We're less than a week out from Holy Week, when as a church we will remember the road that Jesus walked on the last days of his earthly life. On this blog, we're highlighting the different days of Holy Week, specifically the ones we'll be gathering as a church to observe. I talked about Palm Sunday two weeks ago, and this week I'll talk about Maundy Thursday and Good Friday (a later blog post).
What: Maundy Thursday
When: Thursday, April 17th, 2014
Themes: Mutual love and service as modeled and commanded by Jesus; fellowship formed and focused around the table of Christ; preparation for the agony of Jesus' crucifixion and death.
Maundy Thursday is the day that Jesus gathered his disciples around him for their last earthly meal together before he was crucified for the sins of the world. Time was short. Words were a precious commodity. Jesus, therefore, took the opportunity to cast himself as the true and better Passover Lamb, to model costly and humiliating service by washing the disciples' feet, and to give them a new commandment: as God had loved Jesus, as Jesus had loved them, love one another.
"Maundy" comes from the Latin word for "mandate", which simply means an order or command. As Jesus gathered his disciples around the table, as he blew them away by washing their dirty, dusty feet, as he broke bread with them and passed the cup with them, as he identified himself as the Passover Lamb that was to be broken and spilled out for them, he also gave them a new command - a new "mandate":
"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
So much is happening on this fateful Thursday - so many symbol-laden actions and questions and confused notions - but undergirding and interweaving all of it is this idea of costly love. Jesus has walked with his disciples for a long time now, and he knows that they don't understand what's going to happen, but he wants them to hear the main thing from him before he goes. And out of all the important things he says, out of all the important things he does, love rules the day (or night) here. John's account of the Passover meal begins this way:
"Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end." (John 13:1)
Everything else hinges on this. Jesus loves those who are his. The reason he came to this earth was love. The reason he gathered his disciples to him was love. The reason he endured the agony of the coming day was love. The reason he died the vilest death was love.
And what does love look like? It looks like service.
"Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him." (John 13:3-5)
Jesus is modeling for his followers that love means humbling yourself to the point of stripping off your robe and washing someone's dirty, stinky feet. It means doing the unthinkable task reserved for the lowest of low. And at the table, Jesus is modeling that love means humbling yourself even lower that that:
"And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." (Phil. 2:8)
So when Sojourn gathers together on a week from Thursday, we will be remembering Jesus' love. We'll be remembering that his love leads to his service. And we'll be hearing his words to us: As I have loved you, so love one another. As I have served you, so serve one another.
We'll be gathering downstairs around tables, where we'll sing together, hear the words of Scripture together, sing and pray together, and practically think through how we can obey Christ's mandate to love and serve one another.