Today Jesus’ disciples asked where he wanted to celebrate the Passover feast. He instructs them to enter Jerusalem and follow home a man carrying a jar of water, then to ask the master of the house about using his ready-for-feasting upper room. As the guest begin to arrive, Jesus washes their feet–a servant’s task. Then Jesus celebrates the Passover meal and changes it up, making himself the sacrificed one, instituting the Lord’s Supper. Jesus predicts the disciples will desert him and as Peter emphatically denies this, Jesus predicts his triple denial and that one of them will betray him. (From Mark 14, mostly)
The heaviness returns for me as I read the scripture for today. The celebration falls flat. There is tension at this feast, incomprehension, a sense of impending darkness. Jesus isn’t helping; he feels the weight of what must be done, the failure of the disciples to stay with him, Peter’s denial, Judas’ betrayal. His mood adds to the tension. He does the servant’s task of washing the disciples’ feet, making them uncomfortable. He passes the bread and cup and charges the disciples to eat of his body, his blood. Petty arguments break out. Eventually they finish their meal and head to the Mount of Olives–to Gethsemane–where the betrayal begins: no one is able to stay awake to watch and pray with Christ.
Almighty Father, whose dear Son on the night before he suffered, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood: Mercifully grant that we may receive it thankfully in remembrance of Jesus Christ our Lord, who in these holy mysteries gives us a pledge of eternal life, and who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. –from the 1979 Book of Common Prayer; the collect for Maundy Thursday.