“Three times a year all your males shall appear before the LORD your God at the place that he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread (הַמַּצּ֛וֹת), at the Feast of Weeks (הַשָּׁבֻע֖וֹת), and at the Feast of Booths (הַסֻּכּ֑וֹת; Deuteronomy 16:16 ESV).
By Stephen W. Hiemstra
Holy Week as we know it is often celebrated at the same time as the Jewish Feast of Unleavened Bread (Festival of Matzos) often called Passover. Dates differ because of differences in the calendar rules. In Jesus’ time, Passover was one of three festivals that required the faithful to travel to Jerusalem. The other festival familiar to Christians is the Feast of Weeks commonly known as Pentecost. The Feast of Booths is a harvest festival in the fall.
Passover commemorates the release of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt. God instructed Moses to tell the Israelite to sacrifice a lamb and place the blood of the lamb over their door-posts so that the angel of death would pass them by. On the night of the Passover, the angel of death struck down the first born of Egypt and passed over the Israelite households. Pharaoh reacted immediately by expelling the Israelite slaves. They left so quickly that there was not time to bake bread for the journey. Instead, they prepared bread without letting the dough rise—unleavened bread (Exodus 12). Mark 14:12-26 describes how Jesus and his disciples celebrated the Passover meal in Jerusalem now remembered as the Last Super.
Covered by the Blood
The Last Super is important to Christians because it introduces the new covenant in Christ. The word, covenant, found in v. 24 appears nowhere else in Mark’s Gospel and alludes to the covenant meal that Moses and the Elders of Israel shared with God on Mount Sinai (Exodus 24:9-11). The grim symbolism of the wine as the blood of Christ is an allusion to the blood of the Passover lamb (Exodus 12:7) which alerted the angel of death to pass over households displaying the blood. In this sense, as Christians we are (like the door posts) covered by the blood of Christ. By Jesus’ blood our sins are forgiven and we are passed over (Hebrews 9:11-28).
Where Does Maundy Thursday Come From?
Where does the name, Maundy Thursday, come from? One theory is that it is Middle English for the Latin word, Mandatum, which means command. According to some traditions, Maundy Thursday focuses on Jesus’ lesson on servant leadership: “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14 ESV).
Narrative sermon given at Riverside Presbyterian Church (www.RiversideChurch.com), Sterling, VA on Sunday, April 6, 2014. The narrative of Jesus’s arrest in John 18 is told from the perspective of the Apostle Peter who leans on a shepherd’s staff as he speaks.
Good morning! Welcome to Riverside Presbyterian Church. This morning we continue our preparation for Easter with the account of the arrest of Jesus in John Gospel.
Heavenly father, thank you for your presence among us this morning. Grant us mouths that speak and ears that listen. In the precious name of Jesus, Amen.
Sermon Text: John 18:1-12
Why did he lead us to that place?
He must known. Why? Why? Why?
My mind plays tricks on me when I remember that evening. The sun had gone down but the moon was so bright that it cast a shadow ; yet, I keep thinking that it was dark and stormy—it’s that brook Kidron—outside the camp—with all those tombs. It is no wonder that the priests have thrown unholy things there since ancient times . Some think that Ezekiel, in his vision of the valley of dead bones , had this place in mind.
Why did the teacher lead us to that cursed place?
Oh yeah, I know. It was the garden. Why did he love that garden so much? It is like it reminded him of Eden. Of course, Eden had its beauty; it was peaceful and God was with us. But, Eden was also had a betrayer. Death began because of what happened in Eden .
Oh, but he must have known and he must have seen that cohort of soldiers with lanterns, torches, and weapons (v 3) walking down from temple mount and back up the ravine. That tribune loves his cohort. Five hundred men  lit up at night cannot hide in a place like that.
Yes, he must have known, but all he asked us was to wake up and keep watch while he prayed. Yet, all we did was doze after that big meal . Who doesn’t want to sleep after feasting at Passover?
Guess who was leading that parade? (v 3)
I should have known he was unreliable. His name, Judas Iscariot, says it all. He’s not a Galilean, but a Judean. People said he came from Kerioth; people called him a zealot . The teacher had words with him about that woman crying and wiping her hair with the perfume the week before . Seemed that guy only cared about money .
Yeah, it was Judas leading the parade. Such a sight to see Judas leading that pack to the garden in the middle of the night.
Still, Jesus was fearless—I will never forget. How could someone who healed people and talked so much of peace speak with such authority? How could someone like that so remind me of the Judah’s blessing—the lion’s cub and ruler over his brothers . Jesus was fearless.
Jesus asked them: who do you seek? (2X; v 4)
The words still ring in my ears. The words swept over the parade like a hurricane. The tribune was so startled that he fell to his knees on the ground like a man in deep prayer. The whole cohort followed him down. Even Judas and the Jews with him fell to their knees (v 6). All he asked was: who do you seek?
Meekly, someone answered: Jesus of Nazareth.
Jesus responded: ἐγώ εἰμι. I am.
They said nothing; they did nothing. They were looking back and forth at one another like lost sheep. Did Judas think that he could force God’s Messiah  to do his bidding; force God’s Messiah to pick up a sword; force God’s Messiah to assume a crown?
Jesus asked again: who do you seek?
This time the answer was more convincing: Jesus of Nazareth.
To this Jesus responded: I told you that I am he. If it is me that you want, then send these other men away (v 8).
When I heard those words, I just lost it—Jesus was surrendering to these hooligans. I drew my sword and attacked Malchus, the leader of the Jews. But he saw me coming and got out of the way. Oh, my goodness. What does a fisherman  known about swords? Well, he did not get completely away—I did chop off his right ear! (v 10)
Jesus said: Rock, put the sword away (v 11).
What?!!! Why would God’s Messiah give up without a fight? I could not believe it. Later, I remembered how Jesus washed my feet earlier in the evening . Later, I thought, How could my feet be clean if my hands were covered with blood? Later, later, why is it always later than we think about what we are doing?
The sword is Satan’s tool—even the tribune and his mighty cohort did not yield the sword that night. Why did I?
Then, Jesus said to me: shall I not drink from the cup given me? (v 11)
Jesus knew my future that night—I would deny him three times before it was over —why now did I insist on resisting God’s will for my life? Why? I survived that fateful evening only because Jesus prayed for me.
Judas, he was not so lucky—after he tried to force God’s hand and failed, he killed himself . How could he know that in obedience, Jesus would vanquish the betrayer; vanquish death itself? Maybe that is why he returned to the garden—may be Ezekiel was right: the dead do rise again.
Why was it so hard to answer Jesus’ question that night: who do you seek? Funny, Jesus asked us the same question when we first met him—first followed him—by the lake in Galilee. Who do you seek?  Who do you seek?
Heavenly father, beloved Son, Spirit of all Truth. Guard our hearts from the temptation to try to force our will on you rather than accept your will for us. Grant us a spirit of contentment to allow you to remain in control of our lives. In Jesus’ precious name. Amen.
Lowry, Eugene L. 2001. The Homiletical Plot: The Sermon as a Narrative Art Form. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press.
 At the First Counsel of Nicaea (325 AD), Easter was determined to be the first Sunday following the full moon after the spring equinox (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computus).
 BDAG(Ἰσκαριώθ 3742) The mng. of the word is obscure; s. Wlh. on Mk 3:19; Dalman, Jesus 26 (Eng. tr. 51f). It is usu. taken to refer to the place of his origin, from Kerioth )in southern Judea; …Another interpr. connects it w. σικάριος (q.v.), ‘assassin, bandit’.