|Harry Anderson (1906-1996), Jesus Praying in Gethsemane|
The events of the last evening of Jesus’ life, which in our devotional chronology occurred on Thursday, are some of the most significant, both in the narrative leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion and death and also in terms of their importance to his atoning work and our regular commemoration and embrace of it. On that night Jesus celebrated the Last Supper with disciples, went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray and prepare for the ordeal that was to come, was actively betrayed by Judas and abandoned by his other disciples, arrested, and then taken before the Jewish authorities for a preliminary hearing and harsh abuse, both of which led up to his Roman trial and execution the next day. At the Last Supper, Jesus instituted the ordinance of the sacrament as a means for us to regularly remember and accept his saving sacrifice. In Gethsemane he took upon himself the crushing weight of our sins, sorrows, sicknesses, and heartaches. After being betrayed, abandoned, denied, misjudged, and abused, Jesus then carried this weight alone on the cross. Elder Holland has called this “the loneliest journey ever made shouldering alone the burden of our salvation,” and noted that “the hours that lay immediately ahead change[d] the meaning of all human history. . . . The hour of atoning sacrifice had come. God’s own Son, his Only Begotten Son in the flesh, was about to become the Savior of the world” (Holland, “None Were with Him,” Ensign [May 2009]: 86, and “This Do in Remembrance of Me,” Ensign [November 1995]: 67).
In addition, John also preserves some of Jesus’ final words to his disciples, which were both spoken to the Twelve and perhaps some of the other of his original followers but also, by extension, were intended for us. Reading, studying, and solemnly marking these events and teachings can have great meaning for us and our families. Commemorating this night has long been a somber, important practice in many Christian traditions. Holy Thursday is also called “Maundy Thursday” in the Anglican communion and in many English-speaking countries, with Maundy coming from the Latin mandatum, which recalls Jesus’ words after the Last Supper when he said, “A new commandment I give you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, love one another” (John 13:34 KJV). While Latter-day Saints do not officially celebrate Maundy Thursday, the events it commemorates have great meaning for us. In fact, because of the significance of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper in our weekly worship and our important understanding of the Gethsemane experience, they are arguably some of the most important things we can recall not just each Easter season but every week of the year.
Scriptural Accounts for Thursday: Mark 14:12–72; Matthew 26; Luke 22; John 13:1–18:27; see also Mosiah 3:7 and D&C 19:15–20
Episodes for Personal Study
- The Last Supper (Mark 14:12–31; parallels Matt 26:17–35; Luke 22:7–38. John 13:1–14:31. Cf. 1 Cor 11:23‒26)
- The Farewell Discourses (John 14:1–17:26)
- Jesus at Gethsemane (Mark 14:32–42; Matt 26:36–47; Luke 22:39–46; John 18:1)
- Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus (Mark 14:43–52; Matt 26:47–56; Luke 22:47–53; John 18:2–3)
- Jesus before the Jewish Authorities (Mark 14:43–65; Matt 26:57–68; Luke 22:54–71; John 18–28)
|Remembering Maundy Thursday with the kids --- with the help of passages from Mark 14, John 13, Luke 22, an olive wood Last Supper carving from Bethlehem, and a small figurine of Jesus praying in Gethsemane|
Suggestions for Families
- If using an Easter Wreath, again light the purple and red candles.
- Read Mark’s account of the Last Supper. Discuss the sacrament and its symbolism, sharing how it helps us each week remember the Savior’s sacrifice for us. Sing a favorite sacrament hymn.
- Discuss how Jesus washed the disciples’ feet and commanded that we should love one another. What are ways we can serve and love one another? Perhaps sing “Love One Another” (hymn no. 308) together.
- Read Luke’s account of Jesus’ experience in the Garden of Gethsemane. Then, after reading Mosiah 3:7, Alma 7:11–13, and D&C 19:15–20, bear testimony of how Jesus took upon himself and suffered for our sins, infirmities, sorrows, and other challenges. Sing “Reverently and Meekly Now” (hymn no. 185).
- Read Elder Holland’s April 2009 Conference address, “None Were with Him,” and discuss how the betrayal, abandonment, false judgment, denial, and abuse of Jesus Christ were all part of his “descending below all things” (D&C 122:8). How does this increase our confidence in him as our Savior when we realize he understands when we suffer similar rejection?
- If some families would like to hold a Passover Seder or Passover-type meal, we encourage them to do it respectfully and carefully. Another option would be to hold a Mediterranean style meal using recipes from a resource such as The Food and Feasts of Jesus (Rowman & Littlefield, 2013), and discuss the Last Supper, mentioning that it might have been a Passover meal.
