26:26-30 we see the Lord’s supper instituted.
- This is a Passover meal with a lot of symbolism. We cannot get into all of it today. The Passover Meal goes back to Exodus 12:42ff when they left Egypt.
- One source: The Passover meal was rich with symbolic meaning. Jews ate lamb to commemorate the lamb whose blood protected firstborn Israelites from the death plague before the exodus. Bitter herbs were reminiscent of their enslavement. Unleavened bread symbolized the haste of their departure from Egypt (Ex 12). Jesus invested the meal with new symbolism: the unleavened bread symbolized his own body, which would be torn by scourging and crucifixion. His sacrifice would begin a new exodus in which people were liberated from slavery to sin.
- Matzoh is unleavened bread and this is a symbol of sin.
- Matzoh is pierced (in ancient times with an awl and now machine) to keep it from rising. Matzoh is done in stripes.
- Third cup of wine is the cup of redemption and is red.
- 4 total cups.
- This is a metaphor, a symbol of His body, a memorial meal.
- In verse 26 notice Jesus gives to them and says “take eat, this is My body…” ESV Study Bible: Jesus’ body will be the once-and-for-all fulfillment of the ceremonies surrounding the Passover lamb and other OT sacrifices, as he will become the sacrificial atonement for the sins of the people.
- In verse 27, He gives them the cup. ESV Study Bible: Most likely the third of four cups at the Passover—the cup of blessing, or the cup of redemption—corresponding to God’s third promise in Ex. 6:6: “I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment.”
- One source: The making of a covenant was normally accompanied by an act of sacrifice. The slaughter of the animal signified the consequences that would befall anyone who broke the covenant. The old covenant was sealed by such a sacrifice (Ex 24:8). Now, Jesus’s sacrifice enacted the new covenant that had been promised in the OT (Jr 31:31–34). In this covenant God vowed to forgive and forget his people’s sins. He also promised to write his law on the hearts of his people so that they will fulfill his righteous demands.
- Verse 28 He says what the cup is for: for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.
- Jesus’ death established the forgiveness promised in the new covenant of Jer 31:31. Jesus is reinterpreting the symbolism of the Passover meal, indicating the presence of a new era.
- Jesus is instituting the New Covenant.
- In verse 29 Jesus says “But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”
- This would be the 4th cup which Jesus did not take. He is talking about taking it with them in Rev 19:7ff at the millennial reign.
- In verse 30 they sing a hymn and head to the Mount of Olives.
- In Matthew 26:30-35: Jesus talks about the disciples falling away.
- In Matthew 26:36-46 we have Jesus’ prayer at Gethsemane.
Following those events Jesus is betrayed and arrested. This He did for us. This was His Maundy Thursday.
Jesus went through this suffering for our salvation. He did this for us.
Remember the story I began with about Huxley? Remember the story about how his driver was driving fast, but the wrong way? Do you know where you are going?
That true story is more than a story. It’s an apt summary not only of the spirit of Huxley and his followers in the nineteenth century but of many in our own day. Great speed, much motion, rapid movement, but an unknown destination. As Rollo May, the contemporary psychologist, once admitted:
It is an old and ironic habit of human beings to run faster when we have lost our way.
Are you trusting in Jesus’ blood to cover the guilt of your sins? One important distinctive of Christianity is that we do not earn our salvation. We cannot possibly do enough good to cancel out the bad. Instead, we marvel at the fact that Jesus paid the price for our sins. Thank Him today!
That is the institution of the Lord’s Supper, now let us take the Lord’s Supper together.
First, allow special music
Prayer for the bread
Prayer for the juice