Preparation is Done, the Time is Now

Heritage Presbyterian Church

April 18, 2019
Maundy Thursday
Scripture readings: Exodus 12: 1-14 & John 13: 1-17. 31b-35

Picture that scene…the one we’ve known about all our lives:

Jesus and his Apostles have been in Jerusalem for the past four days.  They entered in a triumphant, joyful, chaotic parade on Palm Sunday with his followers covering the road into town with palm branches, their coats, and their cloaks.  Once they got inside the gates, they all made their way to the Temple (of course!), where Jesus turned over the money changers’ tables and ran all the sacrificial animals out of the courtyard.  Then public teaching and preaching began and continued until today.

The Apostles who entered with Jesus may have been a little apprehensive before they got to Jerusalem, but after four days of no trouble at all, they probably relaxed and began to really appreciate all that was going on around them each and every day.   And each day, the number of people in Jerusalem swelled by the thousands as folks came from all over the area to celebrate Passover.  That meant that more and more people were there to see and hear Jesus.

And finally, it was time for the traditional Passover meal.  Jesus gave instructions for everyone to meet at a pre-arranged location to share the meal.  The Apostles had observed Passover for much of their lives, so this one probably felt very special: it would be led by Jesus himself, in Jerusalem, after his triumphant entry, and only with them.  It was going to be very special.

The meal was ready. The table was ready.  Everything was in place for a wonderful, significant evening.  Or so they thought.

Everything may have been ready, but not everything was expected.  Jesus still had a little more preparation to do…

First, he had to get the rapt, undivided attention of his Apostles.  He was their Teacher, their Master, their Leader…    so of course, he wrapped a towel around his waist and washed their feet…like a lowly servant would do.  

I’ll bet that got their rapt, undivided attention.

Next, he announced his betrayal.  Again, I’ll bet that got their rapt, undivided attention…especially since he had just washed the feet of every single one of them.  He didn’t skip anyone.

Finally, he signaled that his death was imminent:

  • the same death he had told them about repeatedly, 
  • the same death he was clear about, 
  • the same death that freaked out Peter the first time he heard Jesus say it.

And it was at this moment that Jesus gave his most important lesson.  It was a new commandment: “Love one another.”

This was terribly important, especially at this very moment.  Strong emotion was about to overtake all of them.  When strong emotion appears, all reasonable thought, all efforts at self-control go out the window.  Strong emotion can cause some to say or do things that would cause permanent, irreputable damage to their relationships.  They would not always have Jesus, he was telling them that plainly, but they would have each other.  They would need each other.  The immediate future was going to be a tough one.  

So, they needed to love another.  

He didn’t ask them. 

He commanded them.

And that was it.

Jesus’ ultimate act of love could not occur in the uncomfortable stillness of that upper room. It could only begin by leaving the safety of that room, the comfortable familiarity of the Passover supper, and the presence of his Apostles.  Only by doing that could Jesus Christ set in motion the last act of his human ministry.

All the preparation was done…the time is now.