Maundy Thursday: Jesus came to serve and love

Today is Maundy Thursday. The word “Maundy” comes from the Latin of Jesus’s words when He gives his disciples a “new commandment” (mandatum novu) to love one another (John 13:34). The last words of someone about to die are very precious and important. Jesus knew that He would be heading towards the Cross very soon. It was His final night with His disciples on earth. He wanted His disciples to carry out this Commandment: to love one another. Love is the hallmark as His disciples.

From this passage, there are 3 things that we as the disciples of Jesus should do:

(1) Serve one another

Half-way during the meal, Jesus got up, took off the outer clothing and wrapped a towel around his waist, kneeled down before His disciples and washed the feet of His disciples one by one, drying the feet with the towel around his waist.

This was not what a king should be doing. What type of king would serve His servants? It is the servants who are at the king’s commands to serve Him.

What Master would serve his disciples? Washing the feet of the disciples is not one of the things the Master should do. The disciples were shocked. What type of a Master is this?  

Footwashing was something that the lowest of servants would do. The servant would draw the water, wash the feet and dispose of the water. In those days, footwashing was a synonym for slavery. Those who received footwashing were superiors to the servant who washed the feet.

That was what Jesus did. No servant is greater than the Master. Yet, Jesus humbled Himself to show us an example of love and humility.  

Jesus, after taking off his garment, was most probably in a tunic, which was something like an undershirt. This garment was what the servants in those days would wear to serve a meal. Jesus, the Master of His disciples, dressed like a servant as He washed His disciples’ feet.

Paul later wrote to the Philippians that Jesus made Himself nothing by taking the form of a servant. The Prince of Heaven took on the form of a servant.

Paul would later write to the Philippians that Jesus, the Son of God, made himself nothing by taking the very form of a servant.

“Who, being in very nature a God,

did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;

rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature b of a servant,

being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man,

he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!

Philippians 2:6-8

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who had authority above all things, came from Heaven to Earth as a man like us. He stooped down to wash His disciples’ feet to show us how to love.

In our culture today, we do not have foot-washing. What Jesus showed us was not the act of foot-washing itself, but it is about humbling ourselves to serve others. It is about serving others with humility and love. It is His humility and His love that enabled Him to stoop down and take the role of a lowly servant, and washed His disciples feet.

Jesus Christ never came to this earth to boast or to boss us around. He came to serve. He came to love.

What does it mean for us today? How does serving look like? Who can you serve? How can you make a difference in someone’s life, starting with your family? Who can you serve in your family? How can we serve?  

Many of us worry that we can’t do much. But serving does not need to be a grand thing. A tiny act of kindness and goodness will have a ripple effect. Like a pebble thrown into the pond, there is a spreading effect. A tiny act of kindness will spread from one person to another. The effect will impact many others.

May God enlarge our hearts to love each other, to love our friends, to love our neighbours and even to love our enemies.

Who can you serve today?

2. Love one another

The acts of Jesus in the upper room must have impacted His Disciples. One of them, John, wrote,

“Beloved, let us love one another. For love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:7-8)

We love because love comes from God. Those who love have God in their lives.

Jesus gave the Commandment to love one another. He said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34). Love is the hallmark of being the disciples of Jesus.

Jesus introduced the Last Supper to His disciples, teaching them the significance of the bread and the cup. 2000 years later, we celebrate Holy Communion in remembrance of what Jesus did for us. We remember the love of Jesus for us that bring Him to the Cross. Because He loves us, He was willing to head to the Cross, although He was scared too.

When we partake the Holy Communion, let’s be reminded that we share the one loaf of bread and the same cup. Let us not ignore or dismiss any of God’s people. We partake from the same loaf and cup. We are one in the Body of Christ, although we have different backgrounds, occupations and even skin colours, we are all same in the eyes of God. We are not any better because we are all sinners deserving death but we are saved by the mercy of God. 

Jesus came for all of us. He died so that we will know what love is. Jesus loves us and He wants us to love one another.

3. Forgive one another

On that night in the upper room, as Jesus was holding the bread in His hands, He knew what was waiting for Him. He understood that this bread in His hands symbolised His body.

In a few hours’ time, His body would be crushed and broken —crushed for the sins of mankind. The entire weight of the sin of humanity was upon Him. He would be nailed on the Cross.

As Jesus was holding the cup, He would see the glistening red wine which was a symbol of His blood. In a few hours’ time, His body would be bloody from the merciless whipping. His would wear a crown of thorns which pierced His head. His blood was shed for us so that all of us who believe can be free from the snare of sin and death. Jesus shared the Cup with His disciples, reminding them that His blood would be poured out for the forgiveness of sins.

