Thinking towards Holy Thursday / Maundy Thursday – Lectionary Year "C"

Here are the links to the readings in NIV translation of the Bible:  Exodus 12:1-4 (5-10), 11-14 Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19 or UMH 837  / 1 Cor 11:23-26  /   John 13:1-17, 31b-35

  

Here are the links to the readings in NRSV translation of the Bible on the site of Vanderbilt Divinity Library.

 

On Maundy Thursday we remember the Passover in Egypt as well as Jesus’ last night before he died.

 

Like any other holiday, Passover has multiple layers of meaning. It is a feast, it is an occasion for storytelling and remembrance, it is an expression of appreciation, recognition and acknowledgment of God’s liberation of God’s people. Unfortunately we cannot travel through the stories of Passover without encountering gruesome and disturbing images. Clear refreshing waters turned to decaying blood. Magnitude of the loss of life in plagues and famines is staggering. Terrible event of EVERY firstborn son of Egypt dying is mind-numbing. To protect themselves on the night of the First Passover, Hebrew households marked their doorposts with lamb’s blood; they did it with fear and respect of God’s power to protect them as well as recognition what that power can do to their non-Hebrew neighbors.

 

As I journey through the Holy week, I am cognizant of all the horrors of the Passover story. Celebration of the Passover calls the people of God to remember the horrors of slavery, as well as inhumanity and cruelty of those who desired to enslave. Celebration of the Passover also call the people of God to remember God’s love and grace of bringing the Hebrews to freedom, of giving the Torah and calling God’s people to become the light to ALL nations.

 

Just like Passover feast in which it originated, the Maundy Thursday/Holy Thursday have multiple layers of meaning. Maundy Thursday commemorates verses from John 13 where Jesus washed the feet of the disciples (John13:4-5) and gave them a new commandment (Latin mandatum) (John 13:34).   Jesus gave the mandatum–”to wash one another’s feet”–after he showed his disciples how to do it. The word “Maundy” is derivative of  the Latin word “mandatum.”

I have no doubt in my mind that Jesus knew that he was going to die soon. Just a couple of days earlier he mocked the pomp of Roman processions and rituals as he entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday riding a simple donkey. He had caused a public disturbance at the Temple. Roman rulers did not look kindly to that kind of rabble-rousing and mockery, especially during the Passover when the whole city of Jerusalem was packed with religious pilgrims. Jesus’ actions posed a threat to public order in emotionally charged atmosphere of Jerusalem celebrating the most holy of holidays. No wonder, religious authorities wanted to get rid of Jesus.

 

Knowing what was ahead of Him, Jesus did not head for the hills. Neither did he assemble an army of followers who would be willing to fight for Him.On the night of his betrayal (the last night before he was to die), He had a supper with those who traveled with him — friends, followers, Judas who was to hand him over. During this supper, Jesus established the sacrament of the Holy Communion.

 

And then Jesus took off his robe, wrapped  himself in a towel , and proceeded to wash the feet of his companions. That job was usually reserved for the least ranking person in the household because streets of the city were covered with all kinds of garbage and refuse and walking through that “muckety-muck” people’s feet were covered in dirt and emitted stench that most of us in 21st century would not be able to tolerate.

 

With this action of humble servanthood, Jesus taught us that life of service is an integral part being His follower. By washing the feet of His disciples, Jesus demonstrated that He was not too good for our “muckety-muck.” By washing the feet of His disciples, Jesus demonstrated how God works – God washes off the stuff from our lives that we don’t want, the stuff that clings to us, the stuff that prevents us from being the best version of what we can be.

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