Sermon: Maundy Thursday Reflections
Text: Matthew 26:30-36
Preacher: Patrick H. Wrisley, D.Min.
Location: First Pres DeLand
Date: April 13, 2017, Maundy Thursday
For the last two months, we as a congregation have been looking earnestly at what it means to be called by God. We learned that our primary call is to love the Lord our God with everything in us. We are then to turn that love outward in expressions of grace and care to those sisters and brothers about us whether we know them or not. Well, Maundy Thursday is like a semester final to see how well they both learned and lived out their call; tonight, we witness how well the first twelve disciples did in their test as to knowing what their calls were. Tonight, we see that when the tires of their discipleship hit the hard realities of life’s road, they each failed miserably.
Maundy Thursday, the beginning of the Triduum – the three days leading up to Easter morning – is a disciple’s final exam in Christ-followership. It is our exam on whether or not we fully understand and grasp God’s call upon our lives. The question looms before us: Will you or I do any better than the Twelve?
Having just finished reinterpreting the Passover meal, Jesus takes the disciples to a place adjacent to Jerusalem and the Temple. There on the top of the Mount of Olives, Jesus looks across the Kedron Valley to look at Jerusalem softly glowing in the night’s light. The disciples are confused at all that is going on and they are totally clueless as to what is about to happen next. Gazing west towards Jerusalem, Jesus comes right out and paints the picture.
31Then Jesus said to them, “You will all become deserters because of me this night; for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ 32But after I am raised up, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.” 33Peter said to him, “Though all become deserters because of you, I will never desert you.” 34Jesus said to him, “Truly I tell you, this very night, before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.” 35Peter said to him, “Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And so said all the disciples.
Those of us from the South listen to Peter and we slowly shake our heads and say with provincial sarcasm, “Bless your heart.” We realize that Peter, ironically, is committing the very same sin as Judas committed as well as the sin our first parents in the Garden of Eden did: He is guilty of hubris. You know, hubris. The prideful knowledge that one has when he or she knows better than everyone else around them. Adam and Eve tried to eat of the fruit of knowledge because they wanted to know what God knows. It was a classic fail.
Then there’s Judas. Judas, one of Jesus’ Twelve who believed he knew how Jesus should act and behave more than Jesus did himself and sold Jesus out to the authorities for thirty coins. Again, it was a classic fail.
Now Peter. Peter raises himself above the other disciples and boldly declares in verse 32, “Even if THEY desert you, I will never desert you!” Dear Peter. He keeps piling it up on himself when in verse 35 he blurts out, “I will not deny you!” I don’t think Peter was trying to throw the other disciples under the bus by inferring he was better than they; rather, it appears Peter had an overstated understanding of his own sense call with Jesus. I think he believed, like many of us do if we are honest, that he “got” Jesus and what Jesus was and is all about. In his mind, he has figured out what it means to follow Jesus. Perhaps it is because Jesus called him The Rock of the Church; maybe it was because Peter was one of the Fab Four key disciples Jesus always called upon. Sweet Peter. He felt so confident in his walk and relationship with Jesus. Sadly, like those before him, Peter’s answer and subsequent actions both italicized and bolded the indicia of his hubris. It, too, was a classic fail.
Peter and the other disciples failed the test that night. When presented with their call to love the Lord God at all costs, they turned tail and ran for their own lives. They all denied him. I have no doubt Peter and the others have ringing in the back of their minds Jesus’ words from an earlier Story when Jesus shared, “The one that denies me before others shall be denied before the angels of God.”
Beloved, tonight reminds us that we have failed, are failing, and will fail the exam, the test as well. Tonight, is the night Jesus asks you and me at the Table: Whom or what do you follow? Before we proudly exclaim like Peter, “Of course it’s you, Lord!”, perhaps we need to hold our tongues and be honest with ourselves, with one another, and most importantly, with God. We know what our call is. We know who it is we are to follow and love. Yet each of us in our own ways in the specific circumstances of our lives has denied him, too. Just like Adam and Eve, Judas, and Peter before us, we fail classically at it as well.
Beloved, as we make our way through the Triduum, let us prayerfully reflect whether or not we take our calls seriously. Let us prayerfully reflect if Jesus is the core of your life and mine or is Jesus and our life in Christ a simple add-on.
Let the Spirit speak to each of us. Amen.
Patrick H. Wrisley, D.Min.
Senior Pastor and Teaching Elder
First Pres DeLand
724 North Woodland Avenue
DeLand, FL 32720
© 2017 Patrick H. Wrisley. Sermon manuscripts are available for the edification of members and friends of First Presbyterian Church, DeLand, Florida and may not be altered, re-purposed, published or preached without permission. All rights reserved.