Thursday, March 28, 2013

Maundy Thursday for Dummies

Well, I just learned something new. You've seen all the Dummies books, right? There's Personal Finance for Dummies, Excel for Dummies, Anatomy and Physiology for Dummies,  Digital Photography for Dummies and just about everything else for Dummies. While the titles are kind of rude, they are often very useful books. I just learned that there is also Christianity for Dummies. I've not read the book and am not endorsing it or anything but I was intrigued that there was such a thing.

The part of the book I did read was about Maundy Thursday. You see, today is Maundy Thursday. It is a commemoration of a really important day in Christian History. Here's what Richard Wagner says in Christianity For Dummies...

"Within the midst of the Easter season, Maundy Thursday — the Thursday before Easter — is one Christian holy day that many Christians and even many churches often overlook, yet it symbolizes a critically important truth of the Christian faith: Jesus as a suffering servant and the call for his followers to do the same. It also draws a connection between the Passover sacrifice, a Jewish tradition, and Jesus Christ’s sacrificial role on the cross."

As I mentioned before, this week is called Holy Week for many Christians. It starts with Palm Sunday when we are talking about Jesus returning to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover, a Jewish day celebrating God's freeing of the Israelites (aka Jewish or Hebrew people) from slavery from the Egyptians. That event took place generations before, during Old Testament/Torah times. So, Jesus is in Jerusalem and he and his disciples had a Passover Supper together. They had probably each done this with their own families every year prior. This year it was to be much more than that, though they didn't really quite get it yet. You see, this event took place just the night before Jesus was to be crucified.
Jesus used this last night to give instructions to his disciples. He was preparing them for his death. I expect much of what he taught them didn't fully make sense until after the horror of his crucifixion took place. He told them more about his purpose and he prepared them for the Holy Spirit that would be with them when Jesus returned to heaven. He showed them how to become as servants to one another; he himself washed their feet. That takes real humility.

Tonight there will be many Christian Churches around the world who will be having foot washing ceremonies. It isn't really pretty. Humility isn't always pretty. 

Another very important thing he did, then, was to share the bread and wine with his disciples in a new way. This is where Christians get what we now refer to as communion. It is all about Jesus' sacrifice for us with the bread being his body and the wine being his blood. I know it sounds a bit ghoulish but it is really quite beautiful, a physical way to remember we have taken Jesus into ourselves. We refer to that event as the Last Supper. Christian churches around the world will also be serving communion tonight, as well as any given Sunday of the year.
It was also that night that Jesus gave a command (the word Maunday comes from the Latin word for command, mandatum) that is both beautiful and difficult to follow:

John 13:34-35

New International Version (NIV)
34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

I can't quite imagine what that night was like for Jesus. He loved these friends and he knew that they were going to have some rough times ahead of them, to say the least. He also knew that one of them was about to betray him. He knew that he was about to suffer a lot of physical and emotional pain. From the Bible we know that he didn't want to have to go through that. He did it out of obedience to God and out of love for us. That is such a great lesson to us for how we are to behave, basing our actions always out of obedience to God and love for one another. Easier to say than to do.
So you see, Maunday Thursday represents something very basic to Christianity. It ties together events from the Old Testament and the New Testament. It sets into motion changes that have a powerful impact on Christians now, all these years later. I've just barely touched on the main points. There is so much depth to the teaching from that night, I hope you will want to know more.
To read more about that Thursday, Jesus Last Supper and his instructions for his disciples and us, please click here, here, here or here. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John each wrote about that night.
photos from by Stuart Miles, Evgeni Dinev, Dan and Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee

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