Maundy Thursday Reflections…

(Image by hudsoncrafted from Pixabay)

For those unable to join our Maundy Thursday Virtual Agape Meal, you might find these readings and reflections helpful to read at home…

Bible Reading: John 15:9-17 (NLT)

“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. 10 When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 11 I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! 12 This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. 13 There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. 16 You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. 17 This is my command: Love each other.

Reflection 1: Love One Another as I Have Love You

Love one another as I have loved you.

That’s what he said.

But what did it mean?  What did it mean to love as he did?

He was such a mixture of things, our friend, our leader…our Messiah?

He would dandy a toddler on his knee one moment and face down a religious leader the next.  Tenderness followed by terrifying certitude.  Who was he, this man?

It wasn’t much better if you were his friend.  One minute he would be in the boat, hauling the ropes of the net, taking in the sail, laughing, eating, chatting…  And then these moments of bewildering otherness, where the wind and waves obeyed him, and his authority shone from him like fire.

Love seems such a gentle word, and yes, he could be gentle.  To the bruised and broken, his look, his words, his touch held them so kindly – they dared believe that new life was possible.

But as he tipped over tables of coins and doves, was that love too?  Love for God and for all God’s children?  Love which abhorred the barriers that kept them apart?  Love which revolted at injustice and exploitation?

Maybe, maybe it was.  Love can make us fierce after all.

I suppose what I noticed about the love Jesus had, was that it made him give everything, absolutely EVERYTHING.  He turned up completely, with all that he had and was, and offered it to us and to his Father. 

The thing was…that night…we had no idea how much more he would give.

Bible Reading: John 13:1-17 (NLT)

Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father. He had loved his disciples during his ministry on earth, and now he loved them to the very end. It was time for supper, and the devil had already prompted Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him.

When Jesus came to Simon Peter, Peter said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

Jesus replied, “You don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.”

“No,” Peter protested, “you will never ever wash my feet!”

Jesus replied, “Unless I wash you, you won’t belong to me.”

Simon Peter exclaimed, “Then wash my hands and head as well, Lord, not just my feet!”

10 Jesus replied, “A person who has bathed all over does not need to wash, except for the feet, to be entirely clean. And you disciples are clean, but not all of you.” 11 For Jesus knew who would betray him. That is what he meant when he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

12 After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing? 13 You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. 14 And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. 15 I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. 16 I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. 17 Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them.

Reflection: Feet

Feet.

Smelly, dirty feet.

We had been out and about all day preparing for the Passover.  The city was heaving with people and animals as Jews gathered for the great festival.  The roads and the alleys were thick with dust and debris. Our feet were filthy.  Not that we noticed much, in the end, as our noses were accustomed to the stink.

Gathered in the upper room, body odours were lost in the aroma of roasting lamb.  We anticipated a tasty meal.  We anticipated too that Jesus’ ministry was about to come to its climax, and the atmosphere was electric.  Would it be soon?  Would we see him reign as the rightful and righteous King of Israel? Our engaging yet enigmatic friend – would he finally reveal the glory that we had seen in glimpses and snatches over the past three years?

We could barely breathe.

And then, he takes off his outer robe, takes a towel and bowl from the servant and kneels down at my feet.  In the chaos and chatter of the party, he radiates the stillness of one who knows exactly what he is doing.  He is the only one.  As people see what has happened, the talk subsides to confused whispers, embarrassed looks, silent shock…

And slowly he washes my feet, tenderly, like my Mum used to do. Then he pats them dry with the rough cloth.  My grimy skin is now pink and new.  I look at him in puzzlement, my face asking the question I have no words to speak.  He smiles briefly and moves on to my neighbour.

When he finished washing our feet, even those of protesting Peter, he put on his robe and sat back at the table.  And we began to see that glory might not look quite as we had imagined it.  Our friend was a very different sort of King.  Little did we know this was only the beginning…

Bible Reading: Mark 14:22-26 (NLT)

22 As they were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take it, for this is my body.”

23 And he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. 24 And he said to them, “This is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice for many. 25 I tell you the truth, I will not drink wine again until the day I drink it new in the Kingdom of God.”

26 Then they sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives.

Reflection: The Last Supper

We were well used to puzzling sayings.

Three years of travelling with Jesus, and we had heard his stories many times. And we still didn’t understand them all.

It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich person to enter the Kingdom…

A Samaritan – dreaded enemy – can be our righteous neighbour…

We need not just to welcome little children but be like them…

No, we had a long way to go before we understood, but as we walked through the dusty lanes of Palestine, we pondered his words. They became part of our soul, these puzzling sayings, shaping our thinking, guiding our hearts, skewing our comfortable perspective, even as we wonder what they mean.

So, in the middle of the meal when he picks up a flatbread and tears it in two: “this is my body given for you…” Well, we are used to him by now, and take the bread he offers and store his words in our heart.

