Holy Week – Maundy Thursday: The Old Testament, Gospel, and Epistle Passages – The Last Supper, and the beginning of a new way of living

The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you. Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household. If a household is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join its closest neighbor in obtaining one; the lamb shall be divided in proportion to the number of people who eat of it.” (Exodus 12: 1- 4 )

I was planning on having the entire section from Exodus stand with out comment – but I wanted to draw your attention to the provision about small households. I suspect this is one of the reasons that Jesus wanted all the disciples gathered together; singly they would not be a large enough household. But all together the Passover meal would be like close neighbors joining together. And in the years to come, who would be closer neighbors than fellow believers?

The middle verses, verses 5 to 10 are left out of the strict lectionary passages. They are instructions for Jews prior to the Last Supper and Passover that Jesus had with his disciples. Not that the disciples and early Christians would have ignored these important traditions; but for us, later believers the instructions do not apply as much.

“This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the passover of the LORD. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals; on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD. The blood [which verses 5 – 10 refer to] shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.” (Verses 11 – 14)

The Last Supper (which is understood as the last Passover meal that he shared with them) that Jesus had with his disciples was eaten hurriedly or with staff in hand and sandals on feet. At least not has it has been painted and imaged throughout history. And the fact that there was reaching out and dipping of bread argues against it. But there was girding of loins as Jesus prepared himself for this last supper, and Judas prepared himself for where his thoughts went to.

Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him.” (John 13: 1- 2a)

From what we read yesterday, it was only after Judas was accused by Jesus and accepting the dipped bread that Satan’s sway took hold. But the writer of the gospel of John makes note of it here, earlier in the supper. That is significant for what happens next.

And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.” (Verses 2b – 12)

Jesus washed Judas’ feet. Knowing full well what Judas was going to do, he washed his feet humbling himself as a servant to the man who was planning his arrest. Some may say Judas did not know it would lead to Jesus’ arrest. Some say Judas was trying to motivate or incite Jesus to act when it seemed as if Jesus was not fulfilling the role of Messiah as some Jews understood it. But Judas knew full well how much the Temple rulers and authorities, the scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees, hated Jesus. What did Judas think they were going to do? But, Jesus washed his feet.

“After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord–and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” (Verses 13 – 17)

Remember, it was not until a little later that Judas left. Do you think, beloved reader, this had any impact on Judas? And before you answer, consider and remember my questions from yesterday as to how isolated Judas’ betrayal of Jesus was, and how I set that along side other straying from the authentic Christian path.

I want to spend a little more time on this, and then we will move on. The reason I want to emphasis this is because in Year A of the lectionary we are focusing on coming to new faith – either that it is a new believer or someone coming to deeper or broader faith. If it is a new believer, then the sins that were there are absolved and redeemed in Christ’s death. That is one of the large messages of Easter. Coming to deeper or broader faith means that one’s understanding has grown, and things done in the past are seen in a new light. The other lectionary years are: Year B – renewal of faith; and Year C – confession, penance, & forgiveness. What I am talking about here is a greater understanding of faith in Christ and our Lord God. A realization of what it means to live an authentic Christian life; what must be set aside and what must be picked up and lived out. It means, for Judas, realizing what he has done.

I am not talking about all of you. I know the people I have chosen. But what the Scriptures say must happen: ‘The man who shared my food has turned against me.’ I am telling you this now before it happens. Then when it happens, you will believe that I Am. I assure you, whoever accepts the person I send also accepts me. And whoever accepts me also accepts the one who sent me.” (Verses 18 – 20)

After Jesus said these things, the above verses, it troubled him. And he told his disciples that one of them would betray him. That is the interlude we looked at yesterday. We continue from that point on today – with a little bit of overlap.

When he [meaning Judas] had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. [What follows is Jesus’ words to the disciple who would form the nucleus of the early Christian church.] Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Verses 31b – 35)

And Jesus’ disciples were known. As the years past, other people became disciples of Jesus Christ. And those years past. The term disciples changed and evolved into being followers, which we are beloved reader. As we are able and as we understand, we pass along the Messiah Jesus Christ’s teachings. Some things we pass along clumsily, awkward and mutated through our own perspectives and understandings. Other things we pass along with the same clarity that they were taught by Christ.

For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)