It’s Holy Week for all of God’s children and there is always a wave of emotion that accompanies it. Today we honor Maundy Thursday.
“Maundy” refers to the “washing of the feet” when Jesus, as the Godly and human leader, showed great sacrifice and servitude by washing the feet of his followers, a lowly task normally reserved for slaves and servants in that time.
Maundy Thursday also commemorates the Last Supper when Jesus met with his disciples for the final time before his betrayal and crucifixion.
While Christmas Eve happens to be my favorite day of the year — for many reasons, among which are the traditions, family time, and excitement of the coming birth of Jesus — Maundy Thursday just happens to amount to the polar opposite of that day. It’s filled with anxiety over the anticipation of the death and suffering of Jesus.
The church that I go to does a good job trying to set the mood in a manner which might help us better identify the meaning of each significant event throughout the year. For Maundy Thursday, we gathered around tables in the church’s dimly-lit narthex — or “atrium”, if you will. We prayed, we broke bread and drank wine, we communed with our brothers and sisters, and we worshipped as well. It was meant to symbolize what the Last Supper was like for Jesus and his disciples.
By the end of the night, we were invited to enter the sanctuary, except it was pitch black, save for candles providing a source of light. It was our “escape” to pray and contemplate, another symbolic gesture to commemorate when Jesus entered the garden of Gethsemane as he awaited his captors.
At the foot of the stage was a cross with nails in it that looked as though it was being prepared for a crucifixion. It was powerful imagery, and when I closed my eyes, it wasn’t difficult to imagine the angst that Jesus must have felt, knowing that a painful suffering awaited him.
It might be one thing for death row inmates to know they’re facing execution. Many of them welcome death and understand that they are guilty and deserving of a death sentence. But it’s a completely different thing for a sinless and righteous man — one undeserving of such torture — to know that it’s his duty to face the cross, and yet have a difficult time coming to grips with human suffering and mortality.
In those quiet moments in the darkened church with an imposing cross on display, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the ultimate sacrifice paid by Jesus to save us all from the death our sins deserve. To know what kind of pain and suffering awaited him, but to endure it for us anyway, is the greatest display of love I could ever imagine.
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.John 15:13 (NIV)
Who am I — who are we — that we should be so deserving of a sacrifice? It’s both humbling and uplifting to know we have a savior and redeemer who wants nothing more from us than the love he has for us.