Oh Holy Thursday –
I think if you asked the average person what the 2 most important events in Christianity they would tell you Christmas and Easter. If you ask some other’s you may even get the periods of Advent and Lent. 2 times of preparation and reflection, both carrying their own importance and meaning. Christmas time there is hustle and bustle of preparing for the Birth of a King, often overshadowed is the fact that he was born with one purpose, to sacrifice his life for us on the cross. Easter there seems to be a lot of activity around the Bunny and the empty tomb. But really the crux of our religion happens in the next 2 days here. Passover and Good Friday. Without these 2 days we would not have a joyous Easter morn.
In recent years Lent and more specifically Passion week have held greater significance in my life. Maybe it’s being involved in the churches music ministry and picking songs and lyrics based on liturgical occurrences, or maybe because as you mature, you develop a greater understanding of the sacrifice that Christ made for us.
I was 13 when my grandfather died, in fact he died the day after my 13th birthday. He was 60 and had just had a minor, outpatient surgery. Because he was a kind and selfless man (the reason my mother is the saint she is) he told me not to visit him, so I could spend time with my friends on my birthday. And the day he passed away he had urged my grandmother to go to her hair appointment so she would look nice. He called his best friend and shared some laughs, and then he lay down in his bed and went with Jesus. Did he know? Did he sense his time was coming? Was he preparing those around him? We will never know. What we do know is that we did not have time to prepare, we did not have understanding, we were not ready.
Two major events highlight the importance of Maundy Thursday. First is Jesus celebrating the Last supper with his disciples in the breaking of the bread. The second is the act of Jesus washing the disciples feet. What really stands out to me here is the thoughtfulness and love that Jesus displayed. In a time when he could have been stressed out and focused on his impending demise, he instead broke bread with his friends and in complete servitude and humility, washed their feet. He was trying to prepare them, ease them, into a transition period.
I can only imagine how the disciples felt, the turmoil probably going through their minds, bartering or bargaining? Wishing they could change it, or get one more day. He spent his last hours of life serving and loving others, as he had done his whole life. He was prepared and wanted his friends to feel comforted in that. It’s easier to replay the last supper, the sharing of bread and wine we do regularly in worship as remembrance and ritual. The second act many of us have probably never given much thought to.
I went to a wedding once, where the bride and groom took turns washing each other’s feet. While I understood the biblical significance I hadn’t yet reached a place in my faith where I FELT the significance. It wasn’t until I had kids and would kneel down at night, next to the bath and scrub dirty toes, and banged up knees. Even of greater significance was helping my mother wash her hair after her hip replacement, and really understanding the love and closeness that Jesus and his disciples must have felt at that moment. For Jesus to kneel down at their feet and take the role of “servant”, it must have been powerful in that moment. Just days before he was raised on the cross. John 13:1b “Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.”
Whatever take away you get from this busy Easter season, may you at the least take time to prepare your minds and hearts for the greatest gift he will give us this weekend. His death on the cross, his promise of salvation and his resurrection.