Later that night, Jesus said one of the 12 of them would betray Him. The disciples looked at each other. Who could it be?

Then, Judas, one of Jesus’ 12 disciples betrayed Him and sold Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.

I am sure Jesus did certainly forgive Judas for betraying Him. There were no one so bad that Jesus could not forgive. No one so evil that Jesus did not came to save.

In 1988, a famous novelist was on a tv interview, she said, “What I envy most about you Christians is your forgiveness; I have nobody to forgive me.” Why? Why was there no one offering her forgiveness? Why is it she has not forgiven herself when she knows that she will receive forgiveness if only she takes a step to embrace the forgiveness of Jesus? May be she has not fully understood that Jesus offers forgiveness to anyone who would come to Him.

Jesus has offered forgiveness to everyone but it is not received by all. Why?

Forgiveness is hard to give but why is it even harder to receive?

How should we Christians tell others of the forgiveness we have in Christ? How should we live our lives as testimonies that we have been freed from our sin and guilt? There should be forgiveness in us because of the forgiveness that Jesus had given to us.

May we be reminded that Jesus came to serve, to love, to forgive. Let us also serve one another, love one another and forgive one another.

The Significance of Holy Communion

Today is Holy Communion Sunday. Methodists partake the Holy Communion on the first Sunday of every month, calling it “the Holy Communion Sunday service”.

The background of Holy Communion comes from the Passover feast celebrated by the Israelites just before God delivered them from slavery in the land of Egypt. In Egypt, they were forced into hard, laborous work by their task masters. They were oppressed to the extend that it was unbearable for them. They then cried out to God for deliverance.

God heard their cries and sent them Moses to lead them out of the land of oppression and slavery into the Land God had promised them. This land would be a good and spacious land, and it would be fruitful too— “a land flowing with milk and honey.” What a beautiful promise it was compared to their horrible living conditions in Egypt!

On the night of deliverance, God would send an angel of death to strike down all the first born of the Egyptians. God told the Israelites to smear the blood of a sacrificed lamb on the door frames of their houses so that when the angel of death saw the blood over the door frames, he would “pass over” their houses and not strike their firstborns.

That was the original Jewish Passover. It is recorded in Exodus 12:1-30.

In the New Testament, on the night before His death, Jesus Christ deliberately celebrated the Jewish Passover Feast with His disciples. ‘And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For i tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God” (Luke 22:15-16). He drew parallel of His sacrificial death to the Passover lamb. As the blood of the sacrificial lamb was smeared on the door frames and the Israelites would be safe in the house, the blood of Jesus would be poured out to save humanity.

During the Passover meal with His disciples, Jesus introduced the symbols of the bread and the wine. For those who have been baptized in His Name, we will take the bread (a wafer) to remember Jesus’ death on the Cross for us. We remember how He had given Himself up for us. He was crucified for us. He was just like the Passover lamb; He died, so we can live and have eternal life. We will then take the cup (grape juice) which symbolises the blood of Christ that is shed for us and washes away our sins.

Jesus commanded that this is to be done in remembrance of Him. He said, “Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19b). We also remember the new covenant which Jesus made through the Cross.

I tell my church members to remember these few things every time we come forward for Holy Communion:

a. The Past

Jesus was crucified for our sins and He died for us. He who is without sins took the sins of the world upon Himself so that we sinners have a new life and a new identity in Him, the Giver of Life. We are reconciled to God the Father. In the past, we rebelled against His love, but through Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross, our relationship with God is restored.

b. The Present 

Three days after Jesus had died, He rose again. He is alive! He is in Heaven now. The Holy Communion reminds us that Jesus is with us now. It is the time to examine our life: are we living a life that is pleasing to Him?

c. The Future

The Bible tells us that one day, Jesus Christ will come again in victory as well as coming as the Judge of the world. He will come and take believers with Him and we will be with Him in His Kingdom, forever. One day, we will all feast with Him in His Heavenly Banquet. The Holy Communion we partake every month is just a foretaste of the Heavenly Banquet in God’s Kingdom someday.

d. Unity in Christ 

Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:17, “Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf” (NIV). The “one loaf” here refers to the unity of believers. When we kneel together for Holy Communion, we will realise we are all the same in God’s eyes. We are His beloved children; there is no hierarchy, no class or labels as “richer” or “poorer” people. God loves us all. Jesus died for all of us. There is no distinction. It is also time to examine our relationships and to seek forgiveness and reconciliation with each other before the Lord. God’s love will restore us.

I hope you have been blessed by this brief introduction of the significance of the Holy Communion. 🙂