A Maundy Thursday Reflection

For the most part, I’ve had a beautiful holy week. Like all weeks, it’s always a mix and it can be draining to determine the week based on one unfortunate circumstance or one piece of good news. So for me, there have been some good things this week for sure – but some difficult things as well. This week I learned of a couple whose baby has some legitimate health needs – may the Lord give grace. This week, a dear friend told me his father passed away – way too early – may the Lord give grace. And this week is the one year anniversary for the passing of one my beloved uncles – may the Lord give grace.

Sometimes we enter Holy Week hoping there will be this peaceful reverence that will allow us to only think and act spiritually. But in addition to the aforementioned, social media is ablaze with DOMA, Prop 8, the gay marriage debate, evangelicalism and much more. As a result, I’ve been a little reluctant to read/tweet/post/engage. Next week, I’m all in again :)

I don’t like to write how about the specifics of my prayer life or my Scripture reading or when I fast or really much of anything of my spiritual practices. If Jesus hadn’t told us to not let our left hand know what our right is doing and warn us off showing off pious behavior, I find that it is often distracting anyway. Maybe more on that another time but to satisfy any personal curiosity – my spiritual habits are never enough for one who desires to encounter the Lord more.

But here’s one practice I share hopefully to encourage. It’s not really impressive so I don’t think it’s going to come across as pious but just about every year for a good while, I’ve read the Gospels throughout Lent, leaving the Gospel of John for Holy Week. As some of you will know, half the book takes place during Holy Week and there’s so much dialogue and narrative, that it really is a beautiful piece of spiritual literature. I’m grateful that it’s part of my “holy book.”

Like with most things, each year a different part of the story hits you. For some reason, I read ahead this year and having run out of text I keep circling (exception being the Empty Tomb scene in John 20). And this year, I’ve paused on the Last Supper scenes which includes the conversations surrounding the foot washing, final instructions and the prayers in Gethsemane, just before Judas’ betrayal.

This year I find myself wondering just how much the disciples are understanding and how much they are still missing. The stories are charged with an epic reverence as they are being written in a past post-resurrection voice but understanding the disciple’s mentality here during Passion Week is a fascinating exercise for me. I speculate that years later they would have looked back upon this week and said, “We should have asked him for more instruction being the end and all.”

If they could, among the questions they would likely ask is “What should we do with all the new people that want to follow you? You know because now you’re not going to really be here, at least like this so can we clarify some of our official Christian discipleship practices before Judas comes back?”

“What about those who don’t follow Jesus correctly?” Can’t you just hear one of the disciples asking that? “Rabbi, we know that you are kind and compassionate. We’ve seen you heal and minister to those whom we assumed were a nuisance or a waste of time. Rabbi, you have taught us to serve all who humble call upon your name. But my question what will you have us do with those who approach you incorrectly. You know, without that humility and all the stuff that makes you feel compassionate and …”

If this was a Simpson’s episode, Jesus would say, “Yeah, send them to (insert people group or religious belief system that are relevant here).” Then in true Groening sacrilegious fashion Jesus would light a cigarette, grab a bottle of Jack Daniels and hop into a helicopter with Victoria Secret Angels. Some character would make an ascension joke, Christians would be offended, and the writers would hope it’s enough of a controversy to drum up some attention. I used to really love the show but this formula has bored me. But really, I only mention this to distract you dear reader from what I’m going to say next – it’s not like its going to be as outrageous as the Simpsons.

I do wonder what Jesus would tell that disciple. Some days I think he’d say, “They who have ears, let them hear …” (“Umm Jesus, that’s just about everyone”). Or maybe he’d say, “Don’t stop anyone from coming to me. Come on guys, verily, verily, it would be better for you to be trapped into your luxury SUV as it drove a bridge than for you to stop anyone from coming to me.” (“Umm Jesus, what’s a SUV and two wrongs don’t …”).

What if Jesus said, “Good point. They whom have kept all the commands, who have remained completely holy and have no sin may enter.”? (Well, that’s absurd Jesus. Because then your own disciples wouldn’t qualify!”).

Or what if Jesus said, “Really, whoever calls upon my name will be saved. Don’t judge where you think others are by external words and actions – that would be like the Pharisees we’ve been arguing with over these years. That would be legalistic and judgmental. Remember the Father knows the inner heart. You however show the world what’s in your heart, the love and truth you’ve seen me do, let that heart govern your words and your actions …”

Now in John, Jesus goes on to say, “Whoever loves me will obey my teaching …” but prior to that he says, “If you love me, you will obey what I command” and prior to that he says, “A new command I give you: Love one another, As I have loved you, so you must love on another. By this all men will know the you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Come on Jesus, that sounds woefully abstract and oddly liberal. Keep saying things like that and you’re going to find yourself in trouble … Oh.

Back before all this, Jesus washes his disciple’s feet. It’s a clearly an awkward experience for some but becomes extremely powerful. There is no worldly hierarchy here, there is no show or pretense, just community and mission founded in love and justice.

Maybe the disciples were sharper than I give them credit for – maybe they knew not to ask such foolish questions. May this is partially why the early Jesus was postured to grow as it did in the face of persecution. Maybe we as today’s Church could learn a lesson or two from the Last Supper to Gethsemane. Maybe we ought to be increasingly aware and stand guard of how we are prone to betray our Lord and cause hurt to the other.


  1. […] along, you know I’ve been trying to reflect on Holy Week through the lens of the disciples (here and here). Among the reasons is its my attempt to look at a familiar story with fresh eyes. I know […]

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