Maundy Thursday

Everyone agree
that we tend to think of tonight
as the commemoration of a sad night for Jesus?
What with the last supper,
the apparent awareness of all that lay ahead of him,
the betrayals of those closest to him,
the night of agonizing prayer
that the night might not hold all that it did,
the arrest, the trials and tribulations.
It was a night of endings,
of changes, and goodbyes—
a night of nothing will the be same after tonight,
a night of profound sadness.
Isn’t that how we read it?
Isn’t that how we feel it?

So what do you think,
was it a night of great anger too?
I mean how could Jesus not have been angry?

And some of that, I do believe, bleeds out.
Anger bleeds out in the anguished prayers of the night.
Anger bleeds out in the statement:
“You will betray me!”
You think that was simply matter of fact?
Anger bleeds out in the question
that I imagine was shouted:
“Can’t you three numbskulls even stay awake with me?”—
a loose paraphrase—
of what is actually a string of four letter
untranslatable aramaic words
seemingly comprised of random symbols
from the ancient aramaic typewriter keyboard!

So I was wondering,
where did that anger go?
Keeping deep anger bottled up inside isn’t healthy.
We know that.
Jesus knew that.
Jesus was healthy.
Where did his anger go?

A lot of it went into his praying that night.
He knew God can handle our anger.
He knew that.
God was an appropriate trusted person to hear his anger.
Some of it leaked out onto his disciples,
but they didn’t bear the brunt of it.

So did most of it go into the prayers—
to God?

And so then it also occurred to me to wonder,
why was Jesus angry?
That might seem obvious,
but anger often isn’t—
obvious.

Maybe we need to quickly make sure
we know what we’re talking about
when we talk about anger.
One of the best definitions of anger I’ve ever come across
comes from one of my seminary professors, Andy Lester,
who defined it as reaction to a perceived threat—
not just to ourselves,
also to things and people we care about—
things and people important to us.

So was Jesus angry at his circumstances?
His life, his safety, his well-being
were all certainly threatened that long ago night.
None of that meant as much to him though
as it would have to us.
We’ve said before,
consistency to his story mattered more to him
than did protecting his circumstances.

How about his ministry?
Was his ministry threatened? His teaching?
Those were important to him,
but I think he knew himself to have been true to them.
I don’t think he saw tonight as any kind of failure
of his ministry or his teaching.
If anything, it was more vindication

Nietzsche once wrote:
by our best enemies we do not want to be spared.
He knew the value of a good enemy.
And Jesus was good enemy to the status quo—
persistent threat to the status quo—
and was eliminated to preserve the status quo.

Are we—
threat to the status quo
in our consistency to the story of God?

Was he threatened by the choices of those he loved?
Ah.
Yes.
For didn’t they all fall short of the story to which he was so committed?

So was he angry at them?
Yes, I think there was anger there—
had to have been—
to honor the love.

And I think they knew that—
knew he was angry,
in the midst of all going on that night,
angry at them …,
but within so much love
so much understanding
and sadness.

None of which takes the anger away,
but places it within a larger whole
that makes it bearable
for the disciples
for Jesus
and for us.

And then there was Jesus’ trust—
his trust in this story that would continue
in them,
and in us—
that the choices made
weren’t the last ones to be made—
such that hope
was ever bigger than anger,
and love bigger than all.

So consider this night,
sadness, yes—
and anger,
but, more importantly trust and hope—
and most importantly, love.

It’s critical to get the order right.
Sadness and anger
because of love.
And love that leads to trust.
Trust that brings assurance and hope
amidst it all—
even amidst the sadness and the anger.

We commemorate this night
a sad night—
a night of grief and of anger—
a night after which nothing was ever the same,
but all because of a love
after which nothing is ever the same either—
a love we trust—
hopefully—
still.

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