|Why Is Holy Thursday Holy? –by Lisa Phillips|
Started out the day as usual at Simon’s house. It was a beautiful morning. Jesus seemed preoccupied that morning. Two days before he had said, “You know that in two days the Son of Man will behanded over to be crucified.” (Mt 26:2).
This just kept running over and over in my mind. Surely He was the king of the Jews. He will take His rightful place on the throne. I felt a strange sadness that day preparing for the Seder. It did not feel like any other year. John and I were sent by the Master to prepare the room for the meal. We were to go to Jerusalem to a certain man and say to him, “My appointed time draws near, in your house I will celebrate the Passover with my disciples” (Mt. 26:18). He had a room prepared for us. It was a quiet day in the city because it was a custom to do no work on that day. Work stopped by noon. Even the priests offered their daily sacrifice for the evening by 2:30, so they were prepared to take care of their duties, to kill the sacrificial lambs for everyone’s meal. By 11, John and I had our candles lit and we were silently searching every inch and corner of the house so that there was no leaven to be found. There could be no leaven in the house. I went to buy the lamb and John went to get the rest of the supplies for the dinner that night. I stood in line at the temple with thousands of people outside the temple, so that the priest could kill the lamb. We were singing again the “Hallel” (Ps 113-118). I thought about last Sunday when the Master entered the city. What a different feel this day has.
Once the room was ready and the meal was prepared, we sent word to Jesus and the other disciples that everything was ready. While we were waiting, John and I bought a couple of swords (Lk 22:38). We had this feeling there would be trouble, we wanted to protect Jesus from whoever would try to harm him. After all, hadn’t He said that he would be handed over to be crucified? When we all gathered together, there was some discussion about who of us would be greatest when Jesus took his throne. We figured we should be seated in that order at the table with Him. Jesus told us we should be servants. “For who is greater, the one seated at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one seated at the table: I am among you as the one who serves” (Lk 22:27)
At sunset, people all over the city were observing the same feast. But it is different for us. This would be our last meal with our master and our friend. Jesus took the first cup and gave thanks and drank it. Then he did something that was truly amazing. Traditionally, we have a hands washing ceremony at this point. But, Jesus got up, got a pitcher of water and a basin, took off his garments, and wrapped a towel around his waist. He began washing our feet and drying them with that towel. That was almost too much for me to handle. That was a job even the servants did not want to do. It was saved for the lowliest servant in the house, and yet Jesus our Lord and Master was washing our feet. It made me uncomfortable. The closer he got to me the more uncomfortable I became. I asked Him if he was going to wash my feet. He told me yes but that I would not understand until later. I told him He would never wash my feet. Jesus answered unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.” Then I said, “Then not only my feet but my hands and head as well.” Jesus said: “Whoever has bathed had no need except to have his feet washed, for he is clean all over, so you are clean, but not all” (Jn 13:6-11). This was a puzzling statement. He finished and came back to the table and reclined with us. As usual during the Passover feast we reclined to be comfortable, to remind us that once we were slaves and now we are free. Jesus explained to us what was meant by his washing our feet. He knew it would be hard for us to understand why Jesus, the Master and King, would do something so lowly. “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s” (Jn 13:14). That message was a beginning, but, did not become clear. Later, I would write that we should “be clothed in humility” (1 Peter 5:5). We could tell He was troubled in spirit” throughout the meal. (Jn 13:21) we ate the Haroseth, which is a mixture of chopped walnuts, wine, cinnamon, and apples, which represent the mortar the Jewish slaves used to make the Pharaoh’s bricks. We ate Parsley, which symbolizes springtime, we dipped it in salt water to remind us of the tears of the Jewish slaves and eggs, which also remind us of springtime. We ate the sacrificial lamb, and bitter herbs, which reflected the bitter affliction of slavery. Sometime during that part of the meal Jesus made a statement that was too unbelievable to any of us. “Most assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray me” (Jn 13:21) when Judas left the meal we had no idea that this is what he was going to do. How could he have betrayed our Lord? Of course, little did I know at the time what I would do later. I could not believe it when Jesus turned to me and said “I say to you the cock will not crow before you deny me three times” (Jn 13:38). There was no way I would do that! I was stunned, and for the first time in a long time I could say nothing in reply.
After drinking the second cup of wine, it was customary to break the bread and give thanks. Jesus “took the bread, said the blessing, broke it,”gave it to us saying this is my body, which will be given up for you, do this in memory of me.’ And likewise the cup” after we had eaten saying ” this is the cup of the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you” (Lk 22:19-20). It was like he was giving us a new Passover tradition, something we could do to keep Him alive in our memories like we remember God delivering his people from Egypt.
After the meal, we relaxed and talked for a little while. Jesus began teaching. He left us the new commandment “that you love on another; as I have loved you” (Jn 13:34). As He was teaching we were able to participate and ask questions. It was wonderful being able to do that. Most teachers I have learned under did not tolerate that and made me feel stupid when I asked a question.
I asked Him where he was going. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God, have also faith in Me. In my house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?” (Jn 14:1-2) Thomas asked how to get to the Father’s house. Jesus said “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn 14:6). Philip asked Him to show us the Father. He said: “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” (Jn 14:12-14). He talked about not abandoning us , but instead sending us a comforter. “And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him”(Jn 14:21) Judas (not Iscariot) asked Him how He would show himself to us and “not to the world” (Jn 14:22) He said it would be done through the fellowship of the believers. He and the Father would send the Holy Spirit to give us peace that only He could give and that we should rejoice because He was going to be with the Father. (Jn 24:23-31) As He glanced out the window He saw a vine, which reminded Him that He wanted to tell us that He is close to us and we are a part of Him. “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in Me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without Me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5). “If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.” (Jn15:7). He told us He loved us as the Father loved Him. (Jn 15:9) he warned us that it was going to be rough out there and that whoever kills us “will think he offers God service” (Jn 16:2). He told us that the sorrow of living with opposition and rejection would be intense. (Jn 16:21), but that we would have a comforter (Jn 16:7-15), and that God would turn our sorrow into joy (Jn 16:2022), to remember we had prayer on our side (Jn:16:23-24), and He would be leaving us with his victorious peace (Jn 16:25-33). He told us to get ready to leave. As we walked past the temple he stopped. He prayed for us. He petitioned the Father for the glorification of Him as the Son (Jn 17:1-5). He prayed for us and asked God the Father to watch over us while he was gone (Jn 17:6-9). He prayed for those who would become believers later (Jn 17:20-26). After He finished praying, we walked over the Brook Kidron to the garden of Gethsemane.
We would have a long night ahead of us. There was so much to think about and store in our memories and to ponder and later to come to understand.
(To be continued in the next article, “Why Is Good Friday So Good?”)
©2000 Lisa Marie Phillips all rights reserved
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