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Maundy Thursday and a Binary Eternal Choice

Jim Denison | Denison Forum | Updated: Mar 28, 2024
Maundy Thursday and a Binary Eternal Choice

Maundy Thursday and a Binary Eternal Choice


Ronna McDaniel was chairwoman of the Republican National Committee for seven years until her resignation earlier this month. Last Friday, NBC News announced that they had hired her as a contributor, stating, “It couldn’t be a more important moment to have a voice like Ronna’s on the team” and adding that “she will support our leading coverage by providing an insider’s perspective on national politics and on the future of the Republican Party.”

The move was immediately blasted by many of the network’s commentators, Joe Scarborough and Chuck Todd among them. Rachel Maddow called the decision “inexplicable” and said, “I hope they will reverse their decision.”

Four days later, the network cut ties with their new hire.

According to Fox, the decision “reinforces” the network’s “status as [an] anti-Trump, pro-Biden network.” By contrast, according to Maddow, McDaniel was “about undermining elections and going after democracy.”

And so, in our “philodoxical” (“love of opinion”) culture where all truth is subjective, what you believe before you read the news probably determines what you think after you read it.

Today in Holy Week illustrates the eternal significance of this fact.

Why did the Jewish people reject Jesus?

I have been privileged to lead more than thirty study tours to Israel over the years. Each time, someone asks me a variation of the question: “Why did the Jews reject Jesus?”

To summarize the complex answer:

  • There are two messianic themes in the Hebrew Bible: the Suffering Servant (cf. Isaiah 53) and the Conquering Hero (cf. Isaiah 9:7).
  • Jesus came the first time to fulfill the first; when he returns, he will fulfill the second (cf. Revelation 19:16).
  • However, over the centuries, the Jewish people largely came to believe that the nation of Israel was the “suffering servant” of Scripture, choosing to view their persecutions as fulfilling these predictions.
  • As a result, by the time of Christ, they were waiting for the Conquering Hero who would overthrow the Romans and reestablish their nation.

This is what the crowds thought Jesus came to do on Palm Sunday. When he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, they remembered the prophecy: “Your king is coming to you . . . mounted on a donkey . . . his rule shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth” (Zechariah 9:9–10). Accordingly, they greeted him by spreading their cloaks on the ground and laying palm branches before him (Matthew 21:8), both of which were responses to a king and a conqueror (cf. 1 Maccabees 13:51).

When Jesus refused to lead a revolt against Roman taxation and power, teaching the crowds to “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” (Mark 12:17) and submitting to secular authority, they rejected him as their Messiah and condemned him to crucifixion.

Why did the Jewish authorities reject him?

The religious authorities had a similar but different agenda.

They had already decided that Jesus could not be the Messiah, believing falsely that he had come “from Galilee” rather than “from Bethlehem” as prophesied by Scripture (John 7:41–4252). They therefore considered any messianic claims by Jesus to be heresy and blasphemy, a crime punishable by death (Leviticus 24:16).

They further saw his popularity as threatening their authority and their national future, fearing that if the crowds revolted at Jesus’ instigation “the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation” (John 11:48).

Accordingly, they convinced themselves that they were serving God and his chosen people by arranging for Jesus to be arrested on Maundy Thursday and executed on Good Friday. Even reports on Easter Sunday that he had been raised from the dead could not change their minds (Matthew 28:11–15), nor could the manifold miracles later performed in his name by his followers (cf. Acts 4:1–225:12–40).

From then until now, most Jews agree with their reasoning and therefore forfeit the blessing of knowing their Messiah.

“All of Jesus we want”

Maundy Thursday forces us to confront the same decision the Jewish people faced on this day so long ago: We can follow Jesus to the degree that our faith benefits us personally, or we can trust and serve him even (and especially) when we do not understand his ways and do not seem to profit personally from them.

We can attend church this Easter Sunday to keep a religious tradition, be with family, and perhaps incur God’s favor in response to our religiosity, but then sleep in the next week and the next. We can pray when we want something from God and choose to be religious to the degree that religiosity profits us. A wise mentor described the “faith” of many:

We have all of Jesus we want, but not all of Jesus we need.

Millions of Americans will make this transactional choice this Sunday, viewing Easter and the risen Christ through the lens of their personal preferences.

Conversely, we can stand with Jesus on Maundy Thursday even if others desert him. We can worship him on Good Friday even if others ridicule and reject him. We can trust him on Holy Saturday even when we do not see him. We can worship him on Easter Sunday with our heartfelt praise and passionate service. We can make the Suffering Servant our King of kings on Monday and every day until he comes for us or we go to him.

Maundy Thursday challenges us with a binary daily choice: the crowds or the Christ.

Your eternity will be shaped by your decision.

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Maundy Thursday and a Binary Eternal Choice