Maundy Thursday

from Easter Horror Stories- Rescuing Jesus’ Good News

The web version of a book draft exploring the dark side of the salvation stories in the lectionary. Print book slated for 2024 based on comments from readers.


Bad things happen to good people. Even Jesus.


Exodus 12:1-4, (5-10), 11-14

Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19

1 Corinthians 11:23-26

John 13:1-17, 31b-35


Through Mark we are taken into the depths of Jesus’ despair. Jesus has eyes to see and ears to hear God all around him and within him, and yet he knows darkness, despair, doubt and uncertainty. And he finds courage in the face of it.

We remember the disciples. Passionate people, who know confusion, anger, fear, greed, guilt and shame.

Maundy Thursday signifies the time when Jesus, having eaten a last meal with his friends, and possibly having washed their feet in a last desperate attempt to get them to understand what he is on about, takes them to a dark garden, where his fears nearly overwhelm him.

There’s really no better option than to read the story in Mark, preferably alone and in the dark. If you need a soundtrack, a host of Gen-X songs come to mind (to me at least, being a Gen-Xer myself):

REM- everybody hurts; Sinead O’Connor- I do not want what I haven’t got; Nick Cave- the weeping song; George Michaels, they won’t go where I go; U2- end of the world; Isis- treat yourself gently. And maybe at the end, Sinead O’Connor- Guide me God.

Here’s the story,

“They went to a place called Gethsemane; and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.”  He took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be distressed and agitated. And he said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep awake.”  And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. He said, “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.”  He came and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep awake one hour?  Keep awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”  And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. And once more he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to say to him. He came a third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Enough! The hour has come; the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.” (Mark 14:32-42)


If you want a reading in addition to Mark, try The Paradoxical Commandments, by Kent M. Keith (1968), which includes the following,

“People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centred.

Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.

Do good anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.

Build anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you may end up crucified for it.

Give the world the best you have anyway.[1]


If you find yourself in a Garden of Gethsemane, with despair and darkness looming unbidden, and maybe even clinging to your soul through Friday and Saturday, remember not to stay there forever. Sunday’s coming!  But not quite yet.


[1]  He doesn’t say ‘crucified’




This book uses the ‘New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.’ In all cases where there are italics, they have been added by myself