Later he passes round the cup “this is my blood…remember me!” As if we could forget.

It was only afterwards it all made sense. That night he had washed our feet like a common slave. The next morning he didn’t even have that dignity. That night he gave us bread and wine as the next day his body and blood were given for all.

He was trying to tell us I know…I know…This is WHO I AM!

But that night, we still didn’t understand. And when it began we panicked and ran…

Bible Reading: Mark 14:32-50 (NLT)

32 They went to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and Jesus said, “Sit here while I go and pray.” 33 He took Peter, James, and John with him, and he became deeply troubled and distressed. 34 He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

35 He went on a little farther and fell to the ground. He prayed that, if it were possible, the awful hour awaiting him might pass him by. 36 “Abba, Father,” he cried out, “everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

37 Then he returned and found the disciples asleep. He said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? 38 Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”

39 Then Jesus left them again and prayed the same prayer as before. 40 When he returned to them again, he found them sleeping, for they couldn’t keep their eyes open. And they didn’t know what to say.

41 When he returned to them the third time, he said, “Go ahead and sleep. Have your rest. But no—the time has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Up, let’s be going. Look, my betrayer is here!”

43 And immediately, even as Jesus said this, Judas, one of the twelve disciples, arrived with a crowd of men armed with swords and clubs. They had been sent by the leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the elders. 44 The traitor, Judas, had given them a prearranged signal: “You will know which one to arrest when I greet him with a kiss. Then you can take him away under guard.” 45 As soon as they arrived, Judas walked up to Jesus. “Rabbi!” he exclaimed, and gave him the kiss.

46 Then the others grabbed Jesus and arrested him. 47 But one of the men with Jesus pulled out his sword and struck the high priest’s slave, slashing off his ear.

48 Jesus asked them, “Am I some dangerous revolutionary, that you come with swords and clubs to arrest me? 49 Why didn’t you arrest me in the Temple? I was there among you teaching every day. But these things are happening to fulfill what the Scriptures say about me.”

50 Then all his disciples deserted him and ran away. 

Reflection: Gethsemane

And so I ran…

I ran until my chest was fire and I could barely see for sweat. My legs screamed protest as I sprinted desperately through the dark Jerusalem streets. A glimpse of the Roman guard sent me tumbling behind a barrel, hidden in the shadows until the threat was passed. And then finally, I found the door, tapping it as loud as I dared, hissing urgent pleas for entry.

Hurry, hurry, hurry…

A servant girl opened the door and I bundled past her into the courtyard where the women were tidying away the remains of our earlier festivities. One look at my face and they turned white with fear. Words were needless. They knew all we had dreaded, but never believed would happen, had come to pass. His mother sank to the ground in agony, her sisters holding her as if to prevent her from dissolving with grief. Her whispered prayers were all that broke our silence.

Over the coming hours, the men returned – alone, in pairs, wide eyed with terror and broken with shame. “They took him.” “We left him.” “We ran…”

We sat in a ragged circle and waited through the sleepless night. We who had dosed in the garden, drowsy through food and wine, found all thought of sleep had left us in those hopeless, helpless hours.

Finally, as dawn broke, Peter arrived back. He was barely recognizable as Jesus’ right hand man. A little boy lost, he walked over to Mary of Magdala and, in a voice of wondering disbelief, he blurted: “They have him. They will try him and they want to kill him.” Then he crumpled and cried, “And I said I didn’t even know him.”

And then we all wept…

Stations of the Cross – Part 3

Stations of the Cross

Stations of the Cross is a way of praying with Jesus as we remember all he suffered for us. It is used by many Christians during Lent, Holy Week and especially on Good Friday.

This version follows the Bible readings which describe Jesus’ final hours.  For each station there is an image by Ally Barrett, a Bible reading and a question.

The questions are inspired by the American spiritual song “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?”  The question is an invitation to imagine yourself in the story.  What would you see, hear, smell?  How would you feel?  What would you be thinking?

The final line is a suggested focus for prayer.

You may want to use the spaces in the booklet to doodle or write your own prayers.

Artworks kindly shared by Rev Dr Ally Barrett (https://reverendally.org/clipart/) The Bible readings are taken from the New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation.  The questions and prayer prompts were written by Susan West. The Opening and Closing Prayers are from Common Worship Times and Seasons © The Archbishops Council 2000

Opening Prayer

Almighty and everlasting God,
who in your tender love towards the human race
sent your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ
to take upon him our flesh
and to suffer death upon the cross:
grant that we may follow the example of his patience and humility,
and also be made partakers of his resurrection;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
All   Amen.

10 Jesus is crucified – Luke 23: 32-34

32 Two others, both criminals, were led out to be executed with him. 33 When they came to a place called The Skull, they nailed him to the cross. And the criminals were also crucified—one on his right and one on his left.

