It is now my favorite date on the Christian calendar yet I had never heard of it two years ago. Of course I’d heard the story of the Passover meal shared by Jesus and his disciples, the night where he predicted his own betrayal, only to be met with confusion and sleepy pals. But I had never really listened.
Maundy Thursday is new to me.
Easter is the time we celebrate Jesus resurrection but seldom do we take the time to focus on the dark part of Easter. And it is dark. We want to skip ahead to Sunday, but by doing so we miss out on something truly significant.
It makes sense that we want to pass this over. It’s not comfortable. You won’t find many churches hosting a Maundy Thursday service but it is a wonderfully solemn and deep experience.
I am writing this having just returned from one. The “Service of Shadows” (if there is ever a better name for a Church service I am yet to here it) leads us through six readings from the Gospels reflecting on the night where Jesus was betrayed and his eventual crucifixtion. The Shadow of Betrayal, The Shadow of Agony, of Arrest, of Denial, of Trial and of Suffering. Each reading accompanied with the extinguishing of a candle, slowly leading us further into darkness.
This is no coincidence.
There is no celebration here. There is no risen Christ. There is no awe or excitement. No victory. No defeated sin. No anxious rushing back to tell the others who you just bumped into.
It’s hard to see Jesus as a normal person but as much as He was God, He was a real Human being. On the night when He needed them most his friends fell asleep on Him. His frustration and anger can be felt. As much as Jesus was prepared to die, He wanted desperately to avoid what was coming.
We’re meant to see Jesus as fully human because it allows us to see ourselves as fully human. Maundy Thursday encourages us that there is something in the darkness that can be a gift. We don’t need to avoid it. We avoid it because we don’t want to face up to pain or suffering. That makes sense and that makes us human. It makes us Christlike.
But the message here is that whatever you are experiencing is alright. It doesn’t make you less human, it makes you fully human and ironically fully alive.
But today it is a distant Hope. We need to learn that it’s ok to feel this way. I don’t have good news for you but I do have this. We’re not alone. You’re not alone. We’re with you. This pain is what is going to make you stronger but that is for another day.
Resurrection will come. Freedom will come.
Soon, but not yet.