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Thursday, April 1, 2010

Holy Week Meditation -- Thursday, April 1, 2010

Today is Maundy Thursday (April 1, 2010). Tonight we will celebrate Holy Communion among a church full of believers. For many Baptist, Maundy Thursday is an unfamiliar term. "Maundy" means commandment and a Maundy Thursday service focuses on the last commandment Jesus gave His disciples before His crucifixion--love one another. "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." John 13:34-35 (KJV)

During the Last Supper, the Scriptures show Jesus in anguish of soul and spirit. His heart was greatly troubled; His suffering was at hand. Several times between the beginning of that supper and His arrest in the garden, Jesus commanded His followers to "love one another." He knew the importance of their love for each other.

On their