Christmas wasn’t that long ago, was it? Do you recall singing, ‘Hark! the Herald Angels Sing?’ That has to be my favourite carol of all time. So rich in lyrics, so majestic in its praise to the newborn King. And when you sang that classic carol, did you pay attention to the words, at least a few lines which I have been pondering?
‘Mild he lays his glory by, Born that man no more may die, Born to raise the sons of earth, Born to give them second birth….’
Today is Maundy Thursday. It is also known as Holy Thursday, Covenant Thursday, Great and Holy Thursday, Sheer Thursday and Thursday of Mysteries, among other names. [Wikipedia]
John 13 paints the scene of the Last Supper, the last Passover meal which Jesus celebrated with his disciples, and to which he gave new significance with the introduction of the broken bread and shared a cup, portraying his broken body and poured out blood for our sin.
“It was just before the Passover Feast.’
This feast was on the calendar every year and even in 2018 faithful Jewish practitioners will commemorate this centuries-old celebration.
“Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.”
He knew what time it was. This was no accident. All of the events that had transpired over 33 years were part of God’s decreed will. He had come to die. He had come not to be served, but to serve. He had come to be the Lamb sacrificed in full payment for sins. ‘Who would have thought that a Lamb could rescue the souls of men? O, you rescue the souls of men…’
He loved his own. John, one of the Twelve, described himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved. Is this not our description? Do we not perceive the love that Christ has for us? Dare we doubt it after he expressed it so evidently at the cross?
He showed them the full extent of his love. What capacity did God grant them to measure this love? Did they, like the believers for whom Paul prayed in Ephesus, not need God’s help to measure the capacity, to grasp “how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge?”
How can you know something that is unknowable? There’s the mystery of this gospel story. You and I are loved with an everlasting love, a love that leaves us speechless, a love that overwhelms every part of our being.
John has set the scene by introducing us to the majestic wonder of Christ’s love. But all are not filled with love…
….the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. One of the Twelve, who professed but did not possess faith, became an instrument in the hands of an angry foe, the devil, who had tried from the birth of Jesus (through the action of King Herod) through until this major event to thwart the purposes of God.
Jesus washed his betrayers’ feet. In the presence of his enemies, he demonstrated a calm submission to the will of God.
Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
Mild he lays his glory by. Wesley nailed it at Christmas and John paints the vivid contrast between the infinite knowledge of the Son of God who had come to do His Father’s will, and the selfless sacrifice of the Son of Man, who took the servant’s role in removing the grime from the feet of his followers.
Enough said. Ponder this scene. Then join me in singing ‘Hark! the Herald Angels Sing! Glory to the newborn, risen, reigning, ruling, soon coming King!
Sola Deo Gloria