The concept of Maundy or Holy Thursday was first really introduced to me when I started attending a Presbyterian church about 18 months ago. (Wow I really do feel like I’ve been at Grace Covenant forever already!) I had vaguely remembered something about this holiday from years and years ago or maybe from my studies at WOLBI (a Christian Bible school aka commune) or maybe just from being surrounded by Catholics growing up. I don’t know.
According to my beloved Wikipedia, “On this day, four events are commemorated: the washing of the Disciples’ Feet by Jesus Christ, the institution of the Mystery of the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper, the agony of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, and the betrayal of Christ by Judas Iscariot.” I find this celebration separated from Good Friday as much more meaningful and profound really because it does highlight these things as an important step in Christ’s journey to the cross. And the name comes from the Latin word mandatum, meaning commandment, referring to Christ’s words of institution of washing His disciples’ feet – A new commandment I give to you that you love each other as I have loved you.
Washing feet has lost some significance obviously. I actually would really prefer no one touches my feet. But in the day, it was meaningful for the discples and carried a lot of weight (no foot pun intended). Must have been the kind of memory that stuck with them for the rest of their lives.
I wonder what the equivalent might be today? I have been to services where we washed each other’s feet as symbolic of the larger purpose to remember to serve each other and love each other, to the point of giving our lives for each other as Christ had done. The disciples must have had that a-ha! moment when it occurred to them that Jesus had given His life and had commanded them to do that much for each other. What does that even look like really? A bunch of Christians dying all over the place? Maybe. I’m not sure that’s as sad as it sounds. And I’m not trying to be facetious OR sacreligious here. I’m just saying that giving your life knowing the promise of eternity and the reason for life in first place really makes it a tad easier.
I reflected on this for awhile after seeing the infamous Passion of the Christ. I say infamous because by the time I got around to seeing it, it had such a reputation for being so gory and violent that I was expecting much much worse than it actualyl was. Although that may be due in part to the kinds of comic books I read.
That said, the torture and abuse Jesus took on that day did make me cry. I think that in some ways, He went through that instead of some relatively “easy” death so that we would truly understand the sacrifice He made. He was God. He didn’t have to have any of it. He didn’t even have to be here at all. He didn’t have to live this thing we call life. He didnt need to be human and therefore tired and weak and in pain and thirsty and hungry and have to poop. He didn’t have to deal with stupid people or feel for physically sick and emotionally broken people. But He did. And He does. It’s this complexity of God that gets me, these nearly inexplicable layers that allow for the majesty and mystery of the Person of Jesus Christ and all that He entails – Emmanuel, Redeemer, Lamb, Risen One, Messiah.
It is truly no wonder to me that people don’t believe in Him. It seems so strange and twisted and far fetched and magical. Like how some don’t believe in true love. I never used to.