Maundy Thursday: Setting Aside Power

It’s a cold, rainy, windy Maundy or Holy Thursday here in Vermont. According to Wikipedia, Maundy Thursday is the

The feast or holy day falling on the Thursday before Easter that commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus Christ with the Apostles. It is the fifth day of Holy Week, and is preceded by Holy Wednesday and followed by Good Friday.

On this day four events are commemorated: the washing of the Disciples’ feet by Jesus Christ, the institution of the Mystery of the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper, the agony of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, the betrayal of Christ by Judas Iscariot.

That’s a  lot of events to cram into one day. In observance of Maundy Thursday I’ve been reading the account of the last supper in the Gospel of John. The last week of Jesus’ life occupies a huge amount of space in John’s Gospel and much of John’s material is unique.

Right off the bat in John 13, just as things are warming up, John makes a startling statement about Jesus:

Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God. (John 13:3 NIV)

This is what John wants us to know right before Jesus starts washing everyone’s feet: he had all power, but he still humbly served his followers and remained committed to dying for our sins. Keep in mind that execution on a cross in Jesus’ time was a reminder of Rome’s power, but in Jesus the cross became a symbol of power set aside, power restrained, power held up until the fullness of time: the time of the Resurrection.

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