Ideas, Traditions, and Activities for Younger Children
- Charles Colson et al., “The Farewell Feast,” Christ in Easter, [23‒34].
- Janet and Joe Hales, A Christ Centered Easter, 9, 35‒43 (we suggest the Jerusalem Dinner rather than the Passover Activity).
- Wendee Wilcox Rosborough, The Holy Week for Latter-day Saint Families, 33‒39.
- If families with children want to mark Passover in some way as part of their commemoration of Maundy Thursday, they might want to watch “The Prince of Egypt,” “The Ten Commandments,” or some other movie about the Exodus story and then discuss what the Lord did to deliver his people.
Some Inspiring Art
- Giotto, “Arrest of Jesus (also known as the Kiss of Judas.)”
- Heinrich Hofmann, “The Capture of Christ” “Portrait of Christ, the Savior: I Am the Way, the Truth, and the Light,” and “Christ in Gethsemane.”
- Carl Bloch, “The Last Supper,” “Christ in Gethsemane,” and “The Denial of Peter”
- James Tissot, “The Last Supper,” “The Washing of the Feet,” “The Protestations of St. Peter (depicts the walk through the Qidron Valley),” “My Soul Is Sorrowful unto Death,” “The Grotto of the Agony,” “the Kiss of Judas,” “The Guards Falling Backwards,” “The Healing of Malchus,” “The “Tribunal of Annas,” “Maltreatments in the House of Caiaphas.”
- Frans Schwartz, “Agony in the Garden.”
- Harry Anderson, “Christ in Gethsemane.”
- Simon Dewey, “The Last Supper,” “In Humility,” “O My Father.”
- Greg Olsen, “In Remembrance of Me,” “No Greater Love”.
- Dell Parson, “Jesus Washing the Feet of the Apostles.”
- Walter Rane, “In Remembrance of Me,” “Not My Will, But Thine.”
- J. Kirk Richards, “The Last Supper,” “Greatest in the Kingdom,” “Gethsemane”
- Ary Scheffer, “Denial of Peter.”
- Liz Lemon Swindle, “The Last Supper” and “Gethsemane.”
- Yongsung Kim, “Last Supper,” “Christ the Servant,” “Foot Washing,” “Gethsemane Prayer,” “Not My Will but Thine.”
- Bach, St. Matthew Passion, movements 9‒38 for the events of Thursday night.
- Beethoven, Christ on the Mount of Olives.
Traditional Anglican collect for Maundy Thursday
Almighty Father, whose dear Son, on the night before he suffered, instituted the Sacrament f his Body and Blood: mercifully grant that we may receive it thankfully in remembrance of Jesus Christ our Lord, who in thee holy mysteries gives us a pledge of eternal life; and who now lives and reigns with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
Brief Discussion of the Events of the Thursday before Easter
|Bloch, The Last Supper|
THE LAST SUPPER
- Preparation of "the Passover" meal (Matt 26:17–19; Mark 14:12–16; Luke 22:7–13)
- The Last Supper with the Disciples (Matt 26:20–25; Mark 14:17–21; Luke 22:14–18)
- Institution of the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper (Matt 26:26–30; Mark 14:22–25; Luke 22:19–20)
- Jesus Washes the Disciples’ Feet (John 13:1–20)
- Jesus Foretells His Betrayal (Luke 22:21–23; John 13:21–30)
- The New Commandment to Love One Another (13:31–36)
- Peter’s Denial Foretold (Matt 26:31–35; Mark 14:26–31; Luke 22:31–38; John 13:36–38)
The Synoptic Gospels seem to suggest that the Last Supper was a Passover Meal, whereas John is clear that the Passover began at sundown of the day when Christ was crucified. John’s account seems to bear the most historical verisimilitude: a criminal would certainly not be crucified during the Passover feast itself. Additionally, the Johannine imagery is strong: the day before Passover was a Preparation Day, and between 3:00–5:00 the paschal lambs were slaughtered in the Temple. Accordingly, Jesus died on the cross at 3:00 at the very moment the first Passover lamb was sacrificed. Although scholars have proposed a number of ways to resolve the apparent discrepancy, the most likely answer is that Jesus, knowing that he would be dead before Passover began, celebrated the feast early with his friends.
