Day 4 is Maundy Thursday. That time when Jesus continued to show His disciples who He was & what He had come to do for them, for us, for the world.
Our Scripture is Matthew 26:17-75 - yes another long one - but oh so meaningful.
So much happens in verses 20-30. Just imagine eating dinner with Jesus & 11 of your best friends. Jesus all of sudden tells you that one of you will betray Him. As you all are trying to figure out who this betrayer is, Jesus takes the bread & the wine & gives it to you with new words in a new way. All 4 Gospel writers record the Last Supper; also known as the Lord's Supper which commemorates the Passover Meal that Jesus ate with His disciples; also known as the Eucharist (thanksgiving) because in it we thank God for Christ's work in us; also known as Holy Communion because through it we commune with God & with other believers. The Gospel of John is the only record of Jesus washing the disciples feet (Jn 13:1-20); you might read that also as we think about the events of this Thursday. Jesus speaks of the wine as "my blood of the covenant poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." What is your understanding of this new covenant? What are your feelings each time we commune with God?
As we move back into the story in verses 31-35, we read of Peter's betrayal. Not only did Jesus explain that he would betray Him, but exactly how it would happen. Have you ever made the promise not to betray Jesus, never to fall away, never to be ashamed of who He is? We praise God for the blood of the new covenant, don't we?
The disciples now follow Jesus into the Garden of Gethsemane (vs 36-45) where Jesus is in agony. He takes Peter & James & John with Him as He goes to pray to His Father. Luke records that the anguish that Jesus felt knowing where He would soon be, He began to sweat like drops of blood that fell to the ground. I have heard that this is something that can happen when someone is in tremendous agony. I would imagine Luke recorded this event due to the fact that he is a physician and would recognize that it could very well have happened. Now, as Jesus goes to pray & asks these 3 disciples to keep watch & pray...it is the one thing they do not do. Three times Jesus returns to these disciples & each time they have fallen asleep. It is very easy for us to think, "I would never do that...that's Jesus I am praying for." We can't be too hard on these disciples: (1) they still were not fully aware of what is about to happen; (2) they had just had 4 glasses of wine with their meal; & (3) it is late into the night. How many times do we fall asleep while we are praying? Yep, it happens to the best of us.
These last verses 47-75, tell of the events of Jesus betrayal & arrest - with the betrayal happening just as Jesus said it would. Jesus is led to Caiaphas the high priest late in the night to avoid possible rioting by His followers. And then, just as Jesus said, Peter denied knowing his friend 3 times. These events were prophesied in the Old Testament through different prophets - Isaiah, Daniel, Zechariah, etc. Somber events, leaving the disciples fearful, without hope, discouraged, disappointed.
Are these not many of the same feelings we all share this week? Yes we probably feel this way every Holy Week, but maybe just a little differently this Holy Week. We are living in a time of unknown - things change every day, things that we have no control over causing fear, panic, anxiousness. The economy has taken a rapid downward turn, leaving us discouraged & also fearful. Everything has been cancelled from graduations to church services & we find ourselves discouraged & disappointed. We begin to wonder if things will ever return to normal.
My prayer is that things never return to what we used to know as normal! Yes, that sounds odd I know. I pray things will return to God's new normal. A normal where we stay engaged with Jesus every day; a normal where we love our neighbors at all times; a normal where God's will shall be done on earth as it is in heaven; a normal where God's justice prevails; a normal where we spend time with our families being thankful for each moment we have; a normal where people return to church & church is all about "being" the church, not just "doing" church. You see I refuse to see this through the lens of unending hope, but believing in the God of HOPE UNENDING! My prayer for you is the same. God holds each one of us by the right hand; He is our anchor in a stormy sea; & most importantly He will never leave us nor forsake us. AMEN!