34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34 - 35 (ESV)
Today is Maundy Thursday. The term Maundy Thursday is derived from the Latin phrase “Dies Mandatum” which means the mandate or “The Day of the new commandment.” Today’s reading highlights the commandment or mandate that Jesus gave to His disciples on the eve of His death. Traditionally, the Church observes this evening with a ceremonial foot washing service and concludes with a time of communion with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (John 13). Today, we will look at the three key observances of Maundy Thursday that are intended to prepare us for the remembrance of Christ’s death and celebration of His resurrection for our justification.
Three Key Observances for Maundy Thursday: (Matthew 26 & John 13 – 17)
Youngblood, R. F., Bruce, F. F., Harrison, R. K., & Thomas Nelson Publishers. (1995). Nelson's new illustrated Bible dictionary. Rev. ed. of: Nelson's illustrated Bible dictionary.; Includes index. Nashville: T. Nelson.
Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2 During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him, 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. John 13:1 - 5 (ESV)
Today and tomorrow we are going to step back and look at the events of the last supper. It was during this evening meal that Judas had purposed in his heart to betray Jesus. John tells us that the Devil had put it in Judas’ heart. He had already made up his mind that he was going to betray Jesus and turn Him over to the authorities in exchange for money.
In this passage we see the heart of Judas, but on the contrary we see the sincere heart of Jesus as He prepares to wash the feet of his disciples. At this point He knew Judas’ heart and He does not turn away from washing his feet. He serves His enemy with genuine love. We read, “The devil put it in his heart” and this just goes to show the underhanded plot of the Jewish leaders was satanic. Since we know the end of the story we know that Jesus’ death had to happen as it was planned from the beginning of time; however, it is revealed to us that the means in which it would be done would be through satanic influence.
After the meal Jesus strips down to His loin cloth and wraps a towel around His waist and begins to wash the disciple’s feet. This is a wonderful act of service Jesus does for His closest friends. However, we fail to see how much of a servant Jesus becomes in doing it. A foot washing was a task that was usually reserved for the lowest of servants. Peers and especially teachers of students did not “stoop” to the level of foot washing. It is suggested that some Jews believed that even Jewish slaves should not wash feet; instead this should be a job for gentile servants.
With Jesus taking off His outer clothing He shows that He is becoming the lowest of servants and serving His friends. Jesus did not perform this service to fulfill prophecy, He didn’t do it to gain respect from his disciples, and He did not do this because He wanted something in return. This is a true display of love and service for both His friends and enemies and He wants to show them the significance of being a follower of Jesus.
We can learn much about our conduct as followers of Jesus through His act of service. The overarching theme for this passage is about serving one another in Christ’s love. As we have seen here no task is to be considered below us and we are called to serve one another in love. The body of Christ should seek out ways to serve one another and to serve the community. Service is an action and it requires movement. Serving involves getting up and doing, it’s not about sitting and watching. Maybe this is why so many are reluctant to serve? People enjoy the spectator aspect of Christianity, but we do not always appreciate or value the movement aspect. We are all called to serve faithfully and forever. This includes the youngest of our children to the oldest of adults as they are able. Serving in Jesus’ name should bring such joy and happiness to our lives that we never grow tired of doing it. Sure, there will be times you may not be appreciated or even criticized for your act of service and this is why it is important that we do it for the Lord and not for people. People can be harsh, critical, and downright mean, but if you serve others with the heart of Jesus you will be blessed.
Do you have the heart of a servant? What are some practical steps you can take today to serve someone? Is there anyone the Lord has laid on your heart to bless by serving?
6 “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. 8 For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. 13 But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. John 17:6 - 19 (ESV)
Today we will look at the two remaining purposes of Jesus’ prayer.
When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed. John 17:1 - 5 (ESV)
Today we will look at the prayer of Jesus or also known as Jesus’ High Priestly prayer. Chapter 17 is my favorite chapter in the Gospel of John. In this passage we get a glimpse at the prayer life of Jesus. This is an intimate moment in which John was a witness and he shares it with us. It is a beautiful prayer and I think we as followers of Jesus can benefit from this prayer.
The chapter begins with Jesus looking to the heavens and praying to God the Father. This is believed to be the common stance for prayer (not the way we do it today with hands folded, heads bowed, and eyes closed) and he prays, “The hour has come…” which refers to his death, resurrection, and ascension (glorification). In His High Priestly prayer Jesus has a threefold purpose to the prayer, to pray for Himself, the disciples and for the church. Today we will look at the first purpose of his prayer.
Now when they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples 2 and said to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it. 3 If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.’” 4 And they went away and found a colt tied at a door outside in the street, and they untied it. 5 And some of those standing there said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” 6 And they told them what Jesus had said, and they let them go. 7 And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. 8 And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. 9 And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!”
