Maundy Thursday 2011

We started this service with some congregational singing and communion

Traditionally on Maundy Thursday we talk about the Last Supper, we focus on communion. But that’s just how the weekend began, there were a lot of other events that happened on this Thursday evening. Passover was a familiar celebration. It was like Thanksgiving for us. We have our traditions, things we do the same every year, and when those things change we feel lost, confused, maybe even angry. But that’s what Jesus had done to the disciples Passover celebration, on that Thursday that we now call “Holy.”

We are used to communion being at the END of a service, not at the beginning. Perhaps some of you felt like you should be leaving after communion. There are certain things we do at certain times and when they don’t happen like we think they should, it’s confusing. Jesus took their tradition and really twisted it around. The words “This is the body of Christ,” that are so familiar to us weren’t familiar to the disciples. They expected Jesus to remind them of the original Passover. The Jewish people had been celebrating it for 1000’s of years, but Jesus changed it completely.

And as if the things he said during the meal wasn’t strange enough, Jesus shook things up more by taking the role of a servant and washing his disciples’ feet. (John 13:2-5) As far as the disciples were concerned, Jesus was the Rabbi, the Master. He wasn’t supposed to wash feet.

After Judas left, Jesus changed the rules again. (John 13:34) He said, “I give you a new command. Love others as I have loved you.” Then Jesus started telling them all kinds of new things. He promised to send the Holy Spirit and told them that He was the vine and they are the branches. It was already after sunset and Jesus was still changing their beloved holiday.

We often look at these events as being on Friday and in the Jewish calendar they were. These events would have happened first thing on Friday, because Friday started at sunset the day before. But in our way of tracking time, these things happened late on Thursday evening.

The disciples were getting tired. It was getting very late. Jesus knew what was ahead, and he wasn’t looking forward to it. After dinner, Jesus went into the Garden of Gethsemane with His disciples and then walked a few steps away from them and prayed. But this was more than just your everyday, average prayer. (Read Matthew 26:36-44)

36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”
42 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.”
43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.

Jesus’ soul was overwhelmed with sorrow. He fell, face down, to the ground. Luke tells us that He was so anguished that His sweat was like drops of blood. Jesus poured His heart out to His Father and honestly told Him that He’d rather not face the immediate future.

Meanwhile, the disciples are sleeping. This is the last hours of Jesus’ life. He’s told them over and over that He’s about to be crucified, yet, these men are still falling asleep. Despite the fact they can see that their friend is completely overwhelmed, they can’t stay awake.

And that’s when the unthinkable happened. When the disciples finally did wake up, they saw Judas leading a crowd of armed men into the garden. And Judas came right up to Jesus and kissed Him! He kissed Him! That’s how the men knew which of the men to arrest, the kiss was their cue. Matthew 26:51-56 . . .

47 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 and the elders of the people. 48 Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.” 49 Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him.
50 Jesus replied, “Friend, do what you came for.”[d]
Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. 51 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.
52 “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. 53 Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?”
55 At that time Jesus said to the crowd, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me. 56 But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.

Then all the disciples deserted Him.

As if sleeping while He was in His hour of greatest need wasn’t insult enough, every single one of the disciples ran away. Peter tried for a moment to fight back, but Jesus told him to stop and then healed the guy whose ear was cut off. And as they drug Jesus off, the disciples ran in eleven different ways.
Jesus ended up standing before the Sanhedrin, the rulers of the Jews. Caiaphas and the chief priests were there. They did everything they could to bring false evidence against Jesus. These guys were determined to make sure Jesus died.

It’s while Jesus was in with the Sanhedrin, that one of the most familiar stories of this week unfolded. It’s the story we most closely associate with Friday, but it was actually very late on Thursday night that this part of the Passion story made its way into history.

69 Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said.
70 But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said.
71 Then he went out to the gateway, where another girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.”
72 He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!”
73 After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them, for your accent gives you away.”
74 Then he began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!”
Immediately a rooster crowed. 75 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.

It seems that Peter was out in the courtyard warming himself when he did exactly what he’d sworn to Jesus he would never do. Three times Peter told the others in the courtyard with him that he had no idea who Jesus was. Three times this man who swore he’d die for Christ, lied about knowing Him. And then the rooster crowed.

The next sentence in each of the gospels includes the words “early the next morning.” In every version of the events of this Holy Thursday the story ends with “the rooster crowed.”

So tonight, I want to ask you, do you hear the rooster?

Each of us deny Christ from time to time, some of us do it daily. Sometimes we get tired when Christ needs us most. We can’t stay alert, we miss out on the chance to give Jesus our support. If that’s you, I’m just wondering, do you hear the rooster?
Peter’s the only disciple that gets any press about his denial of Christ, but did you know that every one of the 11 denied him? When the disciples ran after Jesus was arrested in the garden, that was denial. They deserted Him. They’d seen the power of this man. They knew that He was the Son of God. They had seen Him heal the blind and the lame. They’d seen Him raise men from the dead! But when the pressure was on, they turned tail and ran. Their desertion signified their denial. They denied everything they had experienced, everything they knew about Jesus, they denied. I want you to ask yourself tonight, when have you denied Christ, His Power, His might, His Love, His truth. . . And when you deny Him in these ways, do you hear the rooster?

Finally, Peter denied Jesus outright. He said, “I don’t know the man.” Not once, not twice, but three times. Peter walked with Christ almost daily. He and Jesus were the best of friends, yet, when given the opportunity to stand up for this man who introduced him to real life, Peter said he didn’t know the man. At first glance, we might have the tendency to be hard on Peter. After all, he actually WALKED with Jesus and spoke to Him face to face.

But, we have the Holy Spirit, we have God’s Word that we are able to read every day. We have freedom to worship Christ here in America. We may get teased sometimes, but we don’t face beatings, losing our job or being killed because of our faith. Yet, I know that I deny Christ all of the time. I don’t mean to. I don’t want to. Yet I do.

In Romans 7 Paul said: 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[c] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.
One of the reasons I love this passage of scripture is that it gives me hope that even Paul sometimes had trouble living for Christ. Paul understood what it means to deny Christ. Every time we do the things we know we shouldn’t do, we deny Christ.

We’ve all denied Christ, acted like we never knew Jesus. Everyone in this room has been where Peter is. We may not have vocally denied Him, but at one point, we’ve neglected to tell someone about Christ. At some time we’ve walked out on Him when He needed us. I’m pretty certain that everyone in this room has denied Christ. My goal for tonight is to have this evening be your rooster.

Do you see what Peter did when He heard the rooster crow? At that exact moment, as soon as he realized he had denied his Savior, Peter wept bitterly. The rooster helped him to realize the gravity of His words. The rooster made Peter aware that he’d let God down.

Tonight, I want you to hear your rooster. I want you to consider all the times you’ve let Christ down in the past six months. Admit how you’ve denied Christ in the past six month and listen for the rooster. And as you “weep bitterly” remember that Jesus Christ loves you.

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