Archives: Maundy Thursday

Thursday: The Cock Crows

Jesus predicts it in three different ways. It happens three times. And Jesus spends three days in the tomb because of it.

Peter’s denial of Jesus.

It’s a pivotally important moment that sometimes we lose track of in the accelerating cascade of events following the Last Supper that leads to Calvary.

But it contains such spiritual riches for us, even though it forces us to confront our own deepest fears and weaknesses.

Let’s begin by reflecting on Jesus’ prediction of Peter’s denial. The accounts in Matthew and Mark are almost identical but for one or two words. Here’s how Mark relates it:

“Jesus said to them, ‘You will all become deserters; for it is written, “I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.” But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.’ Peter said to him, ‘Even though all become deserters, I will not.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Truly I tell you, this day, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.’ But he said vehemently, ‘Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.’ And all of them said the same.”

John’s account is briefer, albeit with a haunting rhetorical question from Jesus:

“Simon Peter said to him, ‘Lord, where are you going?’ Jesus answered, ‘Where I am going, you cannot follow me now; but you will follow afterwards.’ Peter said to him, ‘Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.’ Jesus answered, ‘Will you lay down your life for me? Very truly, I tell you, before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times.”

And then we have Luke, one of the synoptics but oddly the outlier in how he portrays this incident:

“‘Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.’ And he said to him, ‘Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death!’ Jesus said, ‘I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day, until you have denied three times that you know me.’”

They vary in their details, but the painful crux of the matter remains the same: Peter will deny Jesus three times before the cock crows.

Peter cannot fathom it.

Hasn’t he been faithful to Jesus these three long years?

Didn’t he leave his home and family and livelihood for Jesus?

Hasn’t he stuck by Jesus when they were hungry and homeless on the road? When the crowds crushed them and demanded to be healed, fed, taught, long after Jesus and the twelve were completely exhausted?

Hasn’t Peter been faithful even now, when the religious authorities are closing in?

Why would Peter abandon him now—Peter, who was the one to proclaim Jesus the Messiah and was called the Rock of the Church for it? Continue reading

Thursday Dinner, Eating With Sinners: The Second Coming

What we do on Maundy Thursday is attempt to reenact and experience everything Jesus taught us to do while we wait for him to come again.

We might even say that we do what he asked us to do to help him or invite him or make him come again.

I have a hunch that the Second Coming is not the apocalypse of fireworks and epic battles across the skies that we’ve been led to imagine by end times pop theology.

What if the Second Coming of Christ is actually us?

What if the Second Coming of Christ is we, the Body of Christ, growing more and more conformed to the Mind of Christ until we are able to fully manifest his will in the world? Continue reading

Thursday: Naked and Unashamed

Here’s the really strange thing about Maundy Thursday: in our scriptures appointed for today we don’t even read about one of the most important events that happened that night.

The name for Maundy Thursday comes from the Latin mandatum, meaning commandment, and refers to what Jesus says in the text we do read from the Gospel of John.

Right after the footwashing, Jesus says, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”

The footwashing comes in conjunction with the institution of the Last Supper. These are hugely important parts of what happened on Thursday night, but they’re not the whole story.

What we’re missing from our readings is the Garden of Gethsemane. Continue reading

Thursday: His Strength Runs Out

They had eaten thousands of meals with friends in their lifetimes.

They had eaten hundreds of meals with Jesus since they began following him.

They had eaten anywhere from twenty to fifty Passover meals in their lifetimes.

And this was their third Passover meal with Jesus.

It should have seemed familiar, comfortable, relaxed.

Just a few days ago, the disciples had seen Jerusalem welcome Jesus with open arms, hailing him as the Son of David and their King.

The disciples, by association with Jesus, were coming up in the world. The world was their oyster.

Or it should have been.

But tonight, something was indefinably different.

There was a palpable sense of discomfort, of unease.

All week, Jesus had had an air about him.

He was no longer the Teacher who thoughtfully explored scripture with them, or the Healer who touched all who came to him with gentle hands and an open smile.

There was an air of determination in him that edged on desperation.

He had the look of a man who had set his face like flint, as Isaiah says, committed to do something no matter the cost. Continue reading

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