Maundy Thursday: A Hard Fall
“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before the fall.” Proverbs 16:18
Read Luke 22:7-38
Today is Maundy Thursday, and our journey becomes more somber. I just returned from my church’s Maundy Thursday service. What an experience! As I sit to write about the events that are about to unfold, my mind is swimming. This morning, I planned to write about Judas, but as my day progressed, I was led in a different direction. Don’t get me wrong, Judas’ story is an important one. We hear a lot about him around this time of year, and most people can relate, though on a much smaller scale, to being betrayed by a loved one. But have you ever wondered about the other disciples and what they were experiencing?
We learn in Luke 22 that Jesus sends two disciples ahead of Him to Jerusalem to prepare for the Passover meal. Aren’t you curious who He sent? If I can keep my wits about me when I get to Heaven, that is one of those questions I plan to ask the Lord. In this instance, we don’t have to guess which disciples were chosen, Luke tells us. John and Simon Peter were chosen specifically for this task. Jesus knew what he was doing when he chose these two. There was a lot of work that went into preparing the Passover meal: the lamb had to be roasted; bitter herbs prepared; and bread made. Beth Moore observes that John and Peter were the only disciples that referred to Jesus as the Lamb. I chuckled thinking about a couple of manly men trying to plan and cook a celebratory meal. How many men plan and cook Christmas dinner for the family? No offense guys, I’m not too worried about the lamb. Men have been blessed with the unique ability to cook when fire is involved!
Not only did the meal have to be prepared, but the table had to be set. Oh, wait! Where’s the table? Before John and Peter could prepare the meal, they had to find a place to eat it. Notice their response to Jesus, “Where do you want us to prepare for it?” They don’t complain; they don’t waver. Jesus says, and they do. But what I like most about their response is they ask him how He wants them to carry out His plans. It demonstrates complete confidence and dependence on God’s direction. Oh, if we could be so wise when Jesus asks us to do something that we would simply turn it back to Him and ask how to do it and then trust that He’ll provide!
I am so encouraged that Jesus doesn’t leave them to figure it out on their own. He tells them precisely what do to in verses 10-12, and similar to the story of how the disciples found the donkey, so it is with the disciples finding the room to celebrate the Passover. Now, keep in mind that earlier in our study, we learned that there are potentially millions of Jews in town for the Passover celebration. Ever tried to get a hotel room in a city when something big is going on? Good luck with that! Maybe Peter and John were daunted at the seemingly impossible task of finding a place for the meal. But, isn’t it just like Jehovah Jireh to tell us to do something seemingly impossible and then miraculously provide the resources in order for us to accomplish it? Why? So that He gets every bit of the glory! It’s all of Him and none of us! Unlike the day of His birth when there was no room for Him in the inn, this time there was a room and it was completely furnished! God not only meets the need but exceeds it!
After the Maundy Thursday service, I went out with some of my friends to dinner. I couldn’t help but be reminded of Jesus and His disciples eating their last meal together. The disciples knew something was about to happen, they just hadn’t fully realized it yet. I’m sure they chatted about the events of the last few days. I can hear Bartholomew saying, “Hey Philip! What was your favorite parable?” Or maybe James kidded Matthew about how smelly his feet were before Jesus washed them. Can’t you see Jesus laughing at a joke Thomas may have said? I wonder if for a few moments Jesus was able to look past what lay before him and enjoy fellowship and laughter with His friends.
Maybe they reminisced about the look on the little boy’s face when the fish and bread multiplied, or how good the perfume smelled when Mary anointed Jesus with oil.
As the evening passed, the mood became more somber. We see the shift in the mood after Jesus poured the wine and broke the bread. The disciples begin bickering about who was the greatest. Remember, Jesus had just told them that he was going to suffer and be betrayed, but they turn the focus back to themselves! There is nothing like pride to put a damper on things and take our focus off of God. Solomon warns us in Proverbs about the dangers of pride. “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before the fall” (Proverbs 16:18). We are about to see this very verse lived out specifically in the life of Peter. If a good dose of pride takes our focus off of God, we can rest assured that a good dose of humility will bring us crawling back.
I’m sure it was shocking to Peter when Jesus tells him, “Satan has asked to sift you as wheat.” (v 31) The word “you” used here is plural. Satan had asked permission to sift all the disciples like wheat. He continues, “But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail.” (v 32) The word for “you” in this passage is pointing specifically to Peter. Jesus prayed specifically for Peter’s faith not to fail. After all, God would use Peter to build His church. Notice that Satan has to ask God for permission to touch those that belong to Him. Nothing comes to us that He hasn’t allowed. While our times of sifting are uncomfortable and difficult, we should find comfort in knowing that God has allowed it! Beth Moore writes, “Christ will not grant the devil permission to do anything that can’t be used for God’s glory and our good – if we let it.”[i]
Beth Moore also notes the differences between our faith being tested and a time of sifting. Being sifted is an “all out onslaught by the enemy to destroy you and make you quit.” Have you ever experienced a time like this in your life? I’m not sure that everyone requires the pain of sifting, but I do believe that those people that are a threat to Satan, those that can give the most glory to God, are sifted. If you go through or have gone through a season of sifting, I hope you are comforted in knowing that Jesus prays for your faith not to fail.
Moore also goes on to say that while Satan’s plan is to “make a mockery by showing us to be all chaff and not wheat,” God’s purpose in sifting is to “shake out the real from the unreal, the trash from the true.” God can use everything, including the devil, as He pleases to accomplish His glorious plan. “May God use it so thoroughly that the enemy ends up being sorry he ever asked permission.” [ii]
Jesus continues the conversation with Peter, “…and when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (v.32). The key word here is “when.” Not “if” but “when.” Notice that Christ doesn’t just tell Peter that he’s praying for him, but he also tells him that he is going to survive the sifting. Please allow me one more reference to Beth Moore. “From falling, Peter was about to learn how to stand…Christ didn’t want to take the leader out of Simon Peter. He just wanted to take the Simon Peter out of the leader.”[iii] And so Peter’s humiliation returns him to His Father, strong enough to help others. A time of sifting takes away our pride and brings us back to the cross so we can stand, in order to help others when they fall.