11 And he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. And when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve. Mark 11:1 – 11 (ESV)
The people in this passage were aware of the setting surrounding the coming Messiah so when they saw Jesus coming into Jerusalem on the colt they understood what was going on. Many of them had false hopes about the Messiah. They were expecting Jesus to take charge and lead a revolution against Rome and set the nation of Israel free from the bondage of Rome. He could have easily allowed the crowd to get into a political riot but he was a gentle King. He was showing us that he was a peaceful and gentle king by riding a colt.
According to the Gospel of Luke, the religious leaders approached Jesus and demanded that he rebuke his disciples and the people praising him. They knew Jesus was accepting the praise of the people as the Messiah at this point. Jesus tells them that even if he were to silence them, the stones would cry out in praise to him. There was absolutely nothing that could silence the praise of the Messiah. Instead, Jesus rebukes the Pharisee’s for failing to see that this moment as the God ordained moment that it was With Palm Sunday, we are left with some challenges and questions. This weekend we celebrate and worship our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as we proclaim, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”
We all know what comes next in the Gospel account of Jesus. Most of the people who were emphatically proclaiming Jesus as Messiah will turn against him and will join the riotous mobs who will scream, “Crucify him! Kill the blasphemer! He is not our king!”
The questions for you today is, “Are you in this for the duration? Are you committed to be a full disciple of Jesus Christ? Are you willing to praise him during the good times as well as the bad? Are you willing to put your cloak on the ground and praise the King for who He is? Are you determined to follow and commit to the Lord in all seasons of life?” This is the challenge for today and for the week. Praise the King for he has come! Praise the King for he has died, so we might live.
12 The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!" 14 And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, 15 "Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey's colt!" 16 His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him. 17 The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. 18 The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, "You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him." John 12:12 -19 (ESV)
Jesus prepares for his royal entry. Jesus and his Disciples went to Bethpage, which was near Bethany (approximately 2 miles east of Jerusalem) to the Mount of Olives. A great crowd of people followed him and they were probably people taking their pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Passover celebration. According to the historian Josephus, there was one Passover where over two million people participated in Jerusalem. We are not sure if this was the normal crowd or not, but there was certainly a large gathering of people present at this time. Once Jesus drew near the Mount of Olives he sent two disciples to go into town and get a colt and bring it to him. The Gospel of Matthew states that this all takes place to fulfill the words of the prophet Zechariah 9:9. This passage is believed to be a prophecy about the coming King of Zion or the Messiah. In the prophecy the people of Israel are told to rejoice and shout because the King is coming soon. They are called to rejoice because He is a righteous king who brings salvation. This king will be a gentle and humble king and it will be evident because he will be riding on a colt’s donkey. Jesus was the TRUE king and He could have ridden in on a war horse, instead he chose to be a King of peace and humility.
As Jesus rode into Jerusalem the people began shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” The word Hosanna in the Greek transliteration is “Save us!” Their shouts were an exclamation of exaltation, praise, and rulership.
The praises of the people were reflected by the words of Psalm 118:25, 26. This Psalm is one of many Egyptian Hallel or praise psalms to remember God’s deliverance of Israel from Egypt. These Psalms were chanted, recited, and sung during Passover and other major festivals and feasts. As the people shouted they also put their cloaks and palm branches on the ground for Jesus to walk on. This was a sign of honor and the palm branches symbolized victory. According to theologian N.T. Wright, “They waved branches they’d cut from the trees to make a celebratory procession for him. This carried royal implications. In the long folk memory of Jerusalem and its surrounding villages, stories were still told, and some of them by this stage were written down, about the famous Judas Maccabaeus who, 200 years before, had arrived in Jerusalem after conquering the pagan armies that had oppressed Israel. He, too, was welcomed into the city by a crowd waving palm branches. And he was the start of a royal dynasty that lasted for over a hundred years.”
As you begin to prepare for Palm Sunday, what are some ways that you can express your praise and worship to Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior of your life?
 Wright, N.T. (2004) Matthew For Everyone Part Two p. 67 Westminster John Knox Press
Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” 4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, 5 “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’” 6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. 8 Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” 10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.” Matthew 21:1 – 11 (ESV)
On the Christian calendar year we observe two major holy days to commemorate our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are Christmas and Easter. On December 25th (although this isn’t really the day he was born) we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ who came into the world as a human. We recount the Nativity story of Joseph, Mary, little baby Jesus, the star, the Magi, and the shepherds which is our background for this special day. During Christmas we rejoice that God in human flesh came as the man Jesus and dwelt among us to show us the way to the Kingdom of Heaven.
Easter is the time of reflection of the death and resurrection of Jesus. It is a time we are reminded of the painful and gruesome death Jesus endured to atone for our sins. It is also a time to celebrate the truth that Jesus didn’t stay dead; he rose from the grave, He is alive today and seated at the right hand of God the Father.
