Park Hill Congregational UCC
Rev. Dr. David Bahr
A Maundy Thursday Reflection
April 1, 2021
“They Were Punched, Spat Upon, and Pummeled with Metal Pipes”
Matthew 26: 26-28 – New Revised Standard Version
"While they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take and eat. This is my body.” He took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from this, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of their sins.
In the sequence of events, earlier in the week, two days before the Passover, Jesus told his disciples he would be handed over to be crucified.
At the same time, the chief priests and elders of the people were gathered in the palace of the high priest, Caiaphas. They were conspiring to arrest Jesus in secret and kill him. But, not during the festival, or they will riot. Judas Iscariot, one of the 12, went to the chief priests and offered to betray Jesus. And they paid him 30 pieces of silver.
On the first day of Unleavened Bread, arrangements were made for the meal. And while they were eating, Jesus told them that one of them would betray him. All of them, including Judas, said, “Not me, Lord. Surely, not I.”
In Matthew 26:26-28 it says, "While they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take and eat. This is my body.” He took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from this, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of their sins.
Afterward, he told his disciples that all of them would desert him that night, but Jesus promised he would never desert them. Peter said, I will never do that to you, but Jesus told him that by the end of the night, he would deny him three times.
Jesus then went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray, asking God to “let this cup pass from me, but not my will, but your will, be done.” Jesus asked the disciples to stay awake while he prayed, but instead the disciples kept falling asleep.
After this happened a third time, Judas arrived with a large crowd carrying swords and clubs. The disciples deserted him and all fled. Peter watched from a distance. And denied knowing Jesus three times.
From the Garden, Jesus was led away to the palace of the high priest. Many false witnesses came forward. Jesus refused to answer their charges. When the high priest said, “tell us if you are the Messiah,” Jesus replied, “You have said so.”
The high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has blasphemed.” He asked the crowd, “What is your verdict?” They answered, “He deserves death.” Then they spat in his face and struck him; and some slapped him, saying, “Prophesy to us, you Messiah! Who is it that struck you?”
They spat in his face and struck him. All of this before they took him to the Romans. And then back and forth he went.
In recent weeks, Asian Americans riding subway cars in New York City have reported being punched, spat upon, and pummeled with metal pipes.
I read that and my heart broke. The heart of Jesus broke. Why? Another ugly consequence of the former president’s racist terms about the coronavirus. But he had just tapped into centuries of anti-Asian bias. One of many forms of white supremacy.
On Monday, a 65-year-old unidentified Asian woman walked along West 43rd Street in New York City, reportedly heading to church. An attacker yelled, “F--- you, you don’t belong here,” and began assaulting her.
The man kicked her in the stomach, knocked her to the sidewalk, and then brutally stomped on her head again and again. Video shows a man in the lobby of a building watching the whole attack, staring out the glass doors as the woman was repeatedly kicked in the head, but he made no move to assist her. Not even by calling 911. Two other men, security guards, walked toward the entrance. To close the door on the victim.
This week we are nervously watching the trial of George Floyd’s murderer. Bystanders did try to intervene, including the 17-year-old girl who recorded all 9 minutes and 20 seconds of the officer who knelt on Mr. Floyd's neck, longer than even necessary to completely choke all the life out of a breathing man.
Our hearts break over and over about incidents like this. And the 8 victims in Atlanta. 10 victims in Boulder, including an officer who tried to protect others. And 4 more last night in California. Each time, entire communities victimized and devastated.
And Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to the disciples. He took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them.
Why? It is in this way, he said, that you re-member me. You become my Body in the world. My hands to offer compassion. My feet to walk for justice. This is not an empty ritual. Each time we eat this bread and drink this cup, it is our call to action.
So, let us eat and drink together, that we not stand by and watch, but actively stand alongside Jesus and suffering humanity.
And so, as Jesus said, “take and eat. This is my body.” And he said, “Drink from this, all of you.
I love being the