Maundy Thursday

Today, April 5, 2012, is Maundy Thursday.  The day is taken to remember the Upper Room experience of Christ and His disciples with particular attention given to John 13:34…

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.

The new commandment (mandatum novum in Latin) is the emphasis of this day.  The important factor is to consider how Christ exemplified love to His disciples while in the Upper Room so that they would go and do likewise.

John 13-17 is a great place to go and see the breadth of Christ’s love for His own.  The curiously missing element is specifics related to the Lord’s Supper.  We know according to the other synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) that this occurred, but John opts to assume such knowledge and focus on the larger narrative and interpretive elements.

In these chapters we see Christ love His disciples in the following ways:

  • Washing their Feet – This grand act of humility is astounding.  This is the work of a slave to a master.  He came to serve and to save.  In this act He associates Himself with just about every ethnic group on the planet and shows that His followers are to serve others irrespective of their position, place, or race in life.
  • Warning of Betrayal – How is this loving?  Shouldn’t this be kept to Himself to protect the innocent?  No.  In Acts 4 the early church saw that God’s sovereign hand was in every means and way that Christ would be delivered to be crucified.  It’s loving for Jesus to show His rule and that His sacrifice is on His terms for their good.
  • Prediction of Peter’s Denial – Again, is this just dooming Peter to failure?  Sort of.  The failure is that Peter assumed he could bear what Christ was bearing and about to bear.  It’s loving of Christ to show our complete and utter inability and failure to achieve (even in part) our own redemption.  Christ alone could perform this perfectly.  We need to know there is distance between ourselves and God, otherwise there’s no room in between for a mediator, Christ.
  • Proclaimed Exclusivity – In chapter 14, the clear articulation of the solidarity of Christ and the exclusivity of His redemptive offering for the world is central.  There is no other provision for man’s redemption than Christ Himself.  Makes total sense on the heals of His address to Peter.  It would be unloving to say anything but the absolute truth.
  • Promising the Holy Spirit – This is incredibly loving. Life is hard, but their life as followers (and ours…see chp.17) is going to be difficult and initially very discouraging.  He is giving them guarantees of their help and hope in the promised coming of the Holy Spirit, who shows up in a big way just weeks later at Pentecost.
  • Charge for Endurance – Knowing the Holy Spirit is coming, Christ loves them by showing them the way to be encouraged in their journey…abiding.  This is the great evidence of the Holy Spirit at work in their lives…their desire and decision to abide.  As well, He pulls no punches; no crazy health / wealth voodoo.  He says the world will come at them hard, but it’s for a reason:  Witness.
  • Cadence of Encouragement – Christ continues a back-and-forth discourse on the support and ministry of the Holy Spirit, and the reality of the world’s hatred for all things Jesus.  Ultimately, this cadence ends in assured victory.  No matter how difficult the road, there is final victory, which won’t be as fully understood by the disciples until after Christ has been raised from the dead.
  • Priestly Prayer – Beautiful.  Just beautiful.  What a loving intercession for His own. In this, we are taught how and what to pray.  We see our contemporary inclusion in this ancient prayer that transcends all ages.  Jesus had you in mind!  Astounding.  Everything He prayers, including the hard stuff, is loving for us.  How can it be loving to pray, for instance, that we not be delivered from suffering?  Well, nothing exceeds to the love and pleasure that is found in Christ.  Christ forming Himself in us, then, is the most loving thing Jesus can do (and does).  Therefore, everything that leads to our greater abiding in Him is not only loving, but increases our love for Him.

We are to commend all these things to one another, reminding one another of the great love He has initiated for us.  We are commanded to love, not merely commended to do so.  This is not varsity Christian stuff.  This is the nitty-gritty, daily work of the community of saints for one another so that our love puts on display Christ to a lost world.

This is why we meet on Maundy Thursday evening each year; to remember the great love and loving example of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

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