Maundy Thursday 2020

When I read the Gospel According to Mark’s account of the day we now call Maundy Thursday, I wonder what the disciples were thinking and feeling.

In Mark’s gospel in the days just before this day Jesus has had a series of confrontations with the religious authorities in the Temple. He has warned the disciples about the coming destruction of Jerusalem and the difficulties that are to come. Troubling and unsettling words.

Then two days before, a woman anoints Jesus for his burial and Judas goes to the chief priests to betray him. Things are feeling unsettled. perhaps even foreboding.

Then it is time for Passover- the great celebration of God’s liberation, God’s rescue of God’s people. Were the disciples hoping Jesus will reassure them? That he would remind them of God’s faithfulness, God’s steadfast love?

Passover was (and is) the ancient celebration of liberation and of God’s faithfulness. But instead of talking about deliverance and faithfulness, Jesus talks about betrayal. To hear Jesus recast the bread and wine of the meal as his body and blood was unexpected and unsettling. This is not what the disciples were expecting.

Later that night, Jesus is arrested. The disciples flee. Peter denies.

What were they thinking about? Did they remember the miracle of Passover and wonder if another miracle would happen? Would death pass over again?

It must have been a disquieting time. As it always is, the future was unclear and uncertain. Was the unthinkable about to happen? Could Jesus really die? If so, what then? What happens to them, Jesus closest followers?

We can look ahead to Easter, but the first disciples could not. How confused they must have been. Despite what Jesus told them to expect, seeing the Messiah arrested was surely  disorienting, puzzling, and frightening.

This is a hard place to stay. Two thousand years later, I’m uncomfortable thinking about it. I want to move on. I can reassure myself that Easter is coming, because Easter is coming.

And yet, sometimes we have to stay in the uncomfortable place. Sometimes life is unsettling and unsure and unstable.

Like these days. Our times. A bad and dangerous thing has happened. The entire world is affected.  There is precious little we can do about it. For most of us, what we can do, mostly involves waiting. Staying in place. What we can “do” is to “not do”. So much is out of our hands, out of our ability to control.

Not unlike the disciples, our future is uncertain. And there is no place we can go to change that. Everyone’s future is uncertain.

Chapter 14 of Mark’s gospel is long and grim. It’s not a very hopeful chapter. But there is this- this one sentence. Just after Jesus tells the disciples they will desert him, Jesus also says, “But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” Twelve words of hope.

“…after I am raised up, I will go before you…”

Jesus went before the disciples. Jesus goes before us. There is no place we can or will go that he has not been before us. This doesn’t mean things will be easy. There was nothing easy about those days for Jesus. Even after the resurrection the disciples lives were not easy. But Jesus was there with them. And Jesus is here with us- through whatever the future brings.

In the midst of uncertain times, there are words of hope. Just a few, but also enough.

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