Friday, April 14, 2006

Maundy Thursday

I went with my fellowship group to a Maundy Thursday service at All Angels Church. We were all there to remember the night before the crucifixion, the night of the Last Supper, when Christ instituted the practice of taking communion and when he washed his disciples' feet. In rememberance of Christ, we (including the pastors), in pairs, took turns to wash each others feet.

[Jesus] poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?"

Jesus replied, "You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand."

"No," said Peter, "you shall never wash my feet."

Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no part with me."

John 13:5-8

The pastor spoke about how we often try to deal with our own sin by ignoring it, or trying our best to live a good life, taking our salvation into our own hands, trying to work our way into heaven ("I am good, therefore God owes me"), or, we try to beat ourselves up and make ourselves feel bad, thinking that our guilt could wash us clean. But the surest way we know why none of these approaches could ever work, was because Jesus chose the cross. If there were any other way for the God of the universe to reconcile fallen humanity to himself - we who had wilfully rebelled against his rightful lordship - would he not have chosen that? It was not only Jesus who suffered infinitely on the cross, the Father's heart was wrenched apart also - for which father would not hurt to see his son suffer?

The words from the hymn Rock of Ages speak beautifully of this:

Not the labors of my hands
can fulfill thy law's commands;
could my zeal no respite know,
could my tears forever flow,
all for sin could not atone;
thou must save, and thou alone.

Nothing in my hand I bring,
simply to the cross I cling;
naked, come to thee for dress;
helpless, look to thee for grace;
foul, I to the fountain fly;
wash me, Savior, or I die.

It is only Jesus' atoning sacrifice on the cross, Jesus dying in our place, bearing upon himself the full punishment for humanity's sin - it is only Jesus' blood that washes us clean.

...When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. "Do you understand what I have done for you?" he asked them. "You call me 'Teacher' and 'Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you."
John 13:12-15

As I knelt at my friend's feet, I poured water into the basin, and taking each foot in turn I washed them. I thought about how Jesus humbled himself infinitely, washing the feet of his disciples, and ultimately, becoming a man and laying his life down for us. The Lord of the Universe knelt at his disciples' feet and washed them. Even washing the feet of the one who was to betray him. The great love that is evident in the laying down of his life for all at the crucifixion, is also demonstrated in the humble service of footwashing. It spoke powerfully of the new organising principle of God's kingdom, for Jesus' message was radically counter-cultural then, and it still is now.

Tim Keller put it most eloquently in one of his recent sermons, "The Openness of the Kingdom." Jesus proclaimed, ""The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!" (Mark 1:15) Keller talked about how everytime a new leader comes in, he always brings with him new organising principles: new priorities, new values, new policies - things get done differently. What then, is the central organising principle of the kingdom?

The way up, is to go down
the way to influence and power, is not to seek influence and power,
but only to serve
the way to get rich is to give your wealth away
the way to be really happy, is not even to try to be happy,
but to try to make others happy
the way to reign is to submit
the way to magnificence of character, is humility
the way to find yourself - that is to really know that you are distinct, unique and valuable - is to not try to find yourself but to lose yourself in service to God and others
the way to be free, is to go to God and say, "Command me."

The kingdom of God is just the world turned upside down - it's the absolute reverse of how the world regards money, power, recognition, status, comfort and happiness.

It is the Lord of all the universe stooping to wash his disciples' feet.

It is the Lord of all the universe clinging to the cross, so that his blood may wash us clean.

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