First Congregational Church
April 9, 2020
Rev. Dinah Haag, preaching
Welcome to this time and place of Worship at First Congregational Church of Frankfort, MI. It is Maundy Thursday, the day we remember Christ’s last night with his disciples and his time in the garden. The word Maundy comes from the Latin word “command,” as in Jesus’ command to “love one another as I have loved you.” But I wonder how many of us fail to appreciate the complexity of that command, that last night together, mostly because we don’t often get the whole story in one shot.
There are a couple of little known sorts of Bibles that come in handy at this time of year. One is a chronological Bible, which essentially arranges the whole Bible into a progression of how it probably came down in history. The other sort is a parallel Bible - which lines up the four gospels against each other, so you can see which parts are similar and which parts are different. One of the greatest benefits of these Bibles is when it comes to the end of Jesus’ life.
If we were to read all the pieces that the Bible has about Jesus’ last night, we’d be here about an hour and a half. So for our time together tonight, and to set our minds for the coming days, I’ve taken out all the duplicate parts and summarized the parts that can be summarized. As it is always good, let us begin this time in prayer.
Holy God of Time and Life, we are here this night to remember your greatest gift to us - that of your Son, Jesus Christ and what he means to us. Take the words spoken this night - your words - and weave them into our hearts in ways that are perhaps new to us, pricking our ears and minds to insights we haven’t comprehended before. May these words, this night, draw us closer to you and to one another. In your holy name we pray. Amen.
Just four days ago, on Palm Sunday, we were reminded that Jesus sent Peter and John to arrange for the Passover celebration. So we pick up the story in the Upper Room of the man carrying a water pitcher.
Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.
J13:2 The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. J13:3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; J13:4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. J13:5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. J13:6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” J13:7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” J13:8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” J13:9 “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”
1J13:0 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” J13:11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.
J13:12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. J13:13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. J13:14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. J13:15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. J13:16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. J13:17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
L 22:24 A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. L22:27 Jesus said, "I am among you as one who serves. L22:28 You are those who have stood by me in my trials. L22:29 And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, L22:30 so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
J13:18 “I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill this passage of Scripture: ‘He who shared my bread has turned against me.’ J13:19 “I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am who I am. J13:20 Very truly I tell you, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.”
T26:2 As they were eating, Jesus said, “One of you will betray me.” His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?”
K14:18 One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask him which one he means.” J13:25 Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?”
J13:26 Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” T26:24 The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.” J13:26 Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him.
J13:27 So Jesus told him, “What you are about to do, do quickly.” J13:28 But no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the festival, or to give something to the poor.
T26:26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave 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. I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
J13:33Jesus said, “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” J13:36 Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.” J13:37 Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”
T26:31 Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: “‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.” Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.”
L22:31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.” L22:34 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” K14:31 But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same.
J10:1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”
Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
“If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever. The Spirit of truth. J14:25 The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
“Come now; let us leave.” When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Then Jesus taught the disciples about the Vine and the Branches. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. Jesus went on to say, “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.” Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Then Jesus prayed for himself, saying, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.” He prayed for his disciples: “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world.” Then Christ went on to pray for future believers: “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.
When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. When they came to Gethsemane, Jesus said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be sorrowful, deeply distressed and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
Going about a stone’s throw beyond them, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “Abba, My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”
While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.”
Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?” “Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. Again he asked them, “Who is it you want?” “Jesus of Nazareth,” they said. Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. If you are looking for me, then let these men go.” This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: “I have not lost one of those you gave me.” Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him. Jesus replied, “Do what you came for, friend.”
Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) But Jesus answered, “No more of this! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” Am I leading a rebellion that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me. Put your sword away! All who draw the sword will die by the sword. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? And he touched the man’s ear and healed him. Then everyone deserted him and fled.
Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish officials arrested Jesus. They bound him and brought him first to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jewish leaders that it would be good if one man died for the people. Simon Peter and another disciple were following Jesus. Because this disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the high priest’s courtyard, but Peter had to wait outside at the door. It was cold, 230 and the servants and officials stood around a fire they had made to keep warm. Peter also was standing with them, warming himself. The other disciple, who was known to the high priest, came back, spoke to the servant girl on duty there and brought Peter in. “You aren’t one of this man’s disciples too, are you?” she asked Peter. He replied, “I am not.”
“Woman, I don’t know him,” I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. Then he went out to the gateway, where another (person) saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.” He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!”
After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them, a Galilean; your accent gives you away.” Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!” I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Immediately a rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.
Meanwhile, the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. “I have spoken openly to the world,” Jesus replied. “I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret. Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said.” When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby slapped him in the face. “Is this the way you answer the high priest?” he demanded. “If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?” Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.
The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death. But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward. Finally two came forward and declared, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’” Yet even then their testimony did not agree.
Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” But Jesus remained silent. The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” “You have said so,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?” “He is worthy of death,” they answered. Then they spit in his face ; they blindfolded him, and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him and said, “Prophesy to us, Messiah. Who hit you?” And the guards took him and beat him and said many other insulting things to him.
Very early in the morning, all the chief priests with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin, made their plans how to have Jesus executed. So they bound him, led him away and handed him over to Pilate the governor.
At daybreak the council of the elders of the people, both the chief priests and the teachers of the law, met together, and Jesus was led before them. “If you are the Messiah,” they said, “tell us.” Jesus answered, “If I tell you, you will not believe me, and if I asked you, you would not answer. But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.” They all asked, “Are you then the Son of God?” He replied, “You say that I am.” Then they said, “Why do we need any more testimony? We have heard it from his own lips.”
When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.” “What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.” So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.
The chief priests picked up the coins and said, “It is against the law to put this into the treasury, since it is blood money.” So they decided to use the money to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners. That is why it has been called the Field of Blood to this day. Then what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: “They took the thirty pieces of silver, the price set on him by the people of Israel, and they used them to buy the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.”
This night seems so sad, so void of hope. But Jesus didn’t give up or give in. By example, throughout the whole ordeal, he embodied his command to “love one another as I have loved you.” And there were prophecies fulfilled. Jesus prayed not only for himself and his disciples, but for us, all of the “us-es” from that night and on to eternity. Just because it seemed as though it were all hopeless and void of hope, it was not the truth of the matter. In any of our lives, and any place in our lives, we may face similar nights of hopelessness or moments void of hope. However real those moments are, there is always more going on in them. And the story is not finished. I encourage you to continue the story tomorrow - as we celebrate that Good Friday at noon. May God bless your evening, morning and sleep.
Just the messenger. And the collector and arranger of that which has been received. References available upon request.