On The Night

Featuring Branon Dempsey Posted on April 9, 2009

"Maundy Thursday" is an English name for the Thursday before Good Friday. As you remember, this is the night when Jesus served the Last Supper, presented His new covenant, prayed in the Garden, and soon was betrayed and arrested. The Book of Common Prayer uses the name "Holy Thursday". Other English-speaking Protestant Churches, such as the Lutheran and Methodist, use both "Maundy Thursday" and "Holy Thursday". The word Maundy is derived through Middle English, and Old French mandé, from the Latin mandatum, the first word of the phrase "Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos" ("A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you"), the statement by Jesus in the Gospel of John (13:34) by which Jesus explained to the Apostles the significance of his action of washing their feet. Next to be performed by the Messiah was the presentation of the Meal and precursor of events that lead to His death and resurrection.

"Where is the guest room, where I may eat the passover with my disciples?" Jesus instructed his disciples to ask this question to the owner of the house. His devoted followers found everything that He indicated. All the furnishings were present and the food preparations were made. Every time I read about the Last Supper (Luke 22:7-38), I cannot help but to put myself in several positions of the story: the owner, disciples, Christ himself and the betrayer. It had to have been a curious thing for the owner of the house to have a room prepared for Jesus and his disciples. Along with His followers, the owner was not aware of what was about to take place. It had to have been an eery feeling on behalf of the disciples, not being fully aware that darkness and suffering was looming. For the Christ, I simply have no words to explain. As the Scripture says in Romans 8, there are groanings that cannot be uttered. He loved his disciples and knew that he had come to finish the work that God began long ago.

We hear the words of Christ as he explains how he must suffer. Little did they know, He was the Passover Lamb. The Messiah exclaims how he has eagerly desired to eat the Passover feast with them (v.15). We are also told that this meal will resume as the Kingdom of God is completed. It's obvious that His followers did not understand the full ramification of what was spoken. Jesus indicated his death and suffering. They too, were going to suffer, a time of morning was about to dawn.

On the night, He took up the bread and the cup, identifying them as his body and blood. This was not an act of mere symbolism, but an actual partaking of the death of Christ and the resurrection to come. It was also an act of worship as they responded to his call into a deeper fellowship and a perfect relationship into the New Covenant. The body was to be broken, identifying the breaking, death and penalty of sin. He said, "This is my body, given for you; do this in remembrance of me." The cup contained the new covenant in His blood, identifying the purging, cleansing and forgiveness of sin. The wine of Christ was to be consumed as it completed and sealed the new covenant. This is the fulfillment of God's promise of the Messiah from the time of Creation.

The Lamb took up the cup saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you." Not only was the new covenant offered to those he loved, it was also offered to his enemies, even the one who betrayed him. Jesus went on to say, "But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table" (v.21). What a shock it must have been. You could feel the swell of tension and remorse in the room. It's interesting how he made mention of the 'hand'. The very hand of his enemy was also going to be pierced with the hand of Christ on the cross. Yet, Jesus, in his mercy, did not seize his betrayer nor did he withhold the supper from him. This is true demonstration of grace and mercy being rendered even before the Event. The disciples questioned who would do such a thing. Astoundingly, in v.25, they went as far as to claim who was to be the greatest. Jesus assured them that the lowly is to be the greatest. The one who serves will rule. The Messiah is the One who came as a bond servant and now is about to serve His life for all of humanity. This is the ultimate act and life of a Servant.

On this night, as you partake and remember the life and death of Christ, do this as an act of worship. Put yourself in the place of his disciples, betrayers, thieves and in His place as he suffered and died for us. Our identity is in Christ is both death and life. For those who confess that He is the Christ, the Holy Messiah, died and forgave us of our sins.  We have new life in Christ.  We are forged into His new covenant by His blood. We were crucified, died, buried and raised to new life in Christ. As you worship with your congregation during the end of this Holy Week - do this in remembrance of Him. Worship Him in his life, death resurrection and coming. Share this Holy Feast and the Life of Christ with those who are in need of the Messiah.

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