I only have one Maundy Thursday sermon and I give it every year. It is a deeply personal sermon, a testimony in many ways, for you see Maundy Thursday is the day, or the event, that above all makes me want to be Christian, a disciple of Jesus Christ. And, it is also the day that reminds me of both the enormity and simplicity of our calling - yours and mine.
It is the words that we have heard in the epistle and that are repeated in the Eucharistic Prayer that get to me: ‘On the night before he died.’ Well, we all know what happened the ‘on the night before he died.’ We all know that Jesus had ‘supper with his friends,’ and we all know what fickle friends they proved to be: one was to betray him, one was to deny him, and the others – except perhaps St John – deserted him. Jesus knew how fickle they were to be.
He knew that only the Marys and John were to make it to the very foot of the cross, and yet ‘on the night before he died, he had supper with his friends.’ On the night before he died, Jesus’ concern was to give to his friends, the apostles, the sacrament of the church. He gave them, in the face of his own agony, the means to keep going and to endure. He gave them the means of remembering him, so that we can be like him.
On the ‘night before he died’, Jesus’ only concern was to feed his friends, so that they in turn would be able to feed others, through word and deed. He gave to them the gift of a simple meal; the meal that to this day continues to feed His church. ‘On the night before he died’, Jesus also washed his apostles’ feet. Knowing what a fickle lot they would prove to be, he bathed them, cleansed them and absolved them, in advance. Jesus’ actions ‘on the night before he died’ are the epitome of ‘love so amazing, so divine’, a love which ‘demands my soul, my life, my all.’
So, let’s, this Maundy Thursday, give thanks for the friendship of Jesus, for the simple meal – the sacrament of the church – which he bequeathed to us, and commit to loving as he would have us love, for it is only through loving Jesus and loving one another that the world will know, beyond all doubt, that we are ‘his disciples.’
It is the events of the ‘night before he died’ that above all else persuade me, not only in my head, but in my very guts, that Jesus Christ truly is the Messiah,