Be sure to have some bread and wine/juice prepared and with you, so that you can take part with us in the Lord’s Table. This service covers the events of the Last Supper to the Garden of Gethsemane, and (if possible) should commence at 7 pm on Thursday, April 9th. An additional service guiding through the trial and crucifixion of Jesus has been prepared for you to go through on Good Friday morning at 11 am.
Welcome & Introduction
This evening we are gathering together to read and reflect on the account of the night that Jesus was betrayed and arrested. Just prior to that happening, He celebrated the Passover meal with His disciples for one last time. We will be inserting ourselves into this story as we take part in the Last Supper with them. Over the years, the practice of Communion has bound Christians together, reminding us of the incredible sacrifice that Jesus was willing to endure on our behalf. That God would die for us is the most extraordinary event to happen in all of history.
But on that night before the cross, they were just a group of disciples with their Rabbi; experiencing the tension packed Passover festival; wondering what was going to happen next!
Prayer of Approach and Confession
Let’s prepare our hearts for this encounter with history, by once again using this poem by the Methodist pastor and poet Ted Loder:
by Ted Loder (from Guerrillas of Grace)
Gracious and Holy One,
Creator of all things
and of emptiness,
I come to you
full of much that clutters and distracts,
stifles and burdens me,
and makes me a burden to others.
Empty me now
of gnawing dissatisfactions,
of anxious imaginings,
of fretful preoccupations,
of nagging prejudices,
of old scores to settle,
and of the arrogance of being right.
of the ways I unthinkingly think of myself as powerless,
as a victim,
as determined by sex, age, race,
as being less than I am,
or as other than Yours.
of the disguises and lies
in which I hide myself from other people
and from my responsibility
for my neighbours and for the world.
Hollow out in me a space
in which I will find myself,
find peace and a whole heart,
a forgiving spirit and holiness,
the spring of laughter,
and the will to reach boldly
for abundant life for myself
and the whole human family.
Judas Agrees to Betray Jesus – Matthew 26:14-25
14 Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests 15 and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver. 16 From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.
17 On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”
18 He replied, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.’” 19 So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover.
20 When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. 21 And while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.”
22 They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?”
23 Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”
25 Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?”
Jesus answered, “You have said so.”
Of all the characters in the Easter Story, Judas is the most difficult to understand. He had spent three years with Jesus and knew Him well, yet here he is offering to betray Him for money. There are many different reasons people have given over the ages for why Judas did what he did. Some said he was greedy; some that he was power hungry and wanted to earn the favour of the chief priests; and still others held that he was really just trying to force Jesus’ hand – to get the ‘revolution’ started.
Whatever his motivation, Judas made a choice to end all the uncertainty and tension that was in the air and take matters into his own hands. If we assume Judas was just greedy for money or power, he is easy to villainize and dismiss. But if we consider that his desire was to take control and do things his own way, then that is another story – he becomes less of a cartoonish character and begins to resemble someone we know. Us.
Have there been times when you have opted to not wait on God’s timing and forge ahead with your own plans? If so, then maybe you can have a little sympathy for Judas. It is true that God took this action and used it for His ultimate good – because that is what God does! In these few moments, ask God to help you to remember a time when He took your sinful actions and used it for good?
“Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?”
The First Communion – Matthew 26:26-30
26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”
27 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the[a] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
30 When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
Can you even imagine how strange these words would have sounded to the disciples that evening? The Passover meal was something they all would have participated in once a year for their whole lives. It was an ancient ritual that celebrated God’s act of freeing the Israelites from their Egyptian overlords; a reminder of when God began the process of transforming them into a nation – His nation! There would be many hard years ahead of those newly freed slaves, but from that moment on they would only answer to God.
