April 15, 2019
This is Holy Week for Christians. It is the most passionate week – going from praise to despair to betrayal to death to Resurrection, summoning every human emotion. I want to focus on one day, because I believe strongly in its significance.
Holy Thursday – or Maundy Thursday, which refers specifically to the ceremony of washing feet – contains in it strong parts of Jesus’ legacy to us. We need to remember that this was originally the day of Passover commemorating God’s killing of the firstborn of the Egyptians which secured the Israelite’s release from bondage. The significance of that should be obvious.
At this time, Jesus is a few days away from being hailed as a king and welcomed by the people into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Now in the Upper Room He has to complete some vital things with His Disciples before He faces His death. First, He washes the Disciples’ feet against protests by Peter, a gesture of kindness toward guests. But the washing of feet is far more than that; it is His way of establishing Himself as servant of all and summoning us to service to each other.
Next, Jesus gives us the symbolic meal of bread and wine, a sacrament commemorating forever His body and blood given for us in fulfillment of God’s covenant. During that meal, He also identifies His betrayer, moving this from a simple meal to a last gesture before the rest of this evening, for Jesus is troubled and needs to talk to His Father. He takes the Disciples to Gethsemane, where He prays the prayer He bequeaths to us all: “Not my will, but Thy will be done”, a prayer which costs Him sweat and tears before He goes to His betrayal and mock trial.
At the end, He is betrayed and taken to Pontius Pilate for a long night which leads to His crucifixion. And thus ends a single day which should speak to all of us who walk at least at times in darkness, who deal with human challenge and tragedy and need the Lord of Light and what He did for us.
Through service we follow Him, through bowing to God’s will we follow Him, through prayer we follow Him, through accepting death and the promise of resurrection we follow Him. Each of these acts of following Him helps us through times of darkness and reminds us that it is in following Him that we embrace the Light. May you have a contemplative Holy Week and a Happy Easter.