THURSDAY OF HOLY WEEK
THE LAST SUPPER.
READING. St. MATTHEW 26: 36 – 46.
We are considering during Holy Week the things Jesus said and did during thelast week of his life. I said that on Monday he overturned the tables of the traders who were carrying out their sharp practice in the courts of the Temple where people gathered for worship.
On the Tuesday he resisted the clever tactics of four different groups who tried to give him enough room to hang himself. It was also on Tuesday that Jesus told the stories known as parables. With the clever use of these stories he told his listeners to watch and be prepared. “Be ready for the judgment of God and respond to his invitation while there is yet time.” This was his message.
On the Wednesday Jesus remained at Bethany a few miles outside of Jerusalem. It was at the home of Simon the leper, while having a meal, that a woman who loved Jesus very deeply took her most precious possession – a phial of perfume and anointed his head with the entire contents. She recognised that this was the last opportunity that she would ever have to acknowledge Jesus as her Saviour and she did not hesitate. She expressed the deepest devotion of her heart.
On the Thursday of Holy Week, we see that Jesus once again returned toJerusalem. In the upper room we see him set the example of discipleship by washing the feet of the disciples and it was there in the upper room that Jesus instituted the Sacrament of Holy Communion; what we refer to as the Lord’s Supper. In that upper room on that last Thursday of our Lord’s life he spoke words of comfort; he spoke of the need for his followers to be courageous and brave.
We had planned to celebrate the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper at our service on this night and then to have a light meal in the hall but due to the corona virus restrictions these plans have had to be cancelled.
On the Thursday Jesus also endured the agony of the garden of Gethsemane and he saw clearly with deep sorrow that from then on, he would be alone. It was also on Thursday that Jesus was betrayed by Judas. He was arrested by his enemies and taken to prison and to judgment.
Let me remind you again of the specific reason why Jesus and his disciples had come to Jerusalem. Along with upwards of three million Jews from all over the world, they had come to celebrate the Jewish festival of Passover. Passover was a memorial service – a service of remembrance which is still held each year marking the exodus of the Jews form Egypt where they had been slaves.
It is the ambition of every Jew to celebrate the Passover in Jerusalem at least once before they die. Jesus and his disciples, along with every important Jew from throughout the world, were gathered in the Holy City for the Passover. In the Passover ritual the blood of a sacrificed lamb is taken and daubed on the doorposts and lintels of each home re-enact the time when the angel of death passed through the land of Egypt. When the angel saw the blood, he passed over that house and all within were safe because of the blood of the lamb daubed on the doorpost.
Within the safety of each house protected by the blood, each family eats bread with no yeast (unleavened bread). This is to remind them of the haste with which their forefathers left Egypt. God has ordained that every Jewish family must observe the Passover each year and it still today remains the most important ritual in the Jewish calendar. As the family share the meal together the head of each family tells the story of God’s gracious deliverance of their forefathers from slavery in Egypt.
Passover is not just a history lesson for the Jews. It is not just a case of them remembering something that happened 3000 years ago. They relive the event as if they were there. It is for them something which is happening now and they must act with the same sense of urgency. They must hear the clear call of God and they must respond without a moment’s hesitation. They are to have an awareness of God’s presence. They are to have a consciousness that this is a call from God.
The Jews then are to recognise that God is acting graciously towards them. In addition, they are to realise the significance of the blood daubed on the doorposts and lintels. They are to be aware that God’s judgment will pass over them. The blood is obtained by killing a lamb and the lamb must be spotless and perfect, without blemish. It has to be a spotless, perfect sacrifice. Once the blood is drained off for the ritual daubing of the doorposts and lintels, the lamb is then roasted and used for eating at the Passover meal along with the unleavened bread.
The lamb is considered to be a perfect offering to God. It symbolises what the people of God should be. – spotless and without blemish. It represents in a symbolic way the complete and unconditional giving of oneself to God. The meal begins and ends in the traditional way with a shared cup of wine, the symbol of fellowship and oneness; everyone at the Passover must share and drink from the cup.
It really is most important that we fully understand what Jesus was saying on that first Thursday of Holy Week as he and his disciples shared the Passover. For example, when Jesus took the bread and broke it, he said, “Take eat, this is my body which is broken for you, this do in remembrance of me.”
Jesus in effect was saying:
• I am the perfect sacrifice without spot or blemish.
• My life within a matter of hours is being offered to God on your behalf.
• You must recognise the call of God to you.
• This is a sacred and holy moment.
• You should recognise that this is a call of God to you.
When Jesus lifted the cup of wine and said, “This is my blood which is shed for many unto remission of sins drink ye all of it.” He was saying:
• You must recognise the significance of the blood.
• Your future safety and security, your salvation is secured by my blood.
• “My blood,” says Jesus, “will ensure that the judgment of God will pass over you. God’s judgment will pass you by.”
The book of Revelation speaks about those who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the lamb. This is a reference to men and women who have recognised the sacrifice that Jesus has made for them and therefore when death has past, they will be before the throne of God:
• They will serve him day and night in his Temple and the lamb which is in the midst of the throne (that of course is a reference to Jesus, “the sacrificial lamb”) shall feed them and satisfy their hunger and thirst and God himself shall wipe away all tears from their eyes and they will be abundantly satisfied and blest beyond measure.
The events of Thursday of Holy Week should thrill and excite the heart of everyChristian. Thursday is a stark reminder of what Christ has done for us; the sacrifice he has made for us. This should not be just a nice story, nor should it be just a lesson from history.
• This is something we are to relive.
• It is something we are to believe.
• It is something we are to subscribe to and sign up for.
• This is something we should be moved to act upon with a sense of urgency.
There are times when we need to be quiet and still; times when we shouldrealise – we are in the presence of God; times when we realise no words are adequate to express what we feel. This could be such a moment for us. Let me encourage you to be still and quiet as you consider and ponder what Christ hasdone for you.