Maundy Thursday – “Fight Like Jesus” review

  • Read the overview of the book “Fight Like Jesus” by Jason Porterfield here.
  • Read about Palm Sunday here.
  • Read about Holy Monday here.
  • Read about Holy Tuesday here.
  • Read about Holy Wednesday here.

Thursday. The day it all changes. Or maybe not. Maybe it’s the day everyone thinks is the culmination of the week’s events. The day that changes things. The day where it becomes inevitable that Jesus will die.

Or maybe we have it all wrong.

When we get to Thursday, all the action in the Temple is done. So are the debates. It’s now time for something else. Jesus is busy. Doing what? Forming community and teaching how to live.

And boy does he have some vital lessons for us.

“Jesus infused the Passover meal with scandalous new meaning. If Jesus had been a violent messiah (as so many wanted him to be), he would have torn the bread, poured the wine, and said, ‘This is my enemy’s body. Break it for me. And this is my enemy’s blood. Shed it for me.’ Instead, as Catholic activist John Dear writes, ‘Jesus turns that logic upside down and offers a new covenant of nonviolence, saying: ‘This is my body broken for you! This is my blood shed for you!’ After this, Jesus immediately models his commitment to nonviolence by warning of Judas’ betrayal, yet allowing Judas to leave unharmed.” (Pg. 119).

Yesterday I saw a meme that summarized this very well. It said “Until we’re willing to dine with our Judas, we’ll never truly know the love of Christ.” Who are the Judases in our lives that we need to dine with – the very people who will betray us? Why is this important? Simple. We’re all Judas to Jesus. Every one of us. How quickly will we turn Jesus over and betray him while we run to the false idols that that we embrace – our partisan allegiances, our money, our intelligence, our strength, our possessions, our belief that we are right, etc. Thanks be to God that Jesus dined with Judas. He invites us to dine with him every Sunday too, knowing that because of sin, we’ll betray him. Yet, his love is not of this world. He offers forgiveness and mercy and grace.

It’s during the meal that Jesus offers the new command – Love one another. Why is this command new? Porterfield offers two points on this. “First, this command is new because, with these words, Jesus has declared himself to be the new standard of love. No longer are we simply to love others as we love ourselves – which is good news, since we often don’t love ourselves very well. Instead, for the first time ever, Jesus commands us to love in the same way he has loved us. Our love is to look like his love.” (pg. 122).

Second, “it’s crucial for us to know that this command is addressed to a group of people, not an individual.” (Pg. 123). In other words, it’s not a command to love others, but each other in community. It’s not an outward love per se. Porterfield uses an illustration of a box with all the corners connecting to one another, not just the ends being connects. This represents what Porterfield is arguing – “Each person is both giving love and receiving love.” (Pg. 125). It’s about commitment to one another and holding each other up. If all we ever do is give, we’ll run out of what we have. We’ll go empty. We need to receive as well.

Which leads to Porterfield’s first lesson for Thursday – Christlike peacemakers form communities of love that welcome others in so they can experience Christ’s love. Church is meant to proclaim the love of Christ and invite people into that love – to both receive it and to give it. That’s what healthy relationships are about.

The second part of Thursday has to do with the discussion around Jesus’ telling the disciples to sell what they have and buy a sword. This often seen as Jesus’ acceptance of violence as legitimate. But that would be misreading what is going on.

Jesus did tell his disciples to get swords. But “If Jesus intended for the swords to be used for self-defense, why did he say two swords were enough? Surely two swords shared between twelve men were not enough to protect the group from attack.” (Pg. 132)

The reason is expressed in Luke 22:36-37 – “‘If you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. For it is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me.’ Why did Jesus want his disciples to buy swords? It was so that Isaiah’s messianic prophecy might be fulfilled in him.” (Pg. 134)

“Transgressors – literally refers to a person who operates outside the law. That is to say, Jesus instructed his disciples to buy swords so the the might be counted among the lawless. Because of the swords, Jesus would be labeled an outlaw.” (Pg. 134).

But his disciples didn’t even understand this. While they are at the Mount of Olives and Jesus is praying, the temple guards come with Judas to arrest Jesus and the disciples ask “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” (Luke 22:49). But here’s the catch. They didn’t wait for an answer. They went ahead and struck. It was the servant who suffers as a result. The poor always suffer at the hands of the powerful. And Jesus does what he always does – he heals the outcast and the one on the margins.

Which leads to lesson 2 – Christlike peacemakers exchange their weapons of war for tools that cultivate life and healing.

And finally everyone deserts Jesus. This may be the most fascinating part of the story.

“When the mob arrived armed with clubs and swords to arrest Jesus, the disciples stayed by his side. They were ready to kill for Jesus, and perhaps even to die for him. But as soon as the disciples realized that Jesus refused to fight, Mark writes, ‘Then everyone deserted him and fled’ (Mark 14:50)…As theologian Edward Sri explains, at the start the disciples left everything to follow Jesus (Mark 10:28). But now, one of them left everything behind in order to stop following Jesus.” (Pg. 139).

Tomorrow we’ll turn to the events of Good Friday.

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