Thursday of Holy Week

A lot happens on Holy Thursday, also known as Maundy Thursday. Maundy Thursday is based on John’s story and not found in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke). Maundy is Latin for the “mandate” – the new commandment that Jesus gives his followers in John 13:34: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”


Here is a quick summary of what happened on this dramatic Thursday according to Mark’s Gospel: Jesus has his last supper, a Passover meal, with his twelve disciples; Jesus predicts Peter’s denial and tells all twelve that all of them will become deserters; Jesus prays at Gethsemane; Judas gives Jesus the “kiss of death” and betrays him; Jesus is interrogated and condemned to death by the high priest and his council; Peter denies Jesus three times.

The Last Supper, as Christians call it today, is a Passover meal in the Synoptic Gospels. In John’s Gospel the final meal is not mentioned but is replaced by the washing of the disciples’ feet (John 13:3-11). During this final meal Jesus tells Peter that he will deny him, not once, but three times. It’s also interesting to note that Jesus tells all of his twelve disciples that they “all will become deserters.” And sure enough, when Judas arrives with the chief priests, scribes and elders, all twelve disciples “deserted him and fled” (Mark 14:50). As the story goes in Mark, the chief priests and his council end up condemning Jesus to death for blasphemy (Mark 14:64).

Here’s a couple of interesting things about the crowd that shows up with Judas. First of all, Mark says the “crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders” (Mark 14:43). Mark is talking about a crowd of temple authorities – probably 20-40 people at the most? John describes the crowd entirely different. He says that the crowd was a “speira” (Greek meaning about 600 soldiers) along with the priests, scribes and elders. So, now we’re talking 600-650 people or so. How many people does it take to arrest Jesus? But here’s the bizarre part. In John’s writing when Jesus answers, “I am he,” all six hundred soldiers fall to the ground (John 18:4-6). What was all that about? That would be a neat party trick!

The other interesting thing in Mark versus John in the incident where the high priest’s slave gets his ear cut off. Mark says, “One of those who stood near drew his sword and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear” (14:47). Well, John’s Gospel tells you exactly who does the cutting – it was Peter! And he also tells you the name of the slave, Malchus (18:10). Which brings up the question, Were all of the disciples – the twelve – armed with a sword or other weapons? The Gospels of Matthew and Luke are also different but I’ll let you read the Bible for yourself to see what they say.

Hey, I hear that Tennessee is trying to make the Bible the State Book. Other Southern States have tried – and failed. All I can say is, READ your BIBLES! And have more coffee! What would you say to making Coffee our State Drink?  Yeah!

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