Tommorrow is Maundy Thursday, which sounds ancient and mysterious. In many ways, it stands at the divide between the Cross and the rest of time–the entrance into a moment toward which all of history had pointed, a moment that would be referenced by every moment to come.
“Maundy” is the old word for mandate. On that particular Thursday in an upper room in Jerusalem, Jesus shared a last meal with his disciples, including his betrayer. He took bread: this is my body. He took wine: this is my blood, poured out for you. And the spotless Lamb, the highlight of the Passover meal? As Tim Keller notes in King’s Cross, he was seated at the table with them. (p. 167) The mandate? “Do this in rememberance of me.” (Luke 22:19)
At the Last Supper, Jesus shared bread and wine with his disciples, and then told them, “Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” (Mark 14:25)
After that, they sang together. I wonder what they sang? What would it be like to sing with Jesus in that room? What did Jesus choose to sing, the last moment of worship with his disciples before facing his death?
From that room, they went to the Mount of Olives, to a place called Gethsemane; literally, “olive press.” And indeed, in that garden Jesus was pressed down, “greatly distressed and troubled.” (Mark 14:33) His disciples could not stay awake–he faced this moment alone.
I’ve reflected on this passage many times. You may have, too. When we face a moment in life or business when we find ourselves at a crossroads, we may pray with Jesus, “Not my will, but yours be done.” We want God to show us what he wants us to do.
I don’t know about you, but I find myself saying, “I surrender all,” only to take it all back on myself the next day–or the next hour.
But Jesus didn’t. His surrender was complete, and profoundly costly.
The thing is that Jesus wasn’t worried about his death. He knew he end of the story. No, Jesus was facing something that we cannot fathom.
He faced another cup.
He would not drink the cup of blessing until he did so with his people in his new kingdom. But within hours he would drink to the final dregs the cup of God’s wrath.
He would drink the cup of wrath so we might drink the flowing cup of living water.
I think most people don’t really believe in God’s wrath any more. It’s so outdated. “My God wouldn’t do something like that, be like that.”
The problem is that, as my husband remarked beautifully in his sermon on Sunday, there is no love without wrath. If you attack my child, if you harm my daughter or my son, and I simply say, “Fine. Whatever. Act however you want,” well, that’s not love, is it? No. the depth of my love cries out for justice.
How much more with God?
Any honest person knows in his or her heart that we aren’t perfect. We sin and we are sinned against. Both, all of us. And it matters.
An absence of wrath would mean indifference. And indifference is the opposite of love.
We deserve that wrath. But that wrath would utterly destroy us.
So Jesus took that wrath on our behalf.
He drank. He drained the cup. There is not a drop left for us.
Did you know that?
If you know that, how does it affect your life? Your interactions with others? Your response to the sin of others? Your decisions?
If Jesus absorbed the wrath of God, we do not live in fear of an angry God. We live as The Forgiven, beloved children, adopted and cared for.
We don’t fend for ourselves.
We live lives that are free to glorify God, never fearing wrath, living in the fullness of redemption.
Let me say it again: He drank the cup of wrath so we could drink the flowing cup of living water.
I wrote that lyric in a song many years ago, and it will often resonate through my mind. I am not simply forgiven, sheilded. I have been offered an overflowing cup of the spirit of Christ, the power of the gospel at work in my own life. It overflows to every area of my life. There is enough for me.
Jesus, as many of us meditate on your sacrifice, your love for us, and the power of your resurrection, let the truth of your gospel seep into the depths of our hearts. Let it transform how I interact with my family, with challenging clients, with those who would take advantage of me or want something for nothing. Transform me, so that those around me are refreshed by the fragrance of Christ. Let me not be easily offended, when you took all of my offenses and suffered the consequences in my place. Let me extend grace to others, relying not on some innate goodness but on your overflowing cup of grace. Let me be not a stagnant pond, but a flowing river of your blessing to those around me. Your will be done. Amen.