Summary: Maundy Thursday: Jesus was abandoned on the night of his arrest. And the next day, Jesus would even be forsaken by his Heavenly Father. But Jesus didn’t forget about us and left us the commandment to love each other and the holy supper.
During WWII, six Navy pilots left their aircraft carrier on a mission. Afterwards, they tried to return to their ship shortly after dark. But the captain had ordered ‘lights out’ on the ship. That means that the ship was in total darkness. And if you’ve never been out in the middle of the ocean in pitch black conditions – you’d be amazed at how dark, dark can be. Over and over the frantic pilots radioed, asking for just one light so they could see the ship in order to land. But the pilots were told that the blackout could not be lifted. After several appeals and denials of their request, the ship’s operator turned off the switch to break radio contact. The pilots were forced to ditch their planes in the ocean. (Today in the Word, MBI, October, 1991, p. 12.)
I wonder what these pilots were feeling as they tried to return home. Can you imagine the feeling of abandonment? Why, yes… to get a sense and feel for abandonment, all we need to do is to live life. One lazy summer afternoon, when I was a boy – 12 years old – I picked up the telephone. It was mom and it was great to hear from her because she had been gone for three days. And she said, “Son, do you want to come with me? I’m not going to return home.” At that time, all I can remember is the room collapsing in on me. I remember a no-win situation: Leave home - and my dad - to be with mom? Or, stay home with my dad and not be with mom? All I remember is an ache that started in the pit of my stomach that quickly grew and engulfed me.
How about you? Where and when and how has that feeling hit you? Maybe you can identify with that today. Have you ever felt abandoned? Does it feel like you are all alone? If you’ve felt this and dealt with that ache in your own life, then you have a sense for some of the events that happened on that first Holy Thursday.
Jesus had begun to prepare his disciples well before his arrest. He told them what was going to happen to Him – how He would be arrested; How He would be mistreated and suffer many things at the hands of the teachers of the law. How He would be killed. And the scriptures tell us that the disciples were greatly saddened. They were troubled. They experienced that feeling in the pit of the stomach when Jesus told them that He would be arrested and killed. But there was abandonment that would move in a number of directions.
Jesus also predicted that his disciples would abandon Him. Jesus told his followers that one among them would betray Him. In fact, Jesus told them: “You will all fall away. Even you, Peter, will abandon me and deny me.” And at Gethsemane, that is precisely what happened.
When Jesus went to into Gethsemane to pray, our Lord became overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. He even asked God to take the bitter cup of sorrow from Him. And the disciples? - they slept. Even after Jesus exhorted them to watch and pray they slept. When the inevitable happened and the temple guard came to arrest Him, Judas – his disciple - betrayed Jesus with a kiss. And the other disciples deserted Him. They ran. They left Jesus to fend for Himself. Alone.
Earlier - Jesus had assured his followers that they would never be alone. Jesus assured them that He would send the Comforter – the Holy Spirit – to bring encouragement and peace. Jesus taught them to love one another. He taught them to serve as Jesus – the Master – washed their feet. He taught them that our faith is lived out in service and care to others – by being servants.
But even more: On the night that Christ was betrayed, He took bread. And after giving thanks, He broke it and gave it to them saying, “Take and eat, this is my body given for you for the remission of your sins. This do in remembrance of me.” Then He took the cup when He had supped, and after giving thanks He gave it to them saying, “Drink ye all of it; this cup is the new covenant in my blood shed for you for the remission of your sins. This do in remembrance of me.”
In doing this, Jesus not only fulfilled the Old Testament Passover that the Israelites had been celebrating for centuries, but Jesus also left for us a new commandment – a commandment of grace – offered in love. Among the mysteries of the Kingdom, this one is one of the greatest. Somehow – through God’s promise - Jesus’ body comes to us in, with and under the bread; His blood comes to us in, with and under the wine. And through this wonderful celebration done in remembrance of our dear Lord and Savior, Jesus Himself comes to us - granting forgiveness of sins and peace.