Maundy Thursday – March 28, 2024

Posted on March 29, 2024, Pastor: Pastor Lara Forbes

Sermons are preached within the context of a particular worship service, and are most meaningful when experienced in that way. We encourage you to view or listen to the entire worship service. 

March 28, 2024

Maundy Thursday

Mark 14:22-42
Psalm 116:12-19

Worship Service Video Sermon Video Sermon  Audio

Sermon Text:

Grace to you and peace from God, our Creator, and from our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Our reading tonight begins a little abruptly – it’s not only right in the middle of dinner, but it’s seemingly right in the middle of the dinner conversation. So, let’s set the scene…

Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem happened at the beginning of the week on Palm Sunday. On Monday, Jesus tossed the tables in the Temple. And for the rest of that day and into Tuesday, the religious leaders questioned his authority and began looking for a way to arrest and kill him. On Tuesday night, in the home of Simon the Leper, Jesus was anointed for his death by an unnamed woman.

On Wednesday, Judas went and talked with the religious leaders about where they could find Jesus away from the crowds. By Thursday morning, when the disciples began making arrangements for their Passover meal that evening, a lot had happened.

In those four days, the disciples witnessed Jesus holding his own with the people that challenged him. They watched as he pushed back in his own way and frustrated the temple leadership.

Also in those four days, Jesus challenged the disciples themselves. They didn’t understand the sense of urgency that Jesus had when he told them what was going to happen to him, and how important it was that they pay attention and “stay awake.” They didn’t fully understand a lot of what he was talking about until they looked back on things after his resurrection.

But they were earnest in their devotion to Jesus; they genuinely meant it each time they said they could do as he’d asked them to do.

Even after the Passover meal began, and Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” The disciples all responded, “No, no, no! Not one of us!”  And all Jesus said then was, “It’s one of the twelve….” Nothing more specific than that.

And it’s then that our reading for tonight begins. And it begins with the words we hear every Sunday before we approach the altar. A promise that is given to everyone. The promise that Jesus is present for all people in the bread and wine.

And what makes that promise so poignant, especially tonight, is the moment that it’s given.

Because Jesus doesn’t only give the promise after Judas betrays him, he also gives it before the other disciples desert him and Peter denies him. The promise is framed by human betrayal and denial. That’s what makes it so profound.

Especially in the hours that followed in the garden. When the disciples fell asleep three times as Jesus prayed, despite their best efforts to remain with him and keep awake as he’d asked them to. And especially after Jesus is handed over to the authorities.

[1]In an earlier conversation that Jesus had with the disciples, in one of his predictions of his arrest, death, and resurrection, Jesus told the disciples about the cost of following him:

If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. (Mark 8:34-35)

On the night Jesus was betrayed and arrested, none of the disciples were able to deny themselves and bear the cross. Sin got in the way. Death loomed larger than life, and they were scared.

But on that night, they received the promise that Jesus brings life into the midst of death. That his presence in the bread and wine is the promise of life.

On this night, as we reflect on the Last Supper and the actions of the disciples, it’s tempting to say, “We’re not like them. We know what it means to take up our cross. We’re on this side of the resurrection, we know what Jesus is talking about.”

But sin still gets in the way. It slips in and trips us up. Every time we talk about someone behind their back. Every time we don’t stand up for someone when we should. Every time we hold a grudge. Every time we ignore what’s going on in the world or say that it doesn’t matter. Every time we don’t admit when we’re wrong and seek forgiveness. You guys know the list – we’ve all got our own stuff to add to it.

Every time that we fail to embody Christ’s love, every time sin does what it does, it’s a betrayal or a denial of Jesus. It’s a reminder of the death that is present our world. And how challenging it is for us to take up our cross and follow Jesus even being on this side of the resurrection.

But in between the betrayal and the denial is the sacrament. The promise that in a little bit of bread, and a sip of wine or grape juice, Jesus promises to be present and to bring life into the midst of death. To hold us in that promise no matter how badly or how many times we mess it up.

As we enter into these Three Sacred Days, may we remember that the validity of Jesus’ promise doesn’t depend on us. That it depends on Jesus – rooted in his love and his commitment to us and all humanity. And that it’s a promise he will never deny or betray or withhold.

Thanks be to God. Amen.