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Holy Week - Thursday

Thursday – The Last Supper & Jesus in the Garden
It was just before the Passover Feast.  Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father.  Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love. 
- John 13:1
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. 
- John 15:13
. . . It is now Thursday - the Thursday!  The Thursday of Passover.  The Thursday of the Seder meal, but there is more than the usual air of significance that surrounds this occasion.
The clouds left today, and a hotter wind from the south has replaced yesterday’s cooling air, leaving many ready to recline around the table and within the comforts of good friends.  Jesus and the disciples are no different, and thankfully an appropriate accommodation has been secured within the city walls of Jerusalem. 
John and Peter came earlier, but now the rest of the disciples enter David’s city worn out from a week of traveling.  They are exhausted, whipsawed by their fear and their hope.  They are worn out knowing Jesus is being pursued.  
This upper room they have secured is therefore their sanctuary, and several breathed an audible sigh of relief when they were finally off the street and around the table.  Finally, they feel, they can rejoice.  They can worship.  Little do they know that this evening of jubilant celebration will quickly turn into the morning of terror and the day with the darkest hour.
But Jesus knows.  He knows assuredly that the time has now come for his life to be given over into his Father’s will.  He knows time is short.  He has chosen what he will say and do here carefully.  The disciples have prepared the physical feast they will enjoy this evening, but Jesus has prepared something greater:  a spiritual banquet of refreshment, consolation, and guidance.
Jesus’ first act scandalizes the group.  Quietly dressing himself in the robe of a servant Jesus silences his friends with tenderness in his hands, compassion in his heart, a towel and a basin.  He approaches Peter with the garb of a servant.  Peter refuses.  Jesus persists.  Eventually, Peter accepts.  It has become the pattern for Peter and Jesus’ relationship, and it will play itself out again within the next twelve hours.  Peter, the Rock, still resists Jesus’ grace and leading. 
After washing their feet, Jesus then lets the disciples take up the task of traveling through this holy meal.  For a while, he seems to savor the flow of it all - this meal consecrated during the days of Moses, letting it have its deep effect.  They pass the plates.  They tip the cups.  They enjoy each other and find themselves breathing deeply and filling their souls with laughter and rest.  But just when things seem normal Jesus begins uttering strange words to his closest friends. 
Jesus speaks of betrayal.  It’s as if the shadowy threats of that outside world have penetrated this small room, and it ceases to feel like a sanctuary.  More like a judicial court, and where they seemed so blanketed by good will and trust, the disciples now feel a tension creep into their body.  “One of you will betray me,” Jesus says, and a cold shiver runs through Judas.  The disciples dodge each other’s gaze, but most of all Jesus’.  Judas dips the bread.  “What you are going to do, do quickly,” Jesus says as he looks into Judas’ eyes.  Judas is caught in his stare - confused.  “Is this acceptance?” he wonders, “but why does He not tell the others?”  Judas is divided - torn and uncertain, but he manages to prop himself up using his thin arms.  His mouth remains open, unable to breathe.  Silence!  Judas turns his shoulders away and then his head.  His first step away from the table is heavy and clumsy.  The others are swift and nervous.  There goes Judas into the night. 
Judas’ departure leaves the disciples dazed.  Jesus looks carefully over the table at each one of them, seeking to draw their attention through his silence.  He is successful, and all gaze up at him as he lifts the final loaf of bread into the air.  “This is my body,” he says with a glimmer of heaven hid within his eyes.  Then taking the glass filled with the deep crimson of fermented grape, he says serenely yet confidently, “this is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many.”  Thomas appears lost.  He struggles to keep up.  His reaches for a towel and clears his throat. 
But, just as quickly as a stormy apprehension gripped the room, now the cloud begins to lift.  Jesus begins to teach again, like he used to on the shores and on the hillsides.  This is the Jesus that drew them from the beginning, and they sense that he is going to pour himself out again.  Yes, this is the true meal this evening, and Jesus soothes their burning hearts with words of truth and compassion.  He promises a Counselor.  He guarantees the way to God is being made through him.  He secures peace.  He encourages them to persist - to remain.  He warns them of the trials awaiting them.  He tells them to look beyond grief to joy.  He prays for himself.  He prays for them.  He prays for us, and having interceded on behalf of humanity, he moves out into the Garden of Gethsemane. 
Oh, Gethsemane! – this canopy of vines and trees is fertile ground for the passionate suffering of God’s beloved Son.  Jesus agonizes in this garden, giving his sweat thick as blood to its dark soil.  He draws near to God, as the disciples fade off.  He continues while the world seems to be falling away. 
What compels this man to give so much?  What reasons does he have to justify his bold tongue and radical actions?  Is he motivated to fulfill his Father’s will?  Yes.  Is he seeking to speak the truth?  Yes.  Is he driven to finish the trial and secure victory?  Yes!  Yes, but there is more.  There is more than fulfillment.
Do you see Jesus walking out of the garden, where his soul has suffered?  Do you see him coming forth in isolation to a world that is prepared to crucify him?  It is now Friday, and the full extent of his love soon will pierce the horizon, unleash itself over all the earth and bring in a new day.  Love is his emotion; Love is his life.  Love is what he offers.  He offers his life.



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