Maundy Thursday is the day that we remember the evening of the Last Supper. It is when we Christians traditionally believe that Jesus celebrated this final Passover meal with his disciples and then was arrested. It is a somber evening. It is the beginning of the end of the life of Jesus. In mere hours he will be handed over, beaten, and ultimately crucified.
Yet, in the midst of this Jesus is looking at the bigger picture. He is shaping and creating identity for his disciples. He showing them that there is more to come after his crucifixion. The Cross is not he end, it is the beginning.
In John 17 we have what is called, "The High Priestly Prayer." This is one of the final recorded prayers we have of Jesus. He is praying for his disciples and worshiping the Father as the end draws close. Check it out...
When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.
“I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 17, ESV)
While you could fill a book on things learned from this prayer there are three things that I want you to see very clearly. First, Jesus, as he prayed, had the future Church in mind. He says near the end, "I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word..." How beautiful is that? In Jesus final hours he was praying for us. Those who would believe in him in the future. We are those of whom he speaks. Somehow, some way, we can each of us trace our spiritual lineage to the disciples from the first century. When I ponder on this reality it gives me chills and fills my heart with joy!
Second, Jesus wants us to understand what eternal life is. We often think of eternal life as people being reincarnated as chubby little angels floating on clouds strumming harps. This is not even close. Jesus says that eternal life is knowing him. Let that sink in for a minute. If we want to experience eternal life we do so by knowing Jesus. That means, right here, right now, we can have eternal life. Today, in this moment, eternal life is something to be experienced. Why? Because today, in this moment, we can know Jesus.
Finally, Jesus wants us to know that we have this eternal life for a purpose. He prays specifically, "I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth." Jesus prays that we would be sent, protected from the evil one, and sanctified. To be sent is to be given a mission. He gives that mission particularly in Matthew 28:18-20, "Go and make disciples." The world is the domain of the evil one, so prays for our protection. Lastly, he prays for our sanctification. This is a fancy word that means he wants us to become more like him.
Maundy Thursday is a day that maybe we shouldn't be so somber. Maybe we should take time to reflect and evaluate how we're doing with our calling to know him and to make disciples. How are you doing? Are you spending time in community with believers? Are you reading the Scriptures? Are you praying? Are you talking to people about Jesus?