Maundy Thursday is about preparation.
Jesus’ disciples said to him, “Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?” Mark 14:12
The Passover Festival was a big deal in Jesus’ time; the festival centered on a meal that remembered God’s liberation of the Hebrew slaves from bondage in Egypt as told in the book of Exodus. Throughout the meal, Jews remembered God’s intervention and prayed for God’s continued activity in their lives. Jesus’ disciples needed to prepare for this meal with wine, bread and lamb.
According to Mark’s Gospel, Jesus gives elaborate instructions , “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the owner, “The Teacher asks, Where is the guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?” (Mark14:13-14) One wonders how Jesus knew that they would meet a man with a water jug? Had there been some secretive pre-planning by Jesus so as to avoid the temple officials? Or was this Jesus showing his “magical” powers?
Throughout the Holy Week story, Jesus sees the future unfolding in a specific way. He knows how to find a donkey’s colt for his entrance on Palm Sunday. He knows that the great temple will be destroyed. He knows that one of his disciples will betray him. He knows that Peter will deny him. Jesus knows.
I don’t think the Gospel writer is trying to answer great philosophical questions with telling the story in this way. Mark is not concern with pre-destination versus free-will. What matters for Mark is that Jesus understands and accepts his role in the story and especially his role to die and rise again. Jesus is LORD.
Three time prior to his coming to Jerusalem, Jesus had foretold that the Son of Man must suffer, be rejected, die and on the third day rise from the dead (Mark 8:31, 9:31 and 10:33-34). Even as Jesus and the disciples walk towards the Garden after the Passover meal, Jesus reminds them that he will be raised from the dead (Mark 14:28). Like the disciples, we may struggle to grasp the significance of the Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. We may not fully comprehend all that Jesus says and does. Events swirl beyond the control of his disciple, his enemies, or us. Yet Jesus continues to trust in God’s unfolding plan, even as he walks towards the cross and tomb.
Just as Jesus made preparations for the Passover Meal, he prepares his disciples and the readers of the Gospel for his death and for his resurrection. The meal becomes our place not only to remember his death, but also to claim the promise that he will drink the new wine with us in Kingdom of God (Mark 14:25). Jesus keeps his promises, including rising from the dead. Though we may scatter (like the disciples), he will gather us together as his children. He has prepared the way for us.
Lord Jesus, as you prepared to eat Passover with your disciples, so prepare us to eat with you at your table now and in the Kingdom to come. Amen.