Day Five: Maundy Thursday
Texts: (Matthew 26:17–75, Mark 14:12–72, Luke 22:7–71, John 13:1–18:27)
The Thursday prior to Jesus’s crucifixion is choc-full of activity. There is the famous “Last Supper” in the upper room and the subsequent discourse. This is the night Jesus washes his disciples’ feet. After the meal, Jesus and his closest friends leave for the Mount of Olives to pray at the garden of Gethsemane. Finally, the garden is invaded by soldiers with torches and Jesus meets his betrayer with a kiss and is delivered into the hands of his enemies. This is also the night when Jesus sets apart the bread and the cup and gave the Passover even greater significance. They didn’t expect this, this was the Passover! Everything should go as it’s always gone. It’s a sacred tradition. Who has the authority to change such a major a piece of Jewish tradition and the instructions of Moses? The Passover was about celebrating their freedom from slavery and oppression in Egypt. The Passover was about remembering the blood on the doorposts and God sparing those who by faith placed their trust in the Lord. Today’s theme centers around a greater Exodus and a greater freedom from the ultimate slavery, the slavery of sin. Do you ever struggle with guilt? Do you ever wonder “What can wash away my sin?” Have you ever asked yourself that question? I think all of us, at some point, ask ourselves that. We may not always use those terms, but we wrestle with this. There’s a guilt. There’s remorse. There’s shame. There’s things we’ve done that we wish we didn’t and we hope no one asks us about. We are not proud of these things. Don’t get me wrong, some things we look back on and they are not a big deal. Maybe they’re even funny. But other things … are not funny. And they’re never going to be funny. What do we do about those things? What’s the solution to this nagging problem? That’s our question today. And the solution is found in two very profound words used by Jesus on Thursday evening: “For You.”
“And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19, NIV)
This is called the doctrine of the substitutionary atonement – that Jesus died “in our place” and “for” our sins. I realize this is not a very popular idea in our culture – this whole idea of “penal substitution,” or that a loving God would have wrath toward sin. Alfred Jules Aires said the doctrine of the atonement of the cross was “Intellectually contemptible and morally outrageous.” Bertrand Russel called the cross “the doctrine of cruelty.” Robert Funk called this doctrine “sub-rational and sub-ethical.” This is why it is called “the offense of the cross.” Many cannot accept this teaching, but if God is holy and just, then He has a settled opposition against sin. Today our culture wonders “How could God have wrath and send anyone to hell?” The scriptures ask a different question, “How, if God is just, can he let anyone into heaven?” He is holy. He is righteous. He cannot look upon sin. How can he compromise his own standards? Which brings us to another very difficult question: Who was ultimately responsible for the death of Jesus?
Who killed Jesus?
Be careful, because it’s not an easy question to answer. There is a Greek word used in the bible, “paradidomi,” which is often translated as “delivered him up.” In the gospels it’s used several times of several different people or groups. First, it’s used of Judas who “delivered him up” to the religious leaders. (Matt 27:3) Then, it’s used of the religious leaders, who “delivered him up” to the Romans. (Matt 27:2) Then, it’s used of the Roman soldiers who “delivered him up” to be crucified. (Matt 27:26) Then, the word is also used of God the Father in Romans 8, where the apostle Paul makes a theological statement about the cross saying it was God who the father who “delivered him up.” (Rom 8:32) My friends, we are not saved because the Romans killed Jesus, or because the Jews killed Jesus … no. It was God the Father who had to administer justice. It was God who had been offended. It was God’s wrath which had been kindled. Someone had to suffer the judgment and justice and wrath of God.
“It pleased the Lord to crush Him.” (Isa 53:10, ESV)
That’s what Jesus endured, standing in our law place, as our substitute, for our sins. The wrath of God was poured out against all sin until God the father was fully propitiated (satisfied). That’s what that little phrase “for you” means.
At some point in our lives, we all have to come to grips with our junk. Deep down in places we don’t even want to think about, I think we all wonder, “What can wash away my sin?” What hope do we have? The answer to that nagging sense of guilt and condemnation that won’t go away is found in those two words “For You.” That’s the message of the bread and the cup. You don’t have to believe that. But I just want you to know … that you do not have to carry that guilt and shame anymore. If you accept this gift, then you can be made clean and righteous before God if you apply the blood of Jesus to the doorposts of your heart. That’s good news, but you must personalize it. The word “paradidomi” is used in one more important place when the apostle Paul uses it of Jesus himself. “He loved me and delivered himself up for me.” (Gal 2:20) Why did he do it?
Was it for crimes that I had done?
He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity! grace unknown!
And love beyond degree!
Thus might I hide my blushing face
While His dear cross appears,
Dissolve my heart in thankfulness,
And melt my eyes to tears.
(Words written by Isaac Watts in the hymn, “Alas and did my savior bleed.”)
(If interested in a longer meditation on this subject, check out the video teaching here)
Tomorrow we will examine the events of Good Friday.
Holy Week Devotionals: