We are more than halfway through Holy Week, 2017. It started last Sunday with the arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem on the back of a donkey. The people were shouting “Hosanna” which we learned in my last post was a form of begging Jesus to save the people. How ironic that the thing they were asking for was the very thing that Jesus was about to do for them. Of course, even the apostles didn’t understand the depth of the sacrifice that Jesus was about to make, but Jesus was undeniably moving toward the fulfillment of the will of His Father – death, and ultimate resurrection, on the cross. He would be dying the death of a common criminal, between two others being crucified with Him, on the day we remember as Good Friday.
It is the darkest day in the Christian calendar, leading to the most joyous day, Easter, several days later. But before the drama of the crucifixion and the resurrection, Jesus spent Thursday evening dining in the Upper Room with his intimate group of disciples. After three years of living with them and teaching them, this, for all intents and purposes, was their final exam.
It was the evening that they broke bread and drank wine together. It was the advent of what we have come to call communion, or the Eucharist. It was the tangible reminder that Jesus wanted His apostles to remember Him. Whether you believe that Jesus actually poured himself out for his followers depends in part of your religious affiliation. Catholic doctrine dictates that the elements of the Eucharist are the actual blood and body of Christ. Many other Christian denominations look upon communion as a ceremony of remembrance and this post is not going to enter into the theological debate as to which position is most likely correct. That’s the dominion of the Holy Spirit and the other members of the Trinity to reveal at a time of their choosing.
Jesus also washed the feet of his disciples and encouraged them to serve one another. It was a sacred, private time, away from the mass of followers – an intimate circle of friends enjoying a solemn time together as their leader was preparing Himself to be sacrificed as the lamb of God. Even today, many Maundy Thursday services observe the practice of washing the feet of those attending the service as another reminder of the actions of Jesus that night in the Upper Room.
The theology of this evening was so important that John 13-17 is referred to as the Upper Room Discourse. It is in these chapters that Jesus lays bare His heart – and proceeds to tell the disciples about Christian service. He serves his followers with a humble heart and while knowing that His death was less than a day away, He didn’t pray for release or try to find a way to avoid His fate. Instead, Jesus loved “his own” and spent His last night before the crucifixion with them.
Our verse for this evening highlights the beginning of the Upper Room Discourse – the five chapters that contain the most important parts of what Jesus was about. The apostle John tells us, in John 13:1, “It was just before the Passover Feast. 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.”
Notice that He had loved his own and was now showing them the “full extent” of His love. THE FULL EXTENT of His love… we can’t even now comprehend the magnitude of that that statement. My encouragement tonight is that Jesus does love us – more than we can possible know – and the events of the next several days demonstrate that love to us. My prayer is that you will spend a little time reflecting on the kind of service that Jesus wants from us in this world. It is a mighty task, but something that Jesus spent His last hours trying to impart to those who would carry His message to the ends of the earth. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…