34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice.

Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Remember all compelled to act under orders.

11 Jesus speaks to his mother – John 19: 25-27

25 Standing near the cross were Jesus’ mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary (the wife of Clopas), and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother standing there beside the disciple he loved, he said to her, “Dear woman, here is your son.” 27 And he said to this disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from then on this disciple took her into his home.

Were you there when Mary’s eyes filled with tears?
Remember all who feel helpless.

12 Jesus dies – Luke 23: 44-46

44 By this time it was about noon, and darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. 45 The light from the sun was gone. And suddenly, the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn down the middle. 46 Then Jesus shouted, “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!” And with those words he breathed his last.

Were you there when the sun refused to shine?
Remember all living in the darkness of despair.

13 Jesus placed in the tomb – Matthew 27: 57-60

57 As evening approached, Joseph, a rich man from Arimathea who had become a follower of Jesus, 58 went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. And Pilate issued an order to release it to him. 59 Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a long sheet of clean linen cloth. 60 He placed it in his own new tomb, which had been carved out of the rock. Then he rolled a great stone across the entrance and left.

Were you there when they rolled the stone in place?
Remember all who see no way forward
.

Holy Saturday…

Do not rush too quickly to the final station. Wait as Jesus’ friends waited…

14 Easter Day – Matthew 28: 5-7

Then the angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying. And now, go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and he is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there. Remember what I have told you.”

Were you there when he rose up from the dead?
Rejoice!

Closing Prayers

Let us pray for the coming of God’s kingdom
in the words our Saviour taught us.

The Lord’s Prayer is said.

Most merciful God,
who by the death and resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ
delivered and saved the world:
grant that by faith in him who suffered on the cross
we may triumph in the power of his victory;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Amen.

You are worthy, O Lamb, for you were slain,
and by your blood you ransomed for God
saints from every tribe and language and nation;
you have made them to be a kingdom and priests
serving our God.
We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you,
because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

To him who loves us
and has freed us from our sins by his blood,
and made us a kingdom of priests
to stand and serve before our God;
to him who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb
be praise and honour, glory and might,
for ever and ever. Amen.

Stations of the Cross – Part 2

Stations of the Cross

Stations of the Cross is a way of praying with Jesus as we remember all he suffered for us. It is used by many Christians during Lent, Holy Week and especially on Good Friday.

This version follows the Bible readings which describe Jesus’ final hours.  For each station there is an image by Ally Barrett, a Bible reading and a question.

The questions are inspired by the American spiritual song “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?”  The question is an invitation to imagine yourself in the story.  What would you see, hear, smell?  How would you feel?  What would you be thinking?

The final line is a suggested focus for prayer.

You may want to use the spaces in the booklet to doodle or write your own prayers.

Artworks kindly shared by Rev Dr Ally Barrett (https://reverendally.org/clipart/) The Bible readings are taken from the New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation.  The questions and prayer prompts were written by Susan West. The Opening and Closing Prayers are from Common Worship Times and Seasons © The Archbishops Council 2000

Opening Prayer

Almighty and everlasting God,
who in your tender love towards the human race
sent your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ
to take upon him our flesh
and to suffer death upon the cross:
grant that we may follow the example of his patience and humility,
and also be made partakers of his resurrection;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.All   Amen.

6 The scourging and crowning with thorns – John 19: 1-3

Then Pilate had Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip. The soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they put a purple robe on him. “Hail! King of the Jews!” they mocked, as they slapped him across the face.

Were you there when the soldiers held the whip?
Remember all who suffer cruelty.

7 Jesus bears his cross – John 19: 6, 15-17

When they saw him, the leading priests and Temple guards began shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

“Take him yourselves and crucify him,” Pilate said. “I find him not guilty.”

15 “Away with him,” they yelled. “Away with him! Crucify him!”

“What? Crucify your king?” Pilate asked.

“We have no king but Caesar,” the leading priests shouted back.

16 Then Pilate turned Jesus over to them to be crucified.

So they took Jesus away. 17 Carrying the cross by himself, he went to the place called Place of the Skull (in Hebrew, Golgotha).

Were you there when they laid the cross on him?
Remember all who carry heavy burdens in life.

8 Simon helps Jesus – Mark 15: 21

21 A passer-by named Simon, who was from Cyrene, was coming in from the countryside just then, and the soldiers forced him to carry Jesus’ cross. (Simon was the father of Alexander and Rufus.)

Were you there when Simon helped the Lord?
Remember all who come to the aid of others.

9 Jesus meets the women – Luke 23: 27-31

27 A large crowd trailed behind, including many grief-stricken women. 28 But Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, don’t weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For the days are coming when they will say, ‘Fortunate indeed are the women who are childless, the wombs that have not borne a child and the breasts that have never nursed.’ 30 People will beg the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and plead with the hills, ‘Bury us.’ 31 For if these things are done when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?[

Were you there when the women wept for him?
Remember all who grieve for loved ones.

