This is “Holy Week” on the church calendar, which culminates on Easter Sunday, the most holy day for Christians. Easter is the day that we remember the magnificent resurrection of Jesus; it is the day when he rose from the dead and was bodily present with his closest followers. An amazing story, Resurrection Sunday can still affect us spiritually, and transform us from death to life. Like the caterpillar who morphs into a butterfly, the resurrection changed Jesus into something beautiful. If we truly understand what happened to Jesus, and why he did it, Easter can change us into something beautiful, too.
And yet, before we get to Sunday, we must go through Thursday, often called “Maundy Thursday,” and Friday, known as “Good Friday.” The word “maundy” comes from the ancient word “maunde,” which literally means “command.” It was taken from John 13:34, where Jesus commanded his followers to “love one another as I have loved you…” This command followed an unusual act of Jesus, who washed the feet of his disciples during their Passover meal together. It was a menial task, usually performed by a servant. Jesus’ actions were so unexpected that they were difficult to understand. Thus, Simon Peter responded by declaring, “you shall never wash my feet!” Jesus replied, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me” (Jn 13:8). “Then,” Peter said, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” (Jn 13:9). Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you” (making reference to one man who would betray him, Jn 13:10-11). This is an odd conversation full of imagery, but it is one that is critically important to believers.
Jesus refers to two kinds of “washing,” or spiritual cleansing. First, his reference to “bathing the whole body” is a metaphor for a person’s once-and-for-all-time forgiveness of sins, past, present and future. As promised, it is the salvation and justification by God of people who believe in Jesus, as our “Lord” (Jn 13:8-9) and Savior. Second, the “washing of our feet” is a metaphor for the daily need for forgiveness. That is, our feet pick up the “dirt and grime of daily living,” and we do need to repent daily. Just because God grants us eternal salvation, it does not mean that we will live sinless lives. We fall down, and we get muddy, in thought, word, and deed. Every one of us is in need of God’s mercy. So, God forgives us and cleanses us on a daily basis, in addition to his one-time act of salvation.
Furthermore, we must “wash the feet” of others (Jn 13:14-15). Jesus is our example; we must forgive other people, even on a daily basis (maybe at least “seventy-seven times,” see Mt 18:21-22). If there were no daily forgiveness among God’s people, there would be no love and fellowship in the church. Truly, we prove that we have been spiritually cleansed and forgiven when we forgive others. Forgiveness is part of obeying Jesus’ command to “love one another as I have loved you.”
Why is forgiveness so difficult for us?
In my next blog, we will think about “Good Friday”…..