I love the Lord because he has heard
my voice and my supplications.
Because he inclined his ear to me,
therefore I will call on him as long as I live….
What shall I return to the Lord
for all his bounty to me?
I will lift up the cup of salvation
and call on the name of the Lord;
I will pay my vows to the Lord
in the presence of all his people.
Precious in the sight of the Lord
is the death of his faithful ones.
O Lord, I am your servant;
I am your servant, the child of your serving girl.
You have loosed my bonds.
I will offer to you a thanksgiving sacrifice
and call on the name of the Lord.
I will pay my vows to the Lord
in the presence of all his people,
in the courts of the house of the Lord,
in your midst, O Jerusalem.
Praise the Lord! (New Revised Standard Version)
There is more to the passion of Christ than sheer suffering and sorrow; the Via Dolorosa is, paradoxically, also the road to joy.
Yes, suffering is painful and unpleasant. Yet, since we all must suffer in some way, the real issue is whether our suffering is meaningless or has purpose to it. We are able to bear our suffering if we are confident that a redemptive outcome is at the end of it.
The Lord Jesus submitted to suffering because he knew that all the mockery, torture, and abuse was the pathway to deliverance for humanity.
Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. (Hebrews 12:2-3, NLT)
Since Jesus has gone before us, enduring shame so that it could be put to death in us, we are able to live free from guilt and the ignominy of sin. What’s more, Christ’s suffering gives shape and meaning to our own suffering.
“I cannot but wonder at the virtue that lies in suffering; we are worth nothing without the cross. I tremble and am in an agony while it lasts, and all my conviction of its salutary effects vanish under the torture, but when it is over, I look back at it with admiration, and am ashamed that I bore it so ill.”François Fénelon (1651-1715)
On this Maundy Thursday, we remember that in the midst of suffering there is the hope of glory, and in the center of pain there is the confident expectation that it will be used as the fertilizer to help love grow and bloom in the dormant places of this world.
“Love proves itself by deeds, so how am I to show my love? Great deeds have forbidden me. The only way I can prove my love is by scattering flowers and these flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least actions for love.”St. Thérèse of Lisieux (1873-1897)
There cannot be love without suffering; to love is to sacrifice on behalf of another.
Because we live in a broken world full of pride and hubris, greed and avarice, hate and envy, we are victims of loveless systems and unjust actions. We need love to rescue and redeem us from the sheer muck of existential guilt and shame, evil and injustice.
Christians around the world are journeying through Holy Week, the most sacred time of the year for followers of Christ. When we think about Holy Week, we are familiar with Good Friday and certainly Easter, but Maundy Thursday?
On this day, the Church remembers the final evening Jesus shared with his disciples in the upper room before his arrest and crucifixion. The experiences in the upper room were highly significant because this was the last teaching, modeling, and instruction Jesus gave before facing the cross. Jesus was careful and deliberate to communicate exactly what was important to him: to love one another.
“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, NIV)
Maundy Thursday marks three important events in Christ’s Last Supper with his disciples:
- The washing of the disciples’ feet (the action of loving service)
- The instituting of the Lord’s Supper (the remembrance of loving sacrifice)
- The giving of a “new” commandment to love one another (the mandate of a loving lifestyle)
The message of Maundy Thursday is this: Jesus Christ loves me just as I am, and not as I should be. He loves me even with my dirty stinky feet, my herky-jerky commitment to him, and my pre-meditated sin.
Today is a highly significant day on the Church Calendar and in the Christian Year – one which deserves to be observed, and an opportunity to remember the important words and actions of Jesus on our behalf. Through Jesus Christ we are to live always in love, modeling our life and ministry after him.
In Christ, love is to characterize our life together as we proclaim God’s love in both word and deed. A watching world will take notice and desire to lay down their hate and animosity if the followers of Christ are deeply and profoundly centered in the love of God.
God our Father, you invite us to participate in the life, suffering, death, and resurrection of your Son. Inspire us by his service, and unite us in his love; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.