Readings: Exodus 12:1-14 • Psalm 116:1-2. 12-19 • 1 Cor. 11:23-26 • John 13:1-17, 31-35
This week’s theme is The New Covenant. Exodus reminds us of the first Passover, when the unblemished lamb was killed and the blood saved those in the household. The Psalmist reminds us that God has heard our cry and has inclined his ear toward us. Precious is the death of his Son, the sacrifice of thanksgiving. Paul reminds the church at Corinth of the sacraments Jesus introduced to the new church. The sermon focuses on the New Commandment to love one another.
Holy Thursday – Dinner and Discussion
Suggestion: Plan a congregational meal or some nice finger foods the members can share later in the service. The goal is to for members to fellowship and build relationship. Try to have a member of the pastoral or leadership team at each table to serve as host of that table. Each table should have a round of bread (including gluten-free bread), and wine and grape juice.
Jesus very much looked forward to sharing this meal with his disciples. He wanted to tie up a lot of loose ends.
- He wanted them to understand true leadership.
- He wanted to emphasize what was most important.
- He wanted to emphasize the idea of communion—of being included in the life and love shared by the Father, Son and Spirit.
The first thing Jesus did on this night was wash his disciple’s feet.
You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you (John 13:13-15).
Jesus was teaching about serving. Leaders are to serve—they are to be the chief servants—because serving others best represents Jesus.
Jesus, the Son of God for eternity, gave up his privileges with God for the Incarnation. He became flesh so he could serve us. Further, while flesh, he devoted himself to serving others—even to the point of death. He wants us to see God’s heart—to love and to serve you and me.
Jesus never wants us to forget that his desire was to share his love and his life for us. So he took two items that you would find on any Jewish table—bread and wine—and used them to remind us of his life as a servant, a savior, a redeemer, a friend.
Bread—take and eat—this is my body. This emphasizes two things—a body broken for us, and that we are all of one body—one loaf. There is a small round of bread on each table. Each table should eat the bread—symbolizing that we are one—and we are one in Christ. As we eat, we remember that Jesus is the living bread and he is inviting us to participate in his life. We will pray over the bread and then share it.
The host of each table will pick up the plate of bread and hold it up as the prayer is shared.
After the bread, Jesus took a cup and blessed it, saying, “Take and drink, this is my blood which I have poured out for you.”
The Bible reminds us that life is in the blood. Jesus is not only emphasizing that he gave his life for us, but that he did so because of his unconditional love for us. His shed blood symbolizes not only that our sins are forgiven, but that they are also forgotten. That’s love.
As you take the cup, realize this is Jesus sharing his love for you.
Pray a blessing over the cup and the host share it with the table.
Now is time for fellowship and sharing a meal. If you need something, just ask the host of your table. Take this time to share what Christ has done in your life of the life of someone you know. Talk about what Christ is doing in your family, in our congregation, in our denomination. This is a time of fellowshipping with Christ. We didn’t just take the bread and wine to fulfill a requirement, but to acknowledge we are in communion with the Father, Son, Spirit and each other.
Pray a blessing over the meal. Hosts make sure all have plenty and direct the conversation to our relationship with Christ.
Give members 30-35 minutes to fellowship, then rise and continue the service.
A New Commandment
Jesus gave us a new commandment. Let me read it to you:
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know you are my disciples if you love one another (John 13:34-35).
Now if Jesus says something is new—like a command—don’t you think the disciples perked up their ears? Don’t you think we should pay attention? How do we love as he loved?
He had just demonstrated one form of love by washing their feet—taking the role of a servant. And in the next hours he would demonstrate his ultimate love by going to the cross—taking the role of a sinner. The point is sacrifice—Jesus did everything for us—his mind wasn’t on himself, but on us. He wants us to get our minds off ourselves and on to others. This is love; this is what is most important.
So we’ve covered two of Jesus’ emphases for the evening. One was to give a new definition and example of leadership. The other was to emphasize what is really important. They are obviously tied in together. True leaders are motivated by love.
The third thing Jesus emphasized on this last evening is communion—not just the bread and wine that we just took part of—but what true communion is all about.
He starts by telling them his Father’s house has plenty of room for all. He is preparing that place and will come and lead us there.
“How can we know the way to this house?” Thomas asks. Jesus replies:
I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:8).
When Philip asks Jesus to show them the Father, Jesus replies:
”Don’t you know me. Philip?… Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves” (John 14:6, 11).
Then he promises a new friend who would always be with them:
This Friend is the Spirit of Truth… He has been staying with you, and will even be in you. I will not leave you orphaned. I’m coming back… then you will know that I am in my Father, and you’re in me, and I’m in you (John 14:16-17 MSG).
This is communion! This is being included in the love and life of the Father, Son and Spirit.
I am the Real Vine and my Father is the Farmer… Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you…. I am the vine and you are the branches (John 15:1, 4-5 MSG).
See the emphasis on communion—on being included in who he is and what he is doing.
Then he ties in this communion with love.
I’ve told you these things for a purpose; that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father. You didn’t choose me, remember, I chose you… Remember the root command: Love one another (John 15:11-15, 17 MSG).
Continuing in John 16:
I’ve used figures of speech in telling you these things,. Soon I’ll drop the figures and tell you about the Father in plain language. Then you can make your requests directly to him in relation to this love I’ve revealed to you. I won’t continue making requests of the Father on your behalf. I won’t need to. Because you’ve gone out on a limb, committed yourselves to love and trust in me, believing I came directly from the Father, the Father loves you directly. First I left the Father and arrived in the world, now I leave the world and travel to the Father (John 16:25-28 MSG).
Finish by reading John 17 from the Message.
End with Prayer