And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him. And he said unto them, "With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer: For I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God." (Luke 22:14–16; see D&C 27:5ff.)
|Our olive wood Last Supper scene from Bethlehem|
|Crowds entering the Cenacle, the traditional site of the Last Supper on holy Thursday 2012|
For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. (1 Corinthians 11:23–26)
|Holy Eucharist service in the Cenacle|
In accordance with this example it is the practice in the Roman Catholic and some other churches for bishops or spiritual leaders to wash the feet of token members of their flock on Maundy Thursday. Similar practices were performed by some European kings, who would wash the feet of peasants and make distributions of coins to the assembled crowds. In the Church today, the ordinance itself is reserved for sacred occasions, but the example of loving and serving others is lived every day.
Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. . . . So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, "Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them." (John 13:3–5, 12–17)
J. Kirk Richards, Greatest in the Kingdom
|Washing of the feet at Notre Dame of Jerusalem, Holy Thursday 2012|
|Queen Elizabeth after Maundy Thursday services at Blackburn Cathedral, 2014|
THE FAREWELL DISCOURSES
John also preserves several lengthy discourses delivered during and right after the Last Supper (14:1–17:26). These focus on the love of Jesus, our relationship to him, and our need to likewise love one another.
- Christ’s Departure: Jesus the Way to the Father (14:1–14)
- Promise of the Holy Spirit or Paraclete (or "Comforter," 14:15–26)
- Peace and the Love of the Father (14:27–31)
- Jesus the True Vine (15:1–17)
- The Hatred of the World (15:18–16:4a)
- Christ’s Departure: The Work of the Spirit (16:4b–15)
- Christ’s Departure: Sorrow Will Turn to Joy (16:16–24)
- Peace and the Love of the Father (16:25–33)
- Part 3
Throughout the discourses, but especially in chapters 14 and 16, Jesus focuses on the imminence of his departure, but insists that his coming sacrifice is necessary for our salvation. In the famous opening of the first discourse, he assured his disciples:
Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. (John 14:1–3)The teachings in these discourses are too rich to give even a perfunctory review here. Instead we only note the love that motivated Jesus’ great atoning sacrifice and the powerful parallel of the sorrow of the passion to the pains of a woman in childbirth—terrible at the time but giving way to greater joy.
This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:12–13)
Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you. (John 16:20–22)
The discourses end with the famous Intercessory Prayer, also known as the Great High Priestly Prayer, of chapter 17 wherein Jesus explained the purpose of his sacrifice: to make us one with each other and one with God and Christ. This is, in reality, the essence of the Atonement—the at-one-ment—and having prayed that God will grant this end, he went forth ready to do what was necessary to bring it about.
THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW OF DEATH
|Elaine at the "Tomb of Absalom," Holy Thursday 2012|
|The Qidron Valley after the Holy Thursday Night service in the Basilica of the Agony at Gethsemane, 2012|
JESUS AT GETHSEMANE
- Jesus Prays that his disciples not enter into "temptation" or "the time of trial" (peirasmon; Luke 22:40)
- Jesus Has the Disciples, Presumably Eleven of the Twelve but Perhaps Including Others at this Point, Sit Apart and Takes Peter, James and John Further (Mark 14:32b–33a; Matt 26:36b–37a)
- Jesus’ Soul Becomes Sorrowful; Three Disciples Asked to Pray (Mark 14:33b–34; Matt 26:37b–38)
- Jesus Suffers and Prays that the Cup May Pass (Mark 14:33–36; Matt 26:37–39; Luke 22:41–42)
- An Angel Appears to Strengthen Jesus [Luke 22:43]
- Jesus Sweats Blood [Luke 22:44]
- Finds Peter, James, and John Sleeping (three times: Mark 14:37–42; Matt 26:40–46; only once: Luke 22:45–46)
- Watch Daniel Smith's Messages of Christ video discussing the significance of the site of Gethsemane and the symbolism of olive pressing.
|Our Christ Praying in Gethsemane figurine from eastercreche.com|
Later, in Gethsemane, the suffering Jesus began to be ‘sore amazed’ (Mark 14:33), or, in the Greek, ‘awestruck’ and ‘astonished.’ Imagine, Jehovah, the Creator of this and other worlds, "astonished!" Jesus knew cognitively what He must do, but not experientially. He had never personally known the exquisite and exacting process of an atonement before. Thus, when the agony came in its fulness, it was so much, much worse than even He with his unique intellect had ever imagined! No wonder an angel appeared to strengthen him!
