A reflection on Maundy Thursday

Decisions, even in small matters, are not easy to make. And much less a decision which involves your own life or death but that was the decision which Jesus needed to make towards the end of the day which Christians call Maundy Thursday. Jesus had already celebrated the Passover Meal with his closest followers, the Passover which commemorated the deliverance centuries earlier of Jesus’ people from slavery to freedom. After the meal, Jesus took his followers outside the city to a place, thought to be an olive grove, called Gethsemane. There Jesus, “…began to be deeply distressed and troubled.” [Mk 14: 33b]. There, also, Jesus prayed, even whilst his closest followers found it difficult, if not impossible, to keep awake. The Bible records Jesus’ prayer in a few words, “Father, if thou art willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” [Lk 22:43].

Over the centuries Christians have reflected on those few words and, perhaps, one of the best reflections has come not from a bishop, priest or pastor but from a song-writer: Tim Rice in his words for the song “Gethsemane” from the musical, “Jesus Christ, Superstar.”. The song has Jesus wrestling between his will and his Father’s will until it ends with the words,

“God thy will is hard
But you hold every card
I will drink your cup of poison
Nail me to your cross and break me
Bleed me beat me kill me take me
Now before I change my mind
Now! Before I change my mind.”
[Lyrics Tim Rice © MCA Music Ltd.]

Those words, “Now! Before I change my mind.” are important. Jesus was not God’s robot. He could have decided not to go through with the crucifixion and God would have respected that choice. Later, when an armed crowd came to arrest Jesus, and his followers wanted to fight them, Jesus stopped them Jesus had made his choice.

Most of us are not faced with that sort of decision but some are. NHS staff, pharmacists and care workers who, despite improvements in supply, may not yet have full personal protective equipment; or police who risk been spat at as they try to ensure proper physical distancing. Yet those people still decide to go to work. If we are people of prayer let us pray for them, knowing that Jesus has been there, understands and is with us.

Gareth Lawrence Reader at St Mark’s Church Teddington

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