I can hardly imagine what the disciples must have been feeling as they headed up the stairs to the Upper Room to celebrate the Passover Feast with Jesus. Over the past few days they had walked behind Jesus as he rode into Jerusalem on a small donkey. They had watched and listened as people gathered along the roadside and yelled, “Hosanna!” and “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” They had been at Jesus’ side as he drove the corrupt money changers from the Temple and had stood toe to toe with Scribes and Pharisees in confrontation over the intent and meaning of God’s word. They had listened as Jesus taught in the streets and heard Jesus stand on the Temple Mount and pronounce the impending destruction of the Temple. Jesus had tried to help them understand what was about to happen but it seems that they were so consumed by the events of the week that they had a hard time hearing him and believing that he was about to leave them. It seems that as they entered the Upper Room they were ready to revel in their experience and celebrate the Passover Feast with joy. They came ready for a party only to discover Jesus had something very different in mind.
From the moment they entered the room Jesus tried to help them understand something was about to happen – that their lives were about to change. In an incredible act of servanthood he washed their feet. It was a humbling moment for them. During the meal Jesus lifted up the unleavened bread from the table and tore it and explained that the bread was like his body which was to be given for them. AT the close of the meal Jesus picked up prophet’s cup from the table and began to teach that the wine in this cup was like his blood. This wine would be the wine of the new covenant and it would be a sign of his blood that would be shed for the forgiveness of sins of the many. Can you imagine the looks on their faces as they struggled to understand? Can you imagine how the party atmosphere had changed into something darker and more difficult? Can you imagine how their hearts must have stung when Jesus told them that one of them at that very table were about to betray him?
We are an Easter people. We know the rest of the story, but for those gathered in that Upper Room it would be experienced blow by blow. Jesus would go into the Garden to pray, grieved to the point of death. The soldiers would come with Judas leading the way. They would seize Jesus and the ridiculous cycle of trials that were a mockery to justice would begin. The crowds that had only days before called out “Hosanna!” would now scream out, “Crucify him!” The Romans were masters of torture and death and we see it lived out in the passion of the Christ. But, sometimes we become so focused on the physical pain that Jesus had to endure we fail to see the deeper pain. Jesus, who knew no sin, would take on the pain and shame of the sin of the world. Jesus, who was one with the Father would have to become abandonment on our behalf. Jesus would experience the Father turning his back on him as he took on the depths of darkness of our souls. The sky would grow dark as night and earth would quake uncontrollably. The curtain that divided the Holy of Holies – the symbolically the presence of God – from the rest of humanity would be ripped from end to end. A story that the Jewish religious leaders and the local Roman authority thought ended in death would be changed on Easter morning to a story resurrection, forgiveness and grace. So we come on this Maundy Thursday to remember and to take our place at the foot of the cross. We come to wait with humility and thankfulness. We come to because we can do no other.
In the breaking of the bread and the sharing of the wine Jesus instructed claim this symbolic act as a part of their life together in remembrance of him. So, we who follow Christ, now come to remember. Listen now as Cynthia Clawson and Bruce Greer call us to the table.