So much is contained in these passages from Thursday. Teaching, fellowship around a table, food, blessing, agony and betrayal.
At the center of it all is Christ Jesus our Lord.
Here’s an outline of what happened on Thursday1:
- Preparation for the Passover (Matt. 26:17-19; Mark 14:12-16; Luke 22:7-13)
- Passover meal / Last Supper (Matt. 26:20-35; Mark 14:17-26; Luke 22:14-30)
- Upper Room Discourse (John 13:1-17:26)
- Jesus prays in Gethsemane (Matt. 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46)
Let’s read today from Matthew 26:26-46 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.”  And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you,  for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.  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.”  And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.  Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’  But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.”  Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.”  Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.”  Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same.  Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.”  And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled.  Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.”  And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”  And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour?  Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”  Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.”  And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy.  So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again.  Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.  Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.” (ESV)
What can we learn from this text?
The Passover Feast celebrated God’s deliverance of Israel from Egypt. Preparations for the feast involved sacrificing a lamb in the Temple and roasting it for the supper. At sundown on Thursday evening Jesus and His disciples reclined at a table to share the Passover together and what has become known to us as the Last Supper. Twenty-four hours from this time, Jesus would hang dead on a cross.
Hope prevails even on this dark night, for Jesus remains in control and living out all righteousness for His beloved people.
Consider that Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, a celebration with bread and the cup of His sacrifice. He would soon be dead, but the Lord still led His disciples, ministered to them, and turned the darkest time of His life into a time of life-giving hope for all of us.
Consider also that the disciples all fled from Jesus at His hour of greatest need. He predicted this (26:31), and it happened (26:56). Yet Jesus did not choose these men for what they could contribute to Him or do to benefit Him. He tells them, “after I am raised up, I will go before you into Galilee” (26:32), a word of hope to wayward disciples that He would still love them and restore them.
Consider finally the solitary figure of Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, submitting Himself to the Father’s will. Feeling absolutely drained physically, He fell on His face before His Father, praying to the point of sweating great drops of blood. He prayed, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me” (26:39), the second time He mentioned a cup, and this “cup” being the full wrath of God for the sin of mankind. It was the Lord’s greatest hour of temptation, yet in great agony and with perfect love toward God He submitted to the Father’s will.
- As we prepare for Good Friday, meditate on what Jesus said His broken body and shed blood would signify: the forgiveness of your sins. Are you encouraged that Jesus, who knew all your sins, went willingly to the cross to die in your place? Think on that truth, for He wants us to.
- Have you ever abandoned the Lord Jesus? Maybe you should have spoken up about the Lord but remained quiet. Perhaps you should have gone to Him for help but instead gave into temptation like His disciples. Whatever you have done, remember this: Jesus resisted all temptations and sins for when you could not. Trust in His substitutionary life and love for you.
Our Lord Jesus, we thank You for including us in the feast at Your table. We confess that we do not deserve to be included in the accomplishments of Your body and blood, but You submitted to the breaking and bloodshed for us. Jesus, thank You. We praise You too for Your obedience even to death, which is our ground of hope when we know we have not obeyed You with our lives. We love You and remember You today. Amen.
1. Crossway is currently offering free access to their ESV Study Bible. To access the Harmony of the Holy Week Chart, simply sign up for that resource, and even more, from Crossway.