Pastor Jerry Donovan
Holy Week and Easter shape our understanding of who we are as followers of Jesus Christ more than any other single event. We are, as others have said, Easter people living in a Good Friday world. We are defined by his sacrifice and by his gift of eternity.
“Maundy” comes from “mandatum,” which is Latin for “command.” And what was the commandment? John reminds us that it was to love. Love one another as I have loved you. [John 13:34] Can you command love? Jesus apparently thought you could. But what does it mean to love one another? It means that you are able to work for the good of the other, the one you’re supposed to love. You are to hold the other in your heart and mind as you live and work—not live and work just for your own good.
“Jesus… 4 got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.” John 13
John has a completely different agenda than the other three Gospels. He spends time on this odd little event, a neglect of hospitality, a detail that was overlooked in the party planning. Surely that shouldn’t be the central focus of this moment. Should it? I can’t help but wonder what was going through Jesus’ mind when he got up and grabbed the towel and the basin. Perhaps he thought, “Maybe if I show them what I mean, they’ll finally get it?” In the minds of the disciples, there was something demeaning about kneeling to serve in such a humbling way. That’s why they all managed to overlook the opportunity. But for Jesus it wasn’t demeaning; it was an opportunity to serve. More than that, it was an opportunity to be who he came to be, to fulfill his purpose. After all, he said, “The Son of Man came to serve, not to be served.”
It’s not supposed to be a once-a-year command. It is the willingness to serve that is the command. The Maundy on Thursday or Monday or any day. Sometimes it’s a good day, all you hoped it to be. Other times, it seems cruel, not what you expected. That’s a part of the risk of service. Sometimes it doesn’t turn out like you hoped; sometimes it isn’t received as you intended. And our inclination is to stop rather than risk doing it wrong. Hopefully we remember that Maundy comes again and again, every time there is an opportunity to serve.
Not just a good idea, not just a clue to better living, not just a suggestion for health and happiness, no, he made it a commandment: “Love one another.” How do you show your love for one another? We hear it as an invitation. It is not an easy one, to be sure. Loving takes time, takes sacrifice, takes effort, especially when we look back and see that what Jesus actually said, not love the best you can, or love with what is within you. No, what he said was, “Love as I have loved you.” On our own, loving like he loved is beyond our abilities. But when we let that love work through us, it becomes possible, at least one small step at a time.
Have a happy Resurrection Day and God Be With You.