–By Elizabeth Ahlman
Today’s assigned Old Testament reading from the 1-year lectionary is from Exodus 12.
The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, “This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you. Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household. And if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his nearest neighbor shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats, and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight.
“Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted, its head with its legs and its inner parts. And you shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the LORD’s Passover. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD. The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.”
“This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast. (Exodus 12:1–14 ESV).
Maundy Thursday is my favorite service of the whole church year. There’s just something about it. The quietness of it. The focus on Jesus’ final night with His disciples, the washing of their feet, the giving of the Lord’s Supper. The stripping of the altar, often while Psalms are chanted. The silence as people leave. The first of the Great Triduum (Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil), the service sets the tone for what is to come.
And we know what comes next. We know what Good Friday brings, how all will be still on Saturday. We know what the next days bring. And here is what is so amazing. Jesus knew too. Even as He washed His disciples’ feet and gave them His body and blood, He knew. He knew that Judas would betray Him with a kiss. He knew that all the disciples would flee in panic and desert Him. He knew that the young man would run away naked, leaving his robe in the hands of a servant of the chief priest. He knew that Peter would three times protest: “I do not know the man!” He knew that only one would stand at the foot of His cross as He died. He knew. And yet He gave them His gracious gifts on that Passover night.
He knows about us, too. He knows that we fail miserably day after day. He knows that we mock His gifts. He knows that we stay silent when others mock Him. He knows that we murder our families and our friends in our thoughts. He knows that we betray our spouses and dishonor our parents. He knows that we disdain His gifts for another hour of sleep. He knows that we flee from His grace and mercy. He knows now and He knew then. And yet Jesus lays Himself down upon the altar as the spotless Lamb whose shed blood covers the lintels of our homes and demands that death pass over us. He knows, and yet every Sunday He gifts us with His body and blood, instituted on that Thursday long ago. He knows, and yet our spotless Passover Lamb “goes uncomplaining forth.”
Let us Pray: Lord Jesus Christ, You are our spotless Passover Lamb, remind us each day of Your sacrifice and the gracious gifts You offer to us, so that we may be strengthened for service and comforted when we fail. In Your Name we pray, Amen.
Heavenly Father, You look on the struggles of Your people with love and compassion, send deliverance to those who suffer from persecution. Guide them to safety and send those who would protect them from harm; we pray this through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.