Thursday, April 13, 2017

Thoughts on Maundy Thursday and the human side of Jesus...

 "Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos"
          ("A new commandment I give unto you, That you love one another; as I have loved you")
This is the Latin phrase from which we get "Maundy Thursday". It fits the day perfectly. Jesus gives us this command in action first, later He gives it in word. This day began with a series of teachings, and the sun set on a final dinner with his closest friends, in a borrowed banquet room.
     At that dinner, He would be misunderstood by his friends, yet again, asked for favoritism, and each man would proclaim his undying loyalty despite what Jesus said. Then He would send His betrayer on his way and turn his disciples tables upside down, once more, by taking on a servant's job and washing their feet. When this was over He would ask a handful of them to stay on with Him through the night, and pray for Him while He wrestled with His Fathers' will.
     His friends would fail him and sleep their way through the hour of His greatest need. He would wrestle alone, crying out not once but three times, and with enough overwhelming urgency that he would break his capillaries, and blood would mingle with His sweat. He would ask three times for His Father to change His plans and make a different way other than the cup of suffering He was being asked to drink. Three times His Father would say "No", choosing instead to strengthen His beloved Son with enough Grace for the task at hand.
     His wrestling and pleading finished, He would go and awaken his sleeping friends and the chill of the night would be interrupted by the glow of torches, and the rumble of soldiers, and the icy betrayal of the kiss of a friend. His friends would scatter, and the one who remained within sight, would curse himself and use profanity in an effort to prove he wasn't a follower. Then the rooster would crow...and it would be Friday.
     Jesus was facing His impending death. He knew this by now. He knew how bad it would be to take on the sin of the world. He knew that it meant separation from his Father. He knew it meant a battle for the souls of men even though He knew there was a broken, sinful nature in those souls. He chose to come here, chose to live here, and chose to die here, for us. 
     In those last hours, I wonder what went through his mind. Did he write a letter to Mary and tell her he loved her? Did he find himself caught up in reminiscences of happy times in his childhood? Did He draw a deep breath and smell the salt spray of the ocean that last night in Bethany? Did he spend any special, individual time with his friends...time we don't know about...chatting and remembering? Did he choke on his words at any point? Was he emotional at all? When he performed the breaking of the bread, the very liturgy we now use to celebrate His death, did it make him wince just a little? For us it is symbolism, for Him, at that moment, it was about to happen for real. 
     Did He wonder how God was going to pull this little band together after He was gone? I know he trusted His father to do it, and take care of them, but did He wonder to Himself..."I don't know how, Father...they still don't seem to get it." Did He commend his few personal effects to one of his friends, maybe telling them to sell them and give the money to his mother? When he dipped the bread into the bowl and declared Judas the traitor, did his hand touch Judas' for an instant, and did it break his heart? When he told Judas, "What you do...do quickly..." was there breaking in his voice? Most of us have been betrayed by a friend at one time or other. Few have known full well it was coming. Jesus was a man, after all. The Total man. How would I have handled this? Thank God we never have to find out.

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