Heritage Presbyterian Church

April 1, 2021
Maundy Thursday
Scripture readings: Luke 22: 7-20 (the Last Supper) and John 13: 18-38 (Jesus gives a new commandment)

When Christianity first began, for a few hundred years, the church leaders debated and fought over points of theology and doctrine that we take for granted today.  One important one was about the divinity of Jesus.

In the early church, there was a debate in which some claimed Jesus could not have been truly human because he died on Good Friday; others claimed he was human up to the point he died and then changed into the Son of God upon resurrection.  This debate was settled with what we acknowledge and understand today:  Jesus was fully human yet fully divine.  This was the solution that satisfied almost everyone and cemented that particular point in church doctrine.

Our biggest problem with the events of Holy Week, especially those of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, is that they painfully and directly remind us of the “fully human” side of Jesus; we know this because of the suffering, the horrible death, and the battered body that was hurriedly laid in the nearby tomb as the sun set.  That fully human part of Jesus is difficult to witness.

Tonight I would like us to witness a different part of the fully human being known commonly as Jesus of Nazareth.  I would like to imagine the very human emotions that Jesus felt during the events of that evening of the Passover feast he shared with his apostles for the final time…

First of all, there was tension in that room, although some of the Apostles might not have noticed it at first.  When they entered, I can imagine they were still joyful from the events during the past few days, and now they would celebrate the Passover meal with their wonderful teacher.  Probably, they were all looking forward to that evening, but it quickly turned to something none of them could anticipate.

Jesus told them that he had been eager to share this meal with them.  Jesus enjoyed these men and had traveled with them for the past three years.  This was an important night, and Jesus knew it started with the meal itself.

Jesus then shocked them all by removing his upper garments, wrapping a towel around his waist, and washing their feet – like any common servant would do.  This certainly made the Apostles uncomfortable, as it would do so for any of us.  Yet, Jesus was demonstrating true servant-hood to each of them and setting the example for them to follow in the future.  

The one emotion that virtually all of us remember is Jesus’ sense of betrayal as he announced that one of them would betray him.  That scene is not imagined enough from Jesus’ point of view.  He had loved these men, lived with them, trained them, and experienced all he could with them as he prepared them for the work of the Kingdom; yet one of them would become the greatest betrayer of all time that evening.  It must have pierced Jesus’ very human heart.

Yet in this hurtful betrayal, Jesus still felt pity for poor Judas.

An emotion that is hard to imagine for any of us is the sense of calm that Jesus seemed to feel, even though – as a non-believer once said to me – “You mean, He knew they were coming for Him and He stayed there anyway?”  This is amazing, isn’t it?

Closely upon that sense of betrayal that Jesus felt must have been a sense of his duty being his alone; he would face the betrayal, the trial, the execution, and his own death by himself.  This is further cemented in our minds when we remember Peter declaring for all to hear that even if everyone fell away from Jesus, Peter never would.  Yet, Jesus told him directly that the cock wouldn’t crow before Peter would deny he even knew Jesus. 

But in all of this, Jesus felt other emotions that continue to reveal his love for his friends and his obedience to the Father.

Notice that his called the Apostles “my children.”  He didn’t do this in a condescending way, but rather as a tender term of the love that he felt for them.

He told them to follow a new commandment that he gave them: “Love one another as I have loved you.”  In the final moments of the Last Supper – and despite all he knew that was coming – Jesus still loved his Apostles and wanted them to spread that same love to others.  This is literally where we get the word “Maundy” – from the Latin word for “command.”  

Finally, Jesus made it clear that he must go first.  His selflessness was yet another demonstration of his love for everyone.  His Apostles would each die a martyr’s death – except for John – so each of them would know of impending death due to the love they each had for their Lord.  Selflessness was a lesson they each learned well.

In feeling all that he felt, Jesus of Nazareth – our Lord Jesus Christ – demonstrated fully and clearly on Maundy Thursday that he was both fully human and fully divine.  For there was no one else who could fill the role that Jesus filled on that night.

And certainly no one who can understand our own emotions and trials like Jesus.