April 6-12, 2020 – Holy Week
There are many readings to cover in these last 4 days of Holy Week (Thursday to Sunday).
I encourage you to take your time and dwell on the words – meditate and see if they speak to you.
Maundy (or Holy) Thursday
READING : John 13:1-17, 31-35
Maundy is derived from the Latin word for "command" and refers to the new commandment by Jesus, to the disciples, that they "Love one another as I have loved you."
On this day we commemorate both the washing of the disciples’ feet by Jesus at the commencement of what is now known as “the Last Supper”, where Jesus ate his last meal with the disciples and his commandment to his disciples (and also to us) that we should love one another – as he loved us.
Jesus also foretold that one of his disciples (Judas Iscariot) would betray his whereabouts (in the Garden of Gethsemane) to the Jewish religious leaders, so that they could arrest him, in private, away from the crowds. They were afraid that the crowds might turn on them, to protect Jesus.
As Jesus prepared for the end of his life, we see this intimate scene of foot washing, which foreshadows the manner in which the shame of the cross will prove the moment of Jesus’ glory and Kingship.
In this passage, Jesus takes on the role of a slave (washing feet) as one of his last earthly acts as their teacher and Lord. The contrast of service and leadership, shame and glory, is key to exploring the power of the cross for John.
John’s timeline of Holy Week is a bit different to that of the other gospels (Matthew, Mark & Luke).
John takes the view that, for devout Jews, it was not yet the time of the Passover feast (the night to start their Sabbath), so there is no bread broken and wine shared, in his narrative.
The other three gospels do include the meal (which we know as the Last Supper) and therefore we celebrate both of them at this time, on Maundy Thursday.
By following his command, the followers of Christ were set apart from other people of the day.
See in v.35 “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another”
Christians (known then as the “People of the Way”) showed a kind of love that was quite different to that exhibited by others in the Jewish, Roman & Greek worlds.
Can we, today, recognise the love of God in our service - and in the midst of our suffering?
Can we sit within the presence of God, even in the shadow of death?
I pray that our church is seen as one that willingly shares its love with those around it. Amen
READING : John 18:1-19:37
Some people ask, “Why is it called “Good” Friday? It certainly wasn’t good for Jesus.”
Superficially, that appears to be so, but his final words, often quoted as “It is finished”, could also be interpreted from the original Greek text as “It is completed.”
That is, his Godly work, whilst he was here on earth, had been done.
We know that his trial was a mockery of justice - even the Romans could see that Jesus had done nothing wrong. He shouldn’t have been tried and executed. It appeared to be a beat-up by the Jewish religious leaders.
This day was all part of God’s greater plan. Jesus had to die, so that we could live.
His death was the price he had to pay, so that our sins could be forgiven.
And it’s not like we’re distant spectators – just watching this grizzly scene from afar.
Instead, we’re right there with him, feeling the pain that he must have been suffering.
He’s paid the price for our sins – an atonement that we’re unable to achieve on our own.
The very people he had come to save, had turned their backs on him and called for his execution.
Are we also guilty of turning our backs on him today?
Lord God, we open ourselves to your pain and anguish – your supreme sacrifice for us.
Restore us to a right relationship with you, we pray. Amen
We know that Jesus died at noon on Good Friday and rose on the morning of the third day (Easter Sunday), as had been prophesied in the Old Testament scriptures. But what happened in between?
By reading the Apostles’ Creed, we know that he descended to the dead and on the third day, rose again.
On Easter Saturday, we remember that time – the time between death and resurrection.
READING 1 : Lamentations 3:1-9, 19-24
Easter is powerful, hope driven, and a celebration of life and God’s love.
It’s also a moment when we can feel the weight of loss and grief.
Shadows drawn sharper by the strength of the light.
For some of us, this will be a time when the wounds inflicted upon us in the past may bite in unexpected ways.
The loss of loved ones, life’s unwanted surprises, and even the fear of what may yet come.
Easter Saturday is a moment to sit “in between”.
To acknowledge the pain of our lives and to not be rushed into solutions and quick fixes.
We can sit within Lamentations Chapter 3 as we see our wounds, feel our loss, and yet somehow still recognise the God who is present with us and who loves us.
READING 2 : Psalm 31:1-4, 15-16
This psalm of David is meant to be sung - he addresses it to the Director of Music.
David calls out to God to hide him, listen to him and to save him.
It was probably penned when David was in hiding from King Saul.
But even in the depths of his despair, he recognises the strength of his Lord and the weakness of himself, by putting all his trust in God to save him.
He concludes the psalm with praise and triumph, giving glory to God, and encouraging himself and others to also put their trust in him.
READING 3 : John 19:38-42
In this reading, we see the love that people had for Jesus. Joseph of Arimathea was not one of his closest disciples, yet he loved his Lord so much, that he was prepared to give up his own burial crypt to lay Jesus there.
Another believer, Nicodemus, assisted Joseph to prepare the body of Jesus for burial.
But where were the closest followers of Jesus?
Hiding for fear of their lives.
They believed that the Jewish religious authorities would come for them next.
It fell on Joseph and Nicodemus, both members of the Jewish Sanhedrin (the group that had brought the charges against Jesus), to give the body of Jesus the respect it deserved.
Why would they have done this?
Perhaps guilt in being part of the group who sent Jesus to the Romans for execution.
Perhaps just a realisation that he was the true Messiah.
READING 4 : 1 Peter 4:1-8
Peter reminds us that we must arm ourselves with the same intentions that Christ had, when he allowed himself to be crucified.
Giving up our human desire and focussing on our lives together when we are reunited with those who’ve gone before us.
In all things, Peter exhorts, maintain constant love for each other, just as Christ commanded.
READING 1 : John 20:1-18
READING 2 : Acts 10:34-43
This is the day that makes more sense of the Easter (Holy) Week for us.
There are many ways in which we can approach the wonder of Easter Sunday.
Sometimes in our rush to resolution, we can miss the nuances that John provides us with.
Consider Mary’s experience. She seeks to provide honour and dignity for Jesus in his death (v1), however even this is denied to her as she confronts the shock of the empty tomb.
While the other two disciples come and go in a whirlwind, Mary is rooted to the spot in grief (v11).
Her exclamation in v13 mirrors the grief that many who have lost their initial faith feel, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”
It’s only through this experience of loss and grief – Jesus is not who I thought he was – that Mary, and indeed many of us, can come to see the Risen Christ among us.
Perhaps Easter can be approached as a faith in Jesus that emerges out of our fears and doubts, rather than pretending they no longer matter.
Please join me now in prayers for all who are struggling through his time.
Missing out on their expected Easter holidays, their time to be with family and friends.
Lord God, we place our trust in you and believe that you have us safe in the palm of your hands.
Like the pain and suffering of the Easter cross, bring us safely through to the belief, hope and salvation of resurrection Sunday. Amen
Your comment will be posted after it is approved.
Leave a Reply.