As the days of the last week of His life go by, the Savior’s love for His disciples and for us becomes even more evident. On what has become known as Maundy Thursday He sends His disciples to prepare a room where they can celebrate the Passover meal together. At the appointed time Jesus begins the meal by saying, “With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” The Greek translated as desire has more intensity than the King James translators give it. The Greek work indicates an eagerness and would have been better translated, “With great desire.”
It is difficult to determine the exact time line of what next occurs. John is the only writer to report the washing of the apostles’ feet, but He tells us that it was before the feast. If that is so, then the evening begins with Jesus removing his outer coat and girding himself with a towel, in other words He clothes himself as a servant would be clothed, and taking a basin of water He washes the feet of His disciples and wipes them with the towel.
When He is finished He asks, “Know ye what I have done to you?” and then answers His own question, “Ye call me Master and Lord, for so am I. If I then have washed your feet, ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.”
After this Jesus takes the cup of wine, gives thanks and the last legitimate Passover meal begins and during its course is transformed into the first Sacrament of the Lord's Supper. But then Jesus grows troubled in spirit and says, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me.” One can imagine the emotions that then afflicted the disciples. Those that loved Him were grieved and bewildered, and asked, “Is it I?” And the one who did not love Him, filled with guilt and fear that he was about to be denounced, tried to play the part of the loving and hypocritically imitated their concern, “Master, is it I?”
Jesus responded, “That thou doesn’t, do quickly.”
At these words Judas left. John reports this by saying, Judas “went immediately out: and it was night.”At least it was for Judas; he had left the Light of the world and entered darkness.
With Judas gone, Jesus proceeds to teach His disciples. Under the law of Moses the command has been to love others as you love yourself. But Jesus now says, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:34-35).
Foreboding feelings must have permeated the evening and caused uneasiness among the participants, but Jesus always aware of what is needed, comforts them by saying, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:1-2). In other words,
Don’t worry. Trust me. I will always take care of you.
Jesus goes on to teach them the things that will guide and comfort them after He is gone; the same things that will bring us peace and comfort. He says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” Then He explains that he is going to send another Comforter, the Holy Ghost, and assures them as the KJV reports, “I will not leave you comfortless” (John 14:18). But the Greek manuscripts say, “I will not leave you orphaned.”
With love so deep and sincere that these thousands of years later one can still feel the emotion as if it were being spoken directly to the reader the Savior then says, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, netiher let it be afraid” (John 14:27).
The time in the Upper Room ends by singing a hymn which was most likely the Hallel. Then they left and walked north-eastward, passing the Temple Mount, crossing down the Kidron valley, and finally ascending the Mount of Olives until they reached the Garden of Gethsemane. But His teachings do not end. As they walk, He continues to exhort them. “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine: no more can ye, except ye abide in me . . . for without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:4-5). And again, “Love one another, as I have loved you” (John 15:12). “When the Spirit of truth is come he will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13). And finally, to prepare them for what is about to happen He says, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy” (John 16:20). “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
After this Jesus lifts up his eyes to heaven and prays a marvelous prayer for the disciples and for you and me. It has become known as the Intercessory Prayer or the Great High Priestly Prayer. I cannot do this justice by condensing it. Read John 17 as the Savior of the world prays to the Father for you and ends with these words,
“And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it; that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17:26).
Finally the Savior and His followers arrive at Gethsemane, which means oil press. Jesus instructs most of the disciples to sit while He takes Peter, James and John further into the garden. At this point Jesus begins to be “sore amazed” as Mark reports, but again the Greek here is much more intense. The Greek words mean “terrified surprise or astonishment.” You and I know the consequences of sin. We’ve felt the guilt, the heavy darkness, the anguish, and the depression that are brought on by sin, but Jesus Christ had never before felt such feelings. This was new to Him—astonishing in its intensity and darkness. Thus as the sins of the world press upon Him in this place called “Oil Press” he cries out, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42).
But the agony continues until the anguish and pressure is so intense that blood presses through His flesh and great drops fall to the ground.
He had instructed His disciples to pray, but instead they have slept. Three times during this ordeal He returned to them and instructed them, but the first two times, though they try, they fall asleep again. Thus the third time when He returns He says, “Sleep on now, and take your rest: it is enough, the hour is come; behold, the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners” (Mark 14:41).
Like all days, this first Maundy Thursday came and went. But unlike any other day, this Thursday contained more love, concern, guidance, and admonition than any Thursday before or since. In it Jesus Christ commands us to love, but more than that He shows us love as He bears our sins so that
"With his stripes we are healed" (Isaiah 53:5).
The entire day can be summed up in four words that you should repeat often this day and always:
Jesus Christ loves me.
(The full account can be found in Matthew 26; Mark 14; Luke 22; and John 13-17)