And here was Jesus changing up the ritual! First, He broke the unleavened bread that symbolized the same bread the Israelite slaves had hastily baked on the night that the angel of death passed over them (Exodus 12). As Jesus passed the pieces around the table to everyone there, He told them that from now on it would represent to them His body. As you take the bread you have set aside for communion today, spend a few moments in prayer remembering that while Jesus was in every way God, He was also in every way human. As humans we go to great lengths to care for our bodies. Eat the bread and remember that Jesus loves you so much that He was willing to sacrifice His body for you. (Prayerfully eat the bread)
And then, after the rituals of the Passover meal was complete, Jesus passed around the cup of wine. This was a most unusual act, as the cup was traditionally left untouched; poured out for Elijah, who they expected to one day bring with him the Messiah. By passing around that particular cup, Jesus was saying that the time had now come; that Elijah (John the Baptist) had come and the Messiah was here! It is hard to know exactly what the disciples might have been feeling in that moment – excitement to skepticism to confusion would all be possibilities. But one thing is for sure – they would not have been anticipating the events that were about to unfold over the next 24 hours! They most certainly would not have understood the symbolism of the wine as representing Jesus blood – the sacrifice to end all sacrifices. As you drink from the cup of Elijah this evening, prayerfully remember that we have a God who is trustworthy and true: a God who has kept His promises and given us a Saviour through whom we can draw closer to Him than we could ever imagine! (Prayerfully drink from the cup)
Dear Heavenly Father,
We have joined with the disciples through the broken bread and the cup this evening. As we continue on this journey to the cross and beyond, may we always come back to this moment when you so clearly declared yourself to the disciples, and through them to us. You are our Messiah, our Deliverer, our Lord; who loves us so much that You gave your one and only Son. May our faith be renewed, and may we more fully enter into the eternal life that you have promised us.
We pray in the Holy Name of Jesus, amen.
Hymn: And Can It Be
As a time of reflection, play the provided link to the song “And Can It Be,” led for us by Stuart Townend. If you feel comfortable, sing it out loud and envision us singing it together in the Church sanctuary.
There is so much more that Matthew tells us happened on the way to the cross. Judas would betray, Peter would deny, and Jesus would reveal to us His humanity as He prayed to His heavenly Father in the Garden of Gethsemane. His prayer was a fusion of obedience and resolve, but it was also an honest prayer asking if there could possibly be another way; confirming the necessity of all that was to happen. The pain Jesus would endure was real – no less painful than if it happened to us. The shame and humiliation that was to be heaped on Him would penetrate His humanity to the core.
“My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.”
As you read the final passage for this evening, remember these words of Jesus that so fully display both His humanity and His divinity: revealing Him to be fully man and fully God, whose amazing love for us we can only begin to grasp.
New International Version (NIV)
31 Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written:
“‘I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’
32 But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”
33 Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.”
34 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.”
35 But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same.
36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”
43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.
45 Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”
Dear Heavenly Father,
We leave you this evening with hearts that are restless. We know we have given ourselves to you, and yet we also know that we too often deny and abandon you. We are trusting in You for our Salvation, yet we too often trust our own judgement more. We are seeking your Spirit to fill us and transform us according to Your desires, yet we find ourselves focused more on seeking our own desires. We long to stay fully awake in Your Holy presence, yet we are distracted and weary. We resolve to stand up for You and share You with others, yet we too easily deny you, or choose to say nothing.
Forgive us Lord as we fall short of your calling on our lives. May our shortfalls serve to draw us closer to You.
And as we draw closer to the cross, may we open up our hearts to the redeeming love of God, revealed to us in Jesus Christ,
In whose Name we pray, amen.
Reflecting on The Faithfulness of Jesus
“Even If” by Mercy Me
As we conclude our time together, hear the words of the Band, “Mercy Me” as they sing “Even If.” As Jesus prayed in the Garden, He prayed knowing that no matter what the circumstances, His greatest desire was to remain faithful to God. That is our calling too.
This night is our calling to go into the world, scattered to the ends of the earth to love as Christ loved and serve in the name of Christ.
It is our calling to remember, even in our darkest hour, who we are.
We remember that Christ is always with us.
And we remember that on this night, we were taught how to love.
On this night, eternity begins and the fullness of God’s Reign begins to spill into our lives.
So go into the world to give yourself for others, in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.
Go into the world and love in the name of the One who loved you until the end.
It all begins and ends and begins again with Love.
That IS the story.
(by Rev. Shelli Williams)