Today is scary close to tomorrow. We know what tomorrow brings, and the very thought of it is terrifying. For anyone to die such a torturous death is disturbing enough, but for the Son of God to willingly endure the worst kind of execution imaginable is utterly unthinkable. It brings tears to my eyes and a sick feeling in my stomach.
Today, Maundy Thursday, starts with the disciples spending the day preparing the upper room for the Passover meal. When they arrived for dinner, Jesus met them at the door, stripped down with a basin of water and a towel. He set the stage by washing their feet, an act normally reserved for the house servant. The creator of the universe stooping to serve in such a way. Unheard of.
Jesus broke the bread and offered them the cup, explaining that these were his body and blood, broken and poured out for them. Every time we partake of communion, we remember why he had to die – to take our punishment upon himself as the perfect sacrifice for our sin. He could have wiped out every last person on the planet. He had the right. He had the power. But instead, he chose to redeem us. Inconceivable.
After dinner, Jesus spent a good while comforting his disciples with the promise of the Holy Spirit, and a prepared place for them in heaven. He promised them that as he had to leave, he would return, and he explained how to remain in him and in the Father. This is what he came for, this is what he was about to die for. Incomprehensible.
After dinner, and after rightly predicting that Peter would deny him three times before daybreak, Jesus led the disciples to Gethsemane to pray and wait for the betrayer. He knew what was coming – “my Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” If I knew that God’s will for me included a brutal beating followed by a vicious death would I be able to submit? Here is Jesus, praying alone in the garden, “overwhelmed to the point of death.” He submitted his will to the plan laid out from the beginning of time, and then turned his attention in prayer to those for whom he was about to die. He prayed first for his disciples, then for those who would later come to receive his love (us) and for the whole world. Remarkable.
Judas arrived with an armed mob and identified Jesus with a kiss. Jesus was taken into custody and questioned and beaten by the chief priests and leaders late into the night. It was yet another opportunity for Jesus to back out. He could have pulled a David and feigned insanity. But he remained silent, knowing full well where this was going, and staying the course. Mind blowing.
Tomorrow is Good Friday, though for Jesus, it’s hard to find a single good thing about it. Pray with him today – don’t leave him to pray alone. Thank him for staying an impossible course, for paying a debt he did not owe. Pray for those in your circle, for those with whom you are sharing this amazing Gospel, and for those around the world who don’t know him yet.
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. –Mark 10:45 (NIV)