“While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’ Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.'” (Matthew 26:26-28 NIV84)
Thursday was the last full day Jesus spent on the earth. He spent most of this day with His disciples. It was His last chance to teach and prepare them for what was coming. I encourage you to read the Gospel of John beginning at chapter 14. He covers this day more than any of the other Gospel writers. In this devotion it is my desire to capture the sacredness of this day spent with His disciples. What makes a day sacred or holy? It must be a day in which the eternal touches the temporal in such a way that the temporal is left forever blessed by the experience. Jesus said of Himself, “I did not come [into this world] to be served, but to serve, and to give my life as a ransom for many.” This last Thursday of Jesus’ life was a day in which He gave not only to His disciples, but to us, in the most holy and gracious way. Jesus began this day telling a couple of His disciples to go into town to make sure that there was a room already prepared for them to celebrate the Passover meal together. He taught them about the end times and the certainty of places in heaven for all those who believe in Him. He assured them all that He was the way and the truth and the life. He told His disciples that He was the Vine to which they (we) must always be grafted if we are to be members of His kingdom. The day before Jesus was to suffer and die He spent providing comfort, assurance and peace to His disciples. Please let these events alone speak to the gracious heart of our God and to the sacredness of this day. But there is more. There are three more events that make this day sacred.
Toward evening, as the disciples were reclining and getting ready to share with Jesus the Passover meal, Jesus did the most remarkable thing. After spending the day assuring His disciples that He was the Messiah (Son of God), Jesus became their servant and began to wash their feet. The King of kings and Lord of lords grabbed a basin of water and a towel and washed His disciples’ feet. It was one thing to see Jesus walk on water, or heal a blind man, or raise the dead. But to have the Son of God humble Himself to the point of servanthood causes one to become breathless for a moment. What is this Christian faith that we cling to? A faith in a God who loves us so much that He is willing to become as lowly as us to save us, and still be God Almighty at whose voice the earth melts. Yes, this was a sacred day! Go through this day slowly. Take it all in, if that is possible. See your Savior kneeling at your feet waiting for you to put your foot into His hand. And there is more.
Jesus celebrated the Passover, most likely for the third time with His disciples. But this Passover meal was different from the others. Jesus would forever change the meal as He added the verses above, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then He took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” The sacredness of this day only became more sacred, if that is possible, as Jesus transformed the Old Testament Passover meal into a New Testament sacrament. The meal that commemorated the saved lives of the children of Israel now commemorates the saved lives of all humanity as Jesus offered Himself as the Passover Lamb who takes away the sins of the world. Jesus forever declared God’s eternal covenant being offered to all who partake of this most sacred meal. Jesus supernaturally and spiritually caused the eternal and the temporal to forever meet in this bread and wine that is shared by believers in Christ all over the world. The disciples were not the only ones blessed to experience the sacred. Maybe only a few of them got to see heaven and earth touch on the Mount of Transfiguration. But we all get to see heaven touch the earth as pastors all over the world recite the words above and offer simple bread and wine to those of us who would come to receive Him who is the Lamb of God who takes our sins away. But we’re not done. There was one more sacred act on this sacred Thursday.
Late at night, Jesus and His disciples went out to the garden of Gethsemane to pray. Jesus told His disciples that He was in anguish and begged them to pray with Him. Although they try to stay awake, they just couldn’t. Three times Jesus returned to them and found them asleep, and Himself alone, as He wrestled with His human will and the enemy that would tell Him that we are not worth dying for. Jesus asked the Father to take the cup away from Him. He sought another way. But no other way was possible. He was the Passover Lamb who had to be sacrificed so that the sins of all humanity might be atoned for. We can put our heads to the pillow in peace tonight as we hear Jesus (in anguish) say, “Not My will, but Yours be done!” He freely offered Himself to the Father as the most holy and sacred offering that could possibly be offered for the sins of humanity. Jesus’ mind was made up. Friday was a formality. The Devil’s head was already under our Lord’s heel.
Breathe deeply today. Take in the sacred events. Know that it was all done for you!