The time of Lent signifies the sacred 40-day preparation of the believer for the Easter season. We also observe a day one week prior to the resurrection called Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday will happen on the last day of this week. This day ushers in the time called “Holy Week.” In addition to today’s Gospel of Matthew reading about Palm Sunday, you will read for the next two days from two other Gospel accounts, one in the Gospel of John and one in the Gospel of Mark. For the remainder of this week we will look at some of these Gospel readings
so we can see and celebrate the significance of Jesus’ Triumphal Entry.
Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. 3 Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, 5 “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” 6 He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it.7 Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. 8 For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.” John 12: 1 – 8 (ESV)
Six days before Passover, Jesus goes to Lazarus’s house. A meal is prepared, and He is anointed with a very expensive perfume by Lazarus’s sister Mary. She uses her hair to wipe his feet. We see this as an act of worship on Mary’s part. In this worship she declares the value of Christ to her. The perfume she used could have been sold for a year’s wages, so this was a very costly act of worship. Mary was declaring that there is nothing more valuable to her than Jesus.
The Disciple Judas questions the “wastefulness” of this expensive oil. He had no care for the poor, he was just a greedy thief. He tried to spiritualize his short-sightedness by stating they could have used the funds to give to the poor, but John tells us he didn’t care for the poor. This scene is applicable to us today. How often do we spiritualize what we think should be done, so we can get our own way? Sometimes people will misuse scripture or manipulate situations, so they can stop something that they don’t want to happen, and they do it under the guise of being spiritual. This is short-sighted and is far from spiritual. When this is done people are not seeing the situation with eyes of faith and worship, nor do they appreciate the value of Christ and see that he is worth the investment; instead, they promote what seems logical, sensible and reasonable as an excuse to manipulate a situation for their benefit themselves. This is what Judas was trying to do.
Jesus rebukes Judas. He tells him to leave Mary alone, because what she is doing is a good thing. He says there will always be opportunities to serve the poor and meet their needs, but what Mary is doing at this time supersedes the needs of the poor.
So, what can we learn from this passage?
49 But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. 50 Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” 51 He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation,52 and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. John 11:49 – 52 (ESV)
In response to the Jewish authorities concerns, the High Priest Caiaphas spoke words that rang true and I believe he had no idea how true his words were. He concluded that if Jesus dies, the nation of Israel will be saved. He thought if they disposed of Jesus. then Rome would have no reason to come and take their land and ultimately peace would continue. Yes, Jesus’ death would in fact save the nation of Israel from destruction, but not in the way they were thinking. Jesus’ death would bring salvation for to all who believed. The death of Jesus was inevitable, it was God’s plan of restoration. Calvary was God’s Plan A from the beginning. There was no Plan B, C, or D.
The Jewish authorities concluded that Jesus must be killed. Jesus finds out about this plot to kill him, so he goes to Ephraim, which is about a 15-mile journey from Jerusalem and located close to the wilderness. This change of location was probably strategic in case he needed to escape to the wilderness if the authorities sought him out.
The timing of all of this is not coincidental. Passover was on the horizon and this is the chief Holy day of three annual festivals for the Jews. Chapter 12 is a detailed account of God's liberation of Israel from Egypt. This Passover was a continual reminder that God passed over the Israelites when he executed the tenth and final plague on Egypt. He gives specific instructions to the Israeltites in preparation of this mass departure from Egypt. Each home is to take a lamb, without blemish and kill it on the 14th day of Abib, which would be March or April. They would drain the blood and take some of the blood to put on the door posts of the house. The lamb was to be roasted over a fire and eaten with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. The meal was to be eaten with their belts fastened, sandals on and staff in hand, because it will be eaten in haste. The blood on the doorposts would be a sign to God to pass over the home and no plague would befall the household.
This Passover meal was instituted as a yearly celebration to commemorate what the LORD had done in setting the people of Israel free from slavery. The institution of this observance is to show God's love for His people, Israel and they are to remember this until the end of time. The Passover was and remains a highly significant observance, not only to the Jewish nation, but to us Christians as well. Passover reminds us that Jesus was the perfect Lamb, without blemish, who was sacrificed in our place. His shed blood has the power to cleanse us of our sins and the power to protect us from the judgment of God. Through Jesus we are set free from the captivity of sin. Because of Jesus we are no longer slaves to sin, but now slaves to righteousness. The Jews figured Jesus would come for the ritual of cleansing in Jerusalem, so they devised a plot to arrest Jesus when He came.
45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him, 46 but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” John 11:45 – 48 (ESV)
Jesus has just performed one of his greatest miracles by publicly raising Lazarus from the dead. One would think that the crowd would have responded in amazement, belief and reverential awe for God, but instead it was mixed. Many of the Jews believed. These were not the Jewish leaders, but the text suggests these are the Jewish friends of Mary and Martha who had come to grieve the passing of their brother. Some left and went to the Jewish authorities and informed them of Jesus’ miracle.
It’s amazing as we read in verse 45 the two responses to the miracle of Lazarus being raised from the dead.
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