Today is Maundy Thursday on the Christian calendar. The first Maundy Thursday lived out by Jesus and His disciples is covered in John 13:1-18:1, and because this section is so full of preparing and eating the Passover meal, talking and washing, teaching and singing, praying and weeping, betraying and submitting, we have spent the last few weeks reviewing it.
The word maundy is the shortened form of the Latin mandatum, which means command and reminds us of Jesus’ instructions at the Passover meal to love one another (13:34). The final portion of Jesus’ Last Supper Discourse comes in John 17 and is where we land today. It is a 26-verse prayer often called the High Priestly Prayer in which Jesus prays for Himself, His disciples, and all who would follow Him. Let’s listen in and imagine being in the upper room with Jesus and His disciples as these words were spoken:
John records that after Jesus prayed to the Father “He went out with his disciples across the book Kidron, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered” (18:1). Gethsemane (a.k.a. olive press) was a garden at the foot of the Mount of Olives about 300 yards east/northeast of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, where Jesus and His disciples had spent a great deal of time. This was a place of familiarity, a place to wait for what Jesus knew was coming the next day.
As He waited and His disciples tried and failed to stay awake, Jesus prayed again to His Father. This wasn’t the prayer of the upper room when Jesus focused His prayer on His friends. This was the prayer of a man in agony, a prayer of pleading but also of submission. Mark records Jesus’ words in this way: “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will” (14:36).
Jesus spoke these words not once, not twice, but three times. The “cup” was a metaphor for God’s righteous wrath in response to the sins of mankind, and as Jesus experienced the pressing weight, He did so with loud cries and tears (Hebrews 5:7). Luke records that “being in agony (Jesus) prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (22:44). While this could have been another metaphor, medical experts say this was likely hematidrosis, a rare condition in which tiny blood vessels near the sweat glands rupture when a body is under extreme stress and in the fight-or-flight mode.
Today’s video includes passages from the four Gospels that give us a glimpse of what Jesus knew was coming. In the gradual extinguishing of candles in the Tenebrae service (with the final one snuffed out with Jesus’ death on Good Friday), we remember the weight Jesus carried to the cross and the emotions He felt as He journeyed there.
You are invited to join us tomorrow for the UFC Good Friday livestream at 6 p.m. on both YouTube and Facebook.
Brianna and her husband Lewis are Oregon natives and have four incredible kids. Brianna is involved with the mom’s group, women’s ministry, and Sunday morning worship at UFC. She stays rooted in God’s Word through Bible study and writing, and she finds rest through gardening, reading, and walks with her family.
Today’s John 17 voice
When his girls were growing up, Gordon transitioned from being the pastor of a small church to working in commercial construction. He would often say, “Jesus was a carpenter, too.” No matter where Gordon has found himself over the years — at a construction site, in a pulpit, in his neighborhood, and especially with his family — Gordon has served as a shepherd and speaker of truth. For today, his daughter, blog editor Jaime Sherman, asked him to pray over us Jesus’ prayer from John 17.
Scriptures from video:
Matthew 26:20-25 — Passover and betrayal predicted
Matthew 26:31-35 — Peter’s denials predicted
Mark 14:32-41 — Jesus prays in Gethsemane
Matthew 26:47-52 — Betrayal and arrest
Luke 22:54-62 — Peter denies Jesus
John 18:33-38a — Jesus before Pilate
Matthew 27:20-26 — Crowd chooses Barabbas
Mark 15:16-20 — Jesus is mocked