We continue our Holy Week series published two years ago to help us focus on something that transcends the pandemic. May you experience peace in the one who has overcome this world.
Time is short. Not long ago Jesus entered Jerusalem to the waving of palm branches. He cleared the temple of exploitation on Monday and taught from the temple on Tuesday. Wednesday was a day of preparation – for Judas to betray and Jesus to pray. Now it is Thursday – Maundy Thursday. Jesus is in an upper room with his twelve closest friends and his time is short.
Jesus has one moment in time to encourage and equip his friends. They need to understand the reason he came. John records the discussion brilliantly in John 13-17.
While there isn’t universal agreement, many use the term Maundy Thursday to describe this night. The phrase ‘Maundy’ likely derives from the Latin, mandatum, which is a mandate, a command. The word begins the key verse of the discourse, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” Jn. 13:34.
What made the command new? Jesus taught the people on Tuesday that the law could be summarized as love God and love neighbor. This was not new. What was new was the addition, “As I have loved you.” That love was radically new. That love wrapped itself in a towel and washed the disciples’ feet. The King of the universe got down and washed dirty feet – even the feet of Judas, his betrayer. Why? “I have set an example that you should do as I have done for you.” Jn. 13:15. Be humble. Love others.
Could you wash the feet of a betrayer? Jesus knew Judas was betraying him and told him so after washing everyone’s feet. Jn. 13:18-30. Could you wash the feet of a close friend who denied you? Jesus knew Peter would deny him and told him so. Jn. 13:31-38. Jesus knew all would scatter in his hour of need. How did he respond? Love.
When the world seems utterly broken, Jesus offers comfort
The disciples were about to scatter, betray, and deny Jesus – but he comforted them. “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” Jn. 14:1. He assured them he alone was “the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn. 14:6) and more than once urged them to “believe in me”. He told them they would receive power and comfort from the Holy Spirit that would enable them to “do even greater things”. Jn. 14:12.
Jesus spoke of the disciples abiding in him. They would be unable to bear fruit if they did not remain in Jesus. Jn. 15:4. “Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: love each other as I have loved you.” Jn. 15:9-12.
Jesus was walking to the Mount of Olives. The cool night air hung heavy as he shared with them that he would be leaving them. “You will grieve” he said, “but your grief will turn to joy.” Jn. 16:20. They need only ask. “Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” Jn. 16:24. Jesus knew the trouble the disciples would face, the doubt they would wrestle with, and the fear. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Jn. 16: 33.
Then Jesus prayed. He prayed for his friends around him and for us. He wanted us to understand the extent of his love. A love that would die for us so that we might believe and receive the power of the Holy Spirit. That through faith we could experience joy and peace. He prayed not to take us out of the world but for protection from evil as we entered the world with love and justice. Jn. 17:15-18. Maundy Thursday is highly relevant today.
Will we believe Jesus? Will we enter the world with a towel around our waist and love in our heart? That was Jesus prayer for us as we
Go and Do Likewise.