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  • Rev. Annie McMillan

Maundy Thursday

And so we come to the prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane that we heard in the

first week of Lent. As the disciples nod off, Jesus will go on to pray for the cup to

somehow pass from him. To somehow bypass the excruciating death to come. And

he will pray for God’s will to be done, and walk into the betrayal he knows is

coming.

From the beginning of this evening's passage, Jesus is prepared. He has made

arrangements for the Passover meal, and therefore gives the two disciples specific

instructions about where to go and who to talk to. He knows that Judas will betray

him; that Peter will deny him three times; that the rest will desert him and flee. Still

Jesus wants to share with them this last meal: the Passover meal to celebrate God’s

faithfulness when God freed the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. And this is about

more than a meal; Jesus is sharing himself with them.

Jesus is celebrating the Passover “by giving himself.” Christ’s body was indeed

broken. His blood was indeed spilled. This didn’t just happen by accident. From

his telling the disciples to go into the city, Jesus shows that he has prepared.

“[That] means that he was prepared for what was coming. The last meal he shared

with his disciples, his confrontation with the authorities, the false trials, mockery,

and crucifixion – these things weren’t accidents that he somehow fell into. Rather,

he saw them, was prepared for them, faced them, and endured them intentionally.”

Jesus is prepared. And Jesus is offering promise and redemption even as he

faces abandonment and crucifixion, even as he is about to pray “Father… Take this

cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” As he says “Take it; this is

my body” and “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,”

“there is an implied invitation to receive Jesus- the crucified Jesus himself. [This

means that] the disciples are no longer simply followers and learners but…

participants in that final movement from death to new life.”

And it doesn’t stop with the bread and the cup. Knowing all that is to come,

Jesus tells them that he will go ahead of them to Galilee. There is promise here.

Even as the disciples betray, deny, and desert, it is not over. Death will not be the

end. “At the table, [the] disciples find assurance that their own abandonment of

Jesus will not prevent him from bringing them into a share of his new, risen life.”

“If we take the Eucharist for granted, if we take Communion as simply a form

of dinner, then we miss [that] Jesus is giving up his life, and he wants that to be

remembered.” We miss that Jesus is telling us to respond and inviting us, like the

disciples, into a share of his risen life. “Jesus [essentially tells us that he] gave up

[his] life. [We] need to respond.” So tonight, I ask: how do we respond? How do

we show Christ’s love, and continuing to break bread together as we remember the

sacrifice, remembering that Christ came as one who serves.

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