Two things always make me think on Holy Thursday. Why He did what He did and why like that.
There is that phrase, ‘putting your money where your mouth is’ or ‘if you don’t walk the walk, you shouldn’t talk the talk’. All the way through Christ’s ministry two central messages, Forgiveness is open to all, the invitation is made to all. Nobody is outside it; we can fail to respond, we can ignore the offer but it doesn’t get taken back.
In Mark’s Gospel Jesus cures the leper (Mk.1:40-45) and asks him to tell nobody about it but to go and show himself to the priest. Perhaps understandably, the leper ignores him and begins telling everyone about it, after all he is now made clean and able to rejoin living with his family and friends whereas before he had to stay outside where nobody lived. However, as a result of this disobedience ,‘Jesus could no longer openly enter a town but’, and here is the wow moment, ‘ had to stay outside where nobody lived’. Here we have a central part of the Lord’s mission. Firstly, even after disobeying, the leper still remained cured, it was not withdrawn. Secondly, Jesus took on, because of the other’s disobedience, the punishment that previously the other had suffered…..does this sound familiar.
It is, of course, a wonderful echo of what we look towards tomorrow. Christ taking on the punishment due to us because we had failed to love but He restores this by loving all the more. He tells us, throughout His ministry, of the centrality of the selfless love of the Father. In this act of love, He shows it far better than any words could ever have communicated. At the meal, he points to this too. He washes the disciples’ feet, He shares with them his own self. However, notice something really important – every person present in that room has their feet washed, every person in that room receives His very self. The Apostles too thick and too scared to either understand or to stay faithful, Peter, the loud mouthed buffoon, who in an astounding act of arrogance declares how he will never desert or deny and then does just that and Judas, who, at that moment, was probably working out when he could best slip away. All of these, He serves; all of these he loves; all of these, are the ones for whom He dies.
And why in that way ? The meal and the feet washing.
Well, food is that very basic necessity. (I know wine isn’t a necessity ….although these last few weeks one might argue the toss…..) but we all eat, we all gather, we all share and Christ therefore placed at the very centre and normal running of our lives this remembrance of Him. Every candle can point to Christ, the light of the world, if we are alive to that. Perhaps every meal should point to Christ, the food of life.
And the washing – As I mentioned on Monday – Christ had experienced this action and had seen in it an amazing expression of His service. A woman who was a sinner (Lk.7:36 ff) had, in an act of love, knelt and washed and dried His feet. Her action, genuine and heartfelt, was taken up, transformed and made central to His commission to us. Her action, a failure, a sinner, an outcast, was welcomed, blessed, transformed and laid upon us. The God we worship takes whatever we have to offer, no matter how imperfect, confused or muddled and makes of it something which may inspire, challenge and enable in equal measure.
Take this bread and eat, take this cup and drink; take this bowl and serve.