Reading through Holy Week: Maundy Thursday

Last night, we read Mark 14:1-52. I had planned to stop at verse 31, but we were both so into the story that I just kept going. Two things (apart from the young man fleeing naked at the very end – unwise choice on my part to stop there!) really caught my daughter’s attention: Judas’ decision to betray Jesus, and Jesus’ prediction that all of the disciples would desert him. All of her “why” questions fell during those parts of the story.

She didn’t know what the word “betray” meant, and it’s actually kind of hard to define for a five-year-old. We wound up with something like “pretending that you love someone, while all the time you’re planning on hurting them.” Not precisely right, I suppose, but it captures what Judas is up to. Anyway, she was perplexed and a little dismayed, I think, by the role Jesus’ friends play on the night he is arrested.

Her perplexity helped me see afresh the poignancy of Jesus’ plea in the garden: “Abba Father, all things are possible with you. Remove this cup from me.” It wasn’t just some formal request he had to lodge so we’d all get that he’s human. Everything around him is coming undone. Nothing about this is going to be okay. It’s easy to forget the deep pain and fear that must have clouded that night, living as we do on this side of the Resurrection.

Anyway, it’s interesting to me that my daughter was so intrigued by the disciples’ failures. Tonight we’re going to go to our church’s Maundy Thursday service, and later read the account of the Last Supper in the Jesus Storybook Bible**. After we read about Jesus washing his disciples’ feet, I plan on talking about what Maundy Thursday means: maundatum, or commandment, is where the day gets its name. And the commandment is that we love one another as Christ has loved us (John 15:12). Hearing his commandment to love as he loves us – given as he served them, given even as he knew how deeply their love would fail him, and how he would continue to feed them and empower them to love nevertheless with his very body and blood – is one of the rich blessings of this day.

(**my only real dissatisfaction with the Big Picture Story Bible is that it doesn’t tell the story of the Lord’s Supper, which is a major theological oversight in my book. Happily, the JSB tells it in the context of the foot-washing — a great case for owning both!)

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