A Meditation at St. John's, Portsmouth Anglican Church, Kingston, Ontario, April 20, 2000

by Robert Brow         (

Maundy Thursday reminds us of the last meal Jesus had with his disciples. It was on the day pf Preparation (Mark 15:42) when the Passover lambs were sacrificed (Mark 14:12). The Jewish day began the evening before at sundown (see Genesis 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31). So the last supper was Thursday evening, and the chief priests wanted Jesus crucified (Mark 14:12) before Passover began on the Friday evening (Mark 14:2). Jesus was therefore hanging on the cross at the same time as the Passover lambs were being sacrificed in the temple area (1 Corinthians 5:7).

The Last Supper was the Passover gathering of a rabbi with his disciples (a chaburah) to go over the meaning of the seder supper the next day. A gathering of twelve men could never be a Passover meal. It had to be a family gathering with the mother and the children taking part. That means disciples would each have gathered for Passover with their families after the crucifixion on the evening of that first Good Friday. You can imagine them grasping the implications of what had happened. And we will be celebrating that tomorrow at our seder supper

We now read the account of the Last Supper from Mark 14:12-31.

We all know that Jesus came into the world to save sinners, and Paul viewed himself as the worst of us all (1 Timothy 1:15). But I want you to look with me at seven enormous failures of the men chosen to be Jesus apostles.

On three separate occasions Jesus had carefully warned them that "the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again" (Mark 8:31, 9:31, 10:33). But in the account of the conversation at the Last Supper (John 13:1-17:23), and the events in the Garden of Gethsemane, there is not a hint that the disciples had grasped the meaning of what was happening.

Normally as the guests arrive a servant is appointed to wash the dust off their feet. It never occurred to these men that this needed doing for the supper, and Jesus had to do it himself (John 13:1-11).

As they were eating this last meal together one of them had already arranged to betray his Lord (Mark 14:18-21, 43).

During the meal "a dispute arose among them as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest" (Luke 22:24).

And when they came to the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus was very "distressed and agitated" (Mark 14:33). He badly needed the prayer support of his inner circle. But Peter, James, and John dropped off to sleep three times (Mark 14:37-40), even though "his sweat became like great drops of blood falling to the ground (Luke 22:45).

When Judas arrived with the temple soldiers for the arrest "all of them deserted him and fled" (Mark 14:50).

The usual Middle Eastern greeting was a hug of peace. The early Christians greeted one another in this way (Romans 16:16, 1 Corinthians 16:20, 2 Corinthians 13:12, 1 Thessalonians 5:26, 1 Peter 5:14 "a kiss of love:). But Judas used this as the sign for the soldiers to recognize and arrest Jesus.

As we gather to eat bread and drink wine together as Jesus commanded, we also are disciples. None of us is better than those that Jesus chose. Like them we miss the point of what he has in mind. We too forget to welcome guests to our church gatherings. And when Jesus does not do what we expect him to do, we easily betray him. We easily vie for positions of authority and recognition for all that we do. When others are in need of prayer support we are busy sleeping. And when the going gets tough we leave. Worst of all, like Judas, we pretend to express our affection but we have a quite different agenda in mind.

But that is not the end of the story. The next day on the cross Jesus prayed "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do." And that includes the thief who cursed him, the soldiers who drove in the nails, the governor who gave in to blackmail, the priests who felt threatened, the Pharisees who were self-righteous, the apostles who failed so badly, and we his disciples. On Easter Sunday we celebrate the proof that all was forgiven, and the Son of God can save sinners. You and I know we are no better than those disciples, but we have the faith to take the bread and wine at His table. And then we know that, in spite of all our faults, he has welcomed us to turn the world upside down with his love.

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