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This week we hear from Exodus, Corinthians, and the Gospel of John. In this reading of Maundy Thursday gospel reading, may we remember focusing our worship on Christ. As we walk the path with Jesus on Maundy Thursday, we join crowds of pilgrims from millennia before preparing for festivals remembering God’s salvation.
Jesus uses this episode in John 13 to teach his disciples two key things:
1) in spite of their ignorance, Jesus knows what is coming, including who it is that will betray him, and
2) authentic disciples of Jesus imitate his type of love for one another, regardless of their social status or knowledge.
31When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. 33Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ 34I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Readings and Psalm
Exodus 12:1-4 [5-10] 11-14
The Passover story in Exodus 12 is a story of a new beginning. Of course there are other beginnings in the Bible such as creation (Genesis 1), new life after the flood (Genesis 8), or God’s promises to Abraham (Genesis 12). Our desire to recognize God as the liberator in this text should not silence all the difficult questions that God’s violence raises. Does the firstborn of all Egyptians deserve death for the enslavement of the Israelites? Thinking about the divine violence in this chapter can also lead to deep reflection on humanizing those suffering people who are grouped together as villains in the story. As much as Exodus 12 is a story of freedom from slavery, it is also a story about death. Exodus 12:26-27 enjoins the Israelites to use the Passover as a teaching moment, a way to enculturate inquisitive children.
Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19
Psalm 116 is one of the most recognizable songs of thanksgiving. The song of thanksgiving—which is also called the “new song” in the Psalter—is a song-offering presented in worship after some life-saving experience of God’s grace. One of the standard elements of the Hebrew “prayer for help” or “lament” psalm is the promise or vow to praise God. Two verses in the psalmist’s song of thanksgiving merit special attention. The first is: “I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord” (verse 13).If we remain in the Old Testament context for a moment, the “cup of salvation” more likely refers to a celebration meal that a rescued person might throw in thanksgiving for his or her deliverance. But there is one more key verse to explore: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful ones.” Christians often comfort each other with this verse when a loved one dies. I remember sharing this verse with a friend when his mother died.
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
The overwhelming message that Paul conveys in this letter is the promotion of unity. Paul writes to remind them that when they come together as a church and eat the Lord’s supper, it should not be like eating at home or like eating at a banquet. These verses serve as a reminder of what this tradition is and what it means. Paul begins the story by taking the community back to a particular place and time—on the night; the Lord Jesus was being betrayed. Maundy Thursday or Holy Thursday commemorates this meal, this last supper. This day reminds us that before Jesus was betrayed, he ate dinner with his followers and friends. The last supper with Jesus was the beginning of a new table fellowship for his followers. Death and memory are necessary companions. Establishing one’s legacy necessitates a recalling, a re-membering, a re-collection.
John 13:1-17, 31b-35
The Gospel of John records Jesus’ final night with his disciples in John 13.
This chapter is often considered the transition point in the Gospel, meaning it is here that Jesus is now really heading toward his “glorification”—that is, the cross, resurrection, and, as John 13:1 tells us, his return to the Father. In John’s language, Jesus’ “hour” has come. As we prepare for Good Friday, we too join Jesus at his table. We need to receive the type of love he gives us with the washing of feet and dying on a cross. We also need to see that these actions are not the “end” of his love, but rather examples of the unending type of complete or perfect love he gives. It is this love that enables us to love one another. Rather than needing to know all that Jesus knows, Jesus instead challenges us to admit our ignorance and lower our guard to receive his love.
Compiled by Deacon in Waiting Stephen
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