After3 is a blog series intended to help you prepare this Holy Week...to anticipate the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.
It's the Thursday of Holy Week, Maundy Thursday. Jesus and his disciples have gathered for the Passover meal, a meal Christian history deemed The Last Supper.
At The Last Supper food served as a conduit for meaning...layers and layers of meaning. First, The Last Supper was a Passover meal. You're Thanksgiving tradition has nothing on the Passover. Who cares if Aunt Flo forgot to make the sweet potato casserole. No one eats it anyway, but Israel's hope was bound up in the tradition of Passover. The Passover told the story of Israel's release from slavery in Egypt and the bread, wine, bitter herbs and lamb served as narrative pictures. But Israel did not celebrate this holy party simply to remember. They remembered so that they might anticipate. The Passover made a promised: What God did in the past he will do again. He will set Israel free.
In this meaning-filled feast, Jesus adds a new layer to the edible allegories. The Passover bread, This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me." The Passover wine, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you." And with these words Jesus invites his followers to remember his death, celebrate his resurrection and live expectantly of his return every time they broke bread and drank the cup. And we haven't stop. In my tradition we receive communion, The Lord's Super, the Eucharist weekly. It is one tradition that unites an often over-fragmented and "denominationalized" Church.
The full weight of the Passover and Lord's Supper is already a lot to place on some bread and wine, but I believe that for Christ's first followers the supper on that Thursday night was also a call to mission.
There was mission in the bread.
Nineteen eighty-eight saw the remake of the Mission Impossible television series, perfect for a 12-year old boy. At the beginning of each episode Jim Phelps receives directives for his mission via pay phone, audio tape (for those under 30 please "google" pay phone and audio tape), or video. It always ended with, "This message will self-destruct in 5 seconds." The Last Supper, in much the same way, called the disciples to mission. During this final meal, Jesus gives them mission directives in both action and speech. He tells his followers:
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:34-35)
"Your mission, Jim..." Yes, Jesus laid out a simple yet difficult mission for his followers, yet before he ever spoke these words he modeled them. The prologue to The Last Supper begins:
It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave the world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. (John 13:1)
He stripped off his outer clothing, filled a basin with with water, bowed to his knees and began scrubbing the filthy feet of his followers, all of his followers, all of his followers who would abandon him in just a few hours, even the follower who would betray him. Yes, he washed Peter's feet, John's, Matthew's, Bartholomew's...and...he washed Judas' feet. He washed his feet knowing full well that he intended to betray him. Imagine the conversation at the disciples' table a month after Christ's resurrection:
"I hate the people who have turned their back on Jesus!"
"I know, Matthew, but he calls us to love them!"
"It's so hard!"
"He loved Judas!"
"I can't believe Judas! I knew he had problems, but I never thought..."
"No, remember how he washed his feet knowing the whole time what Judas was up to?"
"I know, I know. I guess that's what love looks like. That's so hard!"
I can't help but think that every time the disciples "broke bread" they received again the directive: "Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to love one another."
As you reflect on, celebrate or take the Passover Seder this Maundy Thursday remember the bread does not simply tell a story, relive salfivic moments, and anticipate future hope. It also calls you to mission...to love, and to love the way Jesus loved.
How's your love this Maundy Thursday? Ask yourself?
- Can I wash the feet of my spouse today knowing they will divorce me tomorrow?
- Can I wash the feet of my spouse today knowing they will cheat on me tonight?
- Can I wash the feet of my co-worker knowing they intend to steal my promotion?
- Can I wash the feet of the person who I know wants to destroy my reputation?
- Can I wash the feet of the person who is going to insult my child and make them cry?
- Can I wash the feet of the person who is going to steal from my business?
- Can I wash the feet...
Let Maundy Thursday remind us of the difficulty of loving others. Let it amaze us with regard to Christ's great love. Let it be a constant invitation to grow in love.