The cumulative weight of all mortal sins—past, present, and future—pressed upon that perfect, sinless, and sensitive Soul! All our infirmities and sicknesses were somehow, too, a part of the awful arithmetic of the Atonement. The anguished Jesus not only pled with the Father that the hour and cup might pass from Him, but with this relevant citation. ‘And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me.’ (Mark 14:35–36.)" (Neal A. Maxwell, "Willing to Submit," Ensign, May 1985, 70ff.)
|Olive screw press at the BYU Jerusalem Center|
Mark, Matthew, and Luke agree on what happened next. Falling upon the ground, he pled with his Father that thus cup could pass, but then in harmony with his nature since the beginning, he submitted to his Father's will.
When in the wondrous realms above our Savior had been called upon to save our world of sin by love, He said, "Thy will, O Lord, be done.”
The King of Kings left worlds of light, became the meek and lowly One; in brightest day or darkest night, He said, “Thy will, O Lord, be done.” (hymn 188)
|J. Kirk Richards, Gethsemane|
And lo, he shall suffer temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst, and fatigue, even more than man can suffer, except it be unto death; for behold, blood cometh from every pore, so great shall be his anguish for the wickedness and the abominations of his people. (Mosiah 3:7)
For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I; Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men. (D&C 19:16–19)
|Heinrich Hofmann (1824-1911), Christ in Gethsemane|
Rev’rently and meekly now, Let thy head most humbly bow.
Think of me, thou ransomed one; Think what I for thee have done.
With my blood that dripped like rain, Sweat in agony of pain,
With my body on the tree I have ransomed even thee. (Hymn 185; see the discussion in God So Loved the World, 63).
Click here to watch a video of us at Gethsemane as we read from Luke 22
|My family in the Garden of Gethsemane in November 2011.|
|Holman, The Scapegoat. Like the scapegoat, Jesus emerged from Gethsemane bearing our sins and transgressions. Like the sin offering, he would bear them to the altar of his cross.|
Beethoven, Christ on the Mount of Olives
The final chorus of "Christ on the Mount of Olives" portrays the joy of heaven when Christ goes forth from Gethsemane to complete his atoning sacrifice.
Beethoven’s oratorio for Holy Week powerfully portrays the emotional turmoil of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane prior to his crucifixion. A more humanistic treatment than Bach’s earlier, better-known passions, it concludes at the point of Jesus personally accepting his fate, placing the emphasis on his own decision to accept his mission rather than the later Crucifixion or Resurrection. First performed on April 5, 1803, it was revised and published on 1911.
Jehovah, Thou my Father, as Thou hast power, give me strength to bear!
Now in this hour sorrowful is my grief. I have glorified Thee. Even before Thy command, from chaos the world was formed. The voices of Thy seraphs now thunder commanding him who dies for men alone to stand before Thy judgment seat. O Father! I will appear at his call, to intercede with Thee, to atone, I alone, for guilty man. How can this feeble race, from dusted created, ever know the feeling that I, Thy only Son, must now endure? Ah, see the pangs that throb my heart! My soul is faint, my Father! See how my heart does throb. O pity me!
My whole soul within me trembles, From the torture drawing near. O behold me, see me tremble. See the pain that fills my soul. How my heart is full of sorrow. With the thought of deathly pain. Drops of blood and sweat of torment, From my forehead fall like rain. Father! O glorify Thou me, With the glory that is Thine, And the power if Thou are willing; Take away this cup from me.
BETRAYAL AND ARREST OF JESUS
|Giotto, Arrest of Jesus (Kiss of Judas)|
- Judas Leads Arresting Party to Jesus (Mark 14:43; Matt 26:47; Luke 22:47a; John 18:2–3)
- Judas Identifies Jesus with a Kiss (Mark 14:44–46; Matt 26:48–50; Luke 22:47b–48)
- Jesus’ "I Am" Proclamation to the Arresting Party (John 18:4–8a)
- Jesus Intervenes for His Disciples (John 18:8b–9)
- Servant of the High Priest Wounded (Mark 14:47; Matt 26:51; Luke 22:49–50; John 18:10)
- Jesus Rebukes the Defending Disciple (Matt 26:52–54; Luke 22:51a; John 18:11)
- Jesus Heals the High Priest’s Servant (Luke 22:51b)
- Jesus Rebukes the Arresting Party (Mark 14:48–50; Matt 26:55–56a; Luke 22:52–53)
- Disciples Abandon Jesus (Mark 14:50; Matt 26:56b)
- Young Man in the Linen Cloth (Mark 14:51–52)
JESUS BEFORE THE JEWISH AUTHORITIES
- Jesus before the former High Priest Annas (John 18:12–14; 19–24)
- Jesus Before the High Caiaphas and members of the Sanhedrin (Mark 14:53–64; Matt 26:57–68; Luke 22:54a [22:66–71 after the denial and the mocking]; John 18:24, 28)
- Jesus Mocked by the Jewish Guards (Mark 14:65; Matt 26:67–68; Luke 22:63–65)
- Peter’s Denial (Mark 14:66–72; Matt 26:69–75; Luke 22:54b–62; John 18:17–27)
- Morning Hearing Before the Sanhedrin (Mark 15:1; Matt 27:1; Luke 22:63–71)
|St. Peter in Gallicantu with archaeological remains|
Two different sites on Mount Zion, just south of the current Old City, claim to commemorate the place where Jesus was examined, held, and abused by the Jewish authorities. One is the Armenian "House of Caiaphas." The other is the Franciscan St. Peter in Gallicantu, or "Peter of the Cock Crow." This St. Peter's is built over the remains of a first century mansion that does, indeed, have a dungeon and holding cells in its basement.
