Matthew 26:20-25, 47-49
What must it have been like for the disciples at this point? What a week they were having.
They'd seen the crowds welcome Jesus, but it was the welcome of a people whose expectations were of a conquering, warring messiah who would overthrow the Roman occupiers.
Some of the religious rulers had even tried to stop the crowds praising Jesus, they knew the significance of what was happening and how it may be interpreted especially at Passover time, and this could literally be revolutionary. But in all this misplaced expectation and worry, Jesus came not as a warring messiah, but as a King, the prince of peace, riding a donkey, fulfilling prophecies made many years before.
And they had witnessed his encounter in the temple, challenging the religious authorities, alerting people to the truth that the temple and all it represented was not as it had been intended. It wasn't the light to the world it was supposed to be, but instead had become exclusive and rigid- striving for a piety that would place heavy burdens on the people of God - Jesus challenged this. He challenged the authority of those who claimed to represent God and he'd started telling stories about a vineyard that hadn't been looked after by the caretakers.... the religious rulers knew he was talking about them
Also however, as he lived out this final week, some were beginning to recognise him for who he was, the children at the temple giving praise, the woman who poured the expensive jar of perfume over him, honouring Jesus, worshipping him
And now comes today's events, a Passover meal, a meal they would all have been fully aware of, a meal that recalled how God had rescued His people and set them free…..then Jesus adds a twist.
He identifies himself in the story, this story of redemption now somehow includes Jesus, this wine is his blood, this bread is his body, His blood shed for the many, his body broken to enable the forgiveness of sins.
And then he talks about someone about to betray him – what a week to be around Jesus?
And the finally, away from the city, from the bustle of the Passover crowds, the authorities take their chance, and they are led to Jesus by one of the people closest to him – a friend. Judas had somehow managed to walk closely with the Son of God, and yet had also managed to miss the whole point of who He was.
This can’t have been what the disciples thought following Jesus would be like? With the events of Easter Sunday not yet known – this must have been a dark time for them.
What about us – how do you and I respond when following Jesus doesn’t look the way we thought it would? When things don’t turn out the way we expected they would.
As followers of Jesus we too find ourselves in times of darkness
Tempted to run
To deny we know Jesus
To be so close to Jesus, yet miss the point of who he is
We can identify with the disciples in this
His way isn't easy
We know about Easter Sunday – the events of this week were leading to this amazing day when the fullness of God’s plan was revealed, but at this point in the week, and especially tomorrow on Good Friday, that day wasn’t known about yet, and things must have seemed very dark.
We wish we could get to Easter Day - live in it always. And in a very real sense we do, we live this side of the resurrection of Jesus, death has been conquered, it no longer has a hold on us, God has made things right. We can have deep friendship with God.
But at this point in our reflections, it’s worth remembering that we don't get to Easter Sunday without the events of the days of this week.
It’s worth being reminded that as followers of Jesus we aren't immune to difficult and dark times – to times when the urge is to run from or even to betray Jesus.
Look at Jesus. What was it that allowed him to journey through these days and be obedient to his father’s will?
It was his understanding of the Father, of how loved and precious he was to him. It was knowing that his Father’s plan, although hard, was good, and would prevail
Obedience came from his trust in his father, “yet not my will, but yours”
We want to get to Sunday, but to do that often depends on our experience in the darkness.
How we face our fears, sense of loss, dashed expectations.
Do we, like Jesus, trust our heavenly Father? Is God good? Do we believe that Sunday is coming, that although ‘there may be pain in the night, joy comes in the morning?’
“A Christian is never more standing in the footsteps of Jesus than when he or she is faced with a dark and difficult situation yet still responds in obedience, not my will but yours” - CS lewis
Then in our weakness his power is made strong
Who is God? Do you trust him?
Jesus looks at us with love
He has gone before us, he walks with us now,
His hand is open, our choice is simple, but not easy
When we take communion – we are reminded of all that Jesus did, that he went the way of the cross for us that we might know Him and know life
Let’s go forward acknowledging he is good, give him who we are, choose to feed on him – trusting in that goodness, that he will lead us through the difficult times as well as the good times, trusting and knowing that the way of the cross leads to resurrection
If we can do that then our prayer can simply echo his prayer,
“Jesus lead me, I take your hand; not my will but yours”
Written by Mike Rutter