Stations of the Cross – Part 1

Stations of the Cross is a way of praying with Jesus as we remember all he suffered for us. It is used by many Christians during Lent, Holy Week and especially on Good Friday.

This version follows the Bible readings which describe Jesus’ final hours.  For each station there is an image by Ally Barrett, a Bible reading and a question.

The questions are inspired by the American spiritual song “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?”  The question is an invitation to imagine yourself in the story.  What would you see, hear, smell?  How would you feel?  What would you be thinking?

The final line is a suggested focus for prayer.

You may want to use the spaces in the booklet to doodle or write your own prayers.

Artworks kindly shared by Rev Dr Ally Barrett (https://reverendally.org/clipart/) The Bible readings are taken from the New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation.  The questions and prayer prompts were written by Susan West. The Opening and Closing Prayers are from Common Worship Times and Seasons © The Archbishops Council 2000

Opening Prayer

Almighty and everlasting God,
who in your tender love towards the human race
sent your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ
to take upon him our flesh
and to suffer death upon the cross:
grant that we may follow the example of his patience and humility,
and also be made partakers of his resurrection;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
All   Amen.


1 Jesus in the garden – Matthew 26: 36-41

36 Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.” 37 He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. 38 He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

39 He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

40 Then he returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? 41 Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!”

Were you there when Jesus fell upon his knees?
Remember all who call out in anguish.


2 Betrayal and arrest – Mark 14: 43-46

43 And immediately, even as Jesus said this, Judas, one of the twelve disciples, arrived with a crowd of men armed with swords and clubs. They had been sent by the leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the elders. 44 The traitor, Judas, had given them a prearranged signal: “You will know which one to arrest when I greet him with a kiss. Then you can take him away under guard.” 45 As soon as they arrived, Judas walked up to Jesus. “Rabbi!” he exclaimed and gave him the kiss.

46 Then the others grabbed Jesus and arrested him.

Were you there when a kiss betrayed our Lord?
Remember all who are damaged by lies.


3 Trial by the Sanhedrin – Luke 22: 66-71

66 At daybreak all the elders of the people assembled, including the leading priests and the teachers of religious law. Jesus was led before this high council, 67 and they said, “Tell us, are you the Messiah?”

But he replied, “If I tell you, you won’t believe me. 68 And if I ask you a question, you won’t answer. 69 But from now on the Son of Man will be seated in the place of power at God’s right hand.”

70 They all shouted, “So, are you claiming to be the Son of God?”

And he replied, “You say that I am.”

71 “Why do we need other witnesses?” they said. “We ourselves heard him say it.”

Were you there when Jesus was accused?
Remember all who face unjust trial.


4 Denial by Peter – Matthew 26: 69-75

69 Meanwhile, Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant girl came over and said to him, “You were one of those with Jesus the Galilean.”

70 But Peter denied it in front of everyone. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said.

71 Later, out by the gate, another servant girl noticed him and said to those standing around, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.”

72 Again Peter denied it, this time with an oath. “I don’t even know the man,” he said.

73 A little later some of the other bystanders came over to Peter and said, “You must be one of them; we can tell by your Galilean accent.”

74 Peter swore, “A curse on me if I’m lying—I don’t know the man!” And immediately the rooster crowed.

75 Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.” And he went away, weeping bitterly.

Were you there when the cockerel crowed three times? Remember all who fail through fear.

5 Judgement by Pilate – Mark 15: 1-15

Very early in the morning the leading priests, the elders, and the teachers of religious law—the entire high council—met to discuss their next step. They bound Jesus, led him away, and took him to Pilate, the Roman governor. Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus replied, “You have said it.”

Then the leading priests kept accusing him of many crimes, and Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer them? What about all these charges they are bringing against you?” But Jesus said nothing, much to Pilate’s surprise.

Now it was the governor’s custom each year during the Passover celebration to release one prisoner—anyone the people requested. One of the prisoners at that time was Barabbas, a revolutionary who had committed murder in an uprising. The crowd went to Pilate and asked him to release a prisoner as usual.

“Would you like me to release to you this ‘King of the Jews’?” Pilate asked. 10 (For he realized by now that the leading priests had arrested Jesus out of envy.) 11 But at this point the leading priests stirred up the crowd to demand the release of Barabbas instead of Jesus. 12 Pilate asked them, “Then what should I do with this man you call the king of the Jews?” 13 They shouted back, “Crucify him!” 14 “Why?” Pilate demanded. “What crime has he committed?” But the mob roared even louder, “Crucify him!”

15 So to pacify the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He ordered Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip, then turned him over to the Roman soldiers to be crucified.

Were you there when Jesus was condemned?
Remember all we fail to stand up for.