|Looking down into the "Sacred Pit" under St. Peter's in Gallicantu|
|The "scourging place" in the ruins under St. Peter's in Gallicantu|
Today's Messiah reflections
Thy rebuke hath broken his heart,
He is full of heaviness;
Thy rebuke has broken his heart.
He looked for some to have pity on Him,
but there was no man
neither found He any to comfort him (cf. Psalm 69:20).
Behold, and see if there be any sorrow
like unto his sorrow (Lamentation 1:12).
He was despised and rejected of men;
a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief
He gave His back to smiters,
and His cheeks to them that plucked out the hairs:
He his not his face from shame and spitting (Isaiah 52:3a; 50:6).
Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows:
yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities:
the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53:4-5).
Here is a link to pictures and video clips from our experience in Jerusalem for Maundy Thursday in 2012.
Marking the Thursday of Holy Week
Although taking time to mark the events of Jesus’ experiences on the last Thursday of his mortal life has particular meaning during the Easter Season, the sacrament that he instituted that night ensures that we can recall these vital events, and those of Good Friday, every week. As Elder Holland has taught, “With a crust of bread, always broken, blessed, and offered first, we remember his bruised body and broken heart, his physical suffering on the cross . . . With a small cup of water we remember the shedding of Christ’s blood and the depth of his spiritual suffering, anguish which began in the Garden of Gethsemane” (“This Do in Remembrance of Me,” 67).
With the sacrament each week we thus commemorate Gethsemane and Golgotha, which, interwoven and dependent upon one another, constituted the infinite and eternal sacrifice for our salvation. By doing this on the Lord’s Day, the first day of each week, we also proclaim the Empty Tomb and the Ascension, which comprise the Risen Lord’s final triumph and foreshadow our own potential exaltation.
For Further Reading
Raymond Brown, The Death of the Messiah, 110–660.
Marcus Borg and Dominic Crossan, The Last Week, 109–136.
Richard Neitzel Holzapfel, A Lively Hope, 31‒53, 89‒100, 115‒119, 130‒146.
Eric D. Huntsman, God So Loved the World, 49–70.
Amy-Jill Levine, Entering the Passion, 109–140.
Julie Smith, The Gospel according to Mark, 726–774.
Terry B. Ball, “Gethsemane,” From the Last Supper through the Resurrection, eds. Richard Neitzel Holzapfel and Thomas A. Wayment (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2003), 138–164.
Lincoln H. Blumell, “Luke 22:43–44: An Anti-Docetic Interpolation or an Apologetic Omission?” TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism 19 (2014): 1–35.
John Hilton III and Joshua P. Barringer, ‘The Use of “Gethsemane’ by Church Leaders: 1859-2018,” BYU Studies 58.4 (2019): 49-76.
Eric D. Huntsman, “The Accounts of Peter’s Denial:Understanding the Texts and Motifs.” The Ministry of Peter, the Chief Apostle, eds. Frank F. Judd Jr., Eric D. Huntsman, and Shon D. Hopkin (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2014), 127–49.
Dana M. Pike, “Before the Jewish Authorities,” From the Last Supper through the Resurrection, 210‒68.
David Rolph Seely, “The Last Supper according to Matthew, Mark, and Luke,” From the Last Supper through the Resurrection: The Savior’s Final Hours, 59–107.
John W. Welch, “Miracles, Maleficium, and Maiestas in the Trial of Jesus,” Jesus and Archaeology, ed. James H. Charlesworth (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006), 349–383.