The last day of His life was most eventful. We read in 4 chapters of John a detailed account of the Last Supper. We read of the revelation of the betrayed, the agonising prayer in the Garden, and betrayal with a kiss.
We read in the other Gospels detailed and emotional accounts of the Passover story. And it’s a story that is and has been repeated for the last 2 thousand years.
The acts and words of Jesus at the Last Supper are not words to be understood at that hour. The fact is for us who know the story we are aware that there is a conflict growing in Jesus, one with His Divinity that His mission is about to be accomplished, the other just as human, is apprehensive at the pain and betrayal, the darkness of sin that would be applied to Him. There is a commotion as betrayal is revealed, but not just the betrayal of one Judas, but all but John, would share in the measure of betrayal.
In our spiritual walk betrayal and how we deal with it is the key to us be prepared to walk out betrayal as Jesus did. He exposed it to the would be perpetrators and yet what is behind the revelation and exposure is the truth that betrayal is a necessary experience to walk through. Betrayal is also a sense of denial of association and fleeing the scene, not being seen with His Company.
Jesus knows that betrayal was the first step to Him being handed over to the biggest conspiracy. The chief priests having seen their influence wane, in the light of Jesus’ teaching, miracles, prophecies, for them to maintain a status quo was all that mattered in a time of occupation.
Jesus’ teaching in the Last Supper was not just to sustain them for that night because what would take over would be grief, hiding, and the sorrow of the crucifixion. The perplexing reality of death, confusion that He who raised the dead, was now embracing death as a common criminal.
It all has symbolic meaning, in the small measure what goes on today. And I am especially meditating on this and walking it out this Easter, because the whole narrative from His Arrival, the warnings of what was to happen, and yet His followers were still unprepared for the horror of Maundy Thursday.
And even today as we identify with Him as His followers how many are prepared to walk through a process of personal martyrdom for greater truth.
And yet in the first centuries the reality that faith in Jesus represented a risk to life, also drew out the greatest virtue. When we hear those who faced death,we hear of great revelation, great intimacy with Jesus in prayer.
The Lord Himself invites us to take up our Cross and follow Him. And in that we must ask the question, in a time of confrontation are we prepared to join Christ in taking up a “literal Cross”.
It goes without saying that what we are witnessing in France and many places is the Churches being burned down. Christian’s being targeted for their faith.
Yet in a civilised world where the expression of faith should be a free choice, we are seeing increasingly that the demand for holiness will lose its appeal as sin becomes a part of the human identity. It is very often, proven throughout history that leaders and even popes, archbishops that come against the implications of Jesus’ message and walk that is lived out in followers who are enlightened to the true essence of faith.
Easter therefore is an invitation to be prepared for pain. The way we walk it out and the way we nurture the essence of the Fellowship of His Sufferings will dictate how we will change the spiritual demographic of our generation.
Whilst even the closest and dearest to Jesus did not even understand or act in any way as a follower of the Messiah shows how fragile our own comprehension and commitment can be!
That is why I do not judge them, as they were privileged to see and touch Him. They saw His Glory, but comprehended Him not. So we 2 thousand years later are subject to the same shortcomings.
Easter is a invitation to comprehend Him afresh. The way we do that is embrace the way we remember in the Church calendar, take time to contemplate the Via Dolorosa. The Upper Room. The Garden. We see in those stages the people who walked this out get smaller. Until He is alone in the woundings, in the walking with the heavy Cross. The nails that held Him there.
It is a contemplation on His complete identification with us that has the potential to both heal us and bring us into a greater sense of purpose realising that above it all, and eternal reality is being opened up as we enter eternal sonship and eternal life in Communion with the Father.
In the image above, they depict the Stations of the Cross. They represent a spiritual exercise that brings us into a identification with Him. As we walk with Him in Death, denying our mortal flesh we shall be embraced by Him in glorious life.
The whole process of Maundy Thursday is an invitation to see beyond the betrayal, the punishment, that something is at work to bring us peace and joy. In the Upper Room spoke of the momentary sadness making way for eternal joy.
Paul talks about this plainly about his own trials that it worked out an eternal weight of Glory.
There is so much devastation across the families in the world, the story of Jesus’ death can only bring healing as we understand that it can only be walked out and worked out as a spiritual process and not a psychological formula. It is not about just being healed but given a whole new life and purpose to walk and talk out the Mission of Jesus in our generation.
May we meditate on this today.