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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Maundy Thursday, March 29, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | Mark 14:12–25   

On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed, his disciples said to him, “Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?” So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks, Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.” So the disciples set out and went to the city, and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.

When it was evening, he came with the twelve. And when they had taken their places and were eating, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” They began to be distressed and to say to him one after another, “Surely, not I?” He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the bowl with me. For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.”

While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” (NRSV)

Maundy Thursday is a solemn and sad day as we recall Jesus' declaration to his twelve disciples of his betrayal—by one of them—his suffering, and his death.

The disciples, no doubt, were familiar with the implied reference to the “suffering servant” scriptural passages (Isaiah 52:13--53:12), where the servant is “despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.” This last supper, where the twelve are all gathered with their beloved friend and teacher, must have been confusing and deeply painful and made all the more so as Jesus confirms that he will be betrayed by one of them. The sole word of solace—for the disciples and for us—is Jesus’ reminder of the covenant of God with his people, made possible by his atoning death.

Christians believe that Jesus represents the new covenantal relationship with God. While it is difficult to believe that we are sinners whose sins can be expiated only by suffering, crucifixion, and death, we take comfort in God’s covenant of abiding love and care. Thus, remembering this first Eucharist on the Thursday before Jesus’ death, and each time we take communion, we rejoice in this deep and abiding promise.

Dear God, help me to feel deeply the passion of Jesus, to not minimize the suffering and sadness. Help me to feel the comfort of your covenant, but also my obligation as its beneficiary. Amen.

Written by Rebecca Dixon, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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