Our Maundy Thursday gathering will be a shared meal, with a series of meditations. I am giving the first meditation, and this is what I will be saying.
Jesus said, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” – John 13:34-35
I wonder, if it were up to us, how we would spend our last night on earth. What might you say and do with such limited time? Would you tell your family and friends that you would be leaving them soon?
We may well imagine that these are the questions running through the mind of Jesus on that Thursday night as he gathered with his friends and disciples in the Upper Room. What a heavy heart Jesus must have had that evening! He knew it would be their last gathering, their last meal, the last chance to help them understand all the events that were still to come – from the garden to the cross to the empty tomb. If only the disciples had known that this night would be the last – maybe they would have acted differently. Maybe Peter would not have protested the foot washing. Maybe Thomas would not have asked so many questions – or maybe the rest of them would have asked more. But, that is the hindsight of sudden loss. It leaves us wondering what we might have done differently, or what we might have said – the “if onlys” and “maybes” that we can never answer.
But Jesus knew. He knew it was their last meal, their last gathering before everything changed. And so he gave the disciples their final instructions: Love one another, as I have loved you. We call it a commandment, but it is more than that. It is a gift. Jesus gave these instructions as a final word to his disciples, so that they would have a way to survive the confusion and pain of the next days. Jesus spent his last time with his friends serving them, feeding them, and caring for them – and then telling them that they must always do the same. In the midst of pain, it was Jesus desire that the disciples love one another as deeply as Jesus loved them.
And it is still his desire. Jesus calls us to love one another through the hurts and struggles of this life, to serve, to encourage, and to strengthen. In the darkest hours of his life, Jesus demonstrated amazing love for his friends. Tonight, we reflect on his actions of love, and move together toward the cross and new life, and we remember that new life in Christ begins here, among friends, with the new commandment: Love one another.
Let us pray.
Lord Jesus Christ, you call us to love one another by following your example of service and sacrifice. Bless this gathering, the food we are about to receive, and those who prepared it for us. As we gather here in your Name, help us to see your face in each other and to remember that all we have and all that we truly are is rooted in your love. Amen.