17 Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?” 18 He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’” 19 And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover.
26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” 30 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.Matthew 26:17-19, 26-30
Thursday before the cross was marked with fervent desire, great betrayal, insecure arguments, foot washing, and anguished prayer. Of course, one would expect a roller coaster of emotions on the eve of the Son of God’s death.
The anticipation of a thing can often be worse than the thing itself, but, unfortunately, that was not the case for Jesus the Messiah. He knew exactly what was awaiting Him in the coming hours, yet He said, “I have fervently desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Luke 22:15).
That emotionally charged Thursday before the cross found Jesus and His apostles celebrating the Passover meal. During that last supper, the Lord gave instructions that would unify the people of God for all time. By using the timing of the Passover, Jesus reached all the way back to Exodus and the redemption of the Israelites from Egypt. He also unlocked the secret of the New Covenant, prophesied by Jeremiah, to those who drank of the cup after supper. The New Covenant, in His blood, is the one covenant for all God’s people – “for I will forgive their wrongdoing and never again remember their sin” (Jeremiah 31:34, Hebrews 8:12). Jesus also stretches forward throughout the entire church age by giving believers the mandate to “do this in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:19). Jesus brings all His people together.
Thursday before the cross was the night that Jesus taught His apostles about the Person and the work of the Holy Spirit. His teaching on that night is the most extensive teaching on the Holy Spirit in all of God’s Word. Jesus fearlessly juxtaposed His own departure and death with the arrival and work of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said,
“It is for your benefit that I go away, because if I don’t go the Counselor will not come to you. If I go I will send Him to you.” (John 16:7)
Jesus is the perfect model of grace under pressure, and He did not shirk His responsibility to teach His people about the Holy Spirit, who would continue His ministry in His place: “The Holy Spirit…will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you” (John 14:26). Jesus is our Teacher, especially when the lesson is costly.
The Thursday before the cross is often called Maundy Thursday. It is called this because Jesus, before He was mocked, tried, and crucified, commanded His people to take love to a whole new level. Love has always been a great virtue in the Scripture, but never had the bar been raised so high as when Jesus said,
“I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must love one another.” (John 13:34)
To love as Jesus loves is the highest ethical standard in the universe. Jesus, facing His final hours, stands firm as our Commander and King and declares a life-giving mandate that has changed the world. All that has been done – and all that will be done – through the inspiration of the love of Jesus will be the shining glory in the crown of our great God and Savior. Jesus is Lord. And His law is love.
Thursday before the cross demonstrates why Jesus is so worthy of our worship. The Son of God did not seek out selfish indulgences or hide out in isolation, pouting, on the night before His death. Jesus chose to unite His people, teaching them to rely on the Holy Spirit, while raising the ethical bar of love through the roof.
Jesus is awesome!
Will you worship Jesus today? Will you look at the One who set Himself aside for you and say, “Thank you, Lord! Help me obey your command, Lord! Unite Your people, Lord!” It is Thursday before the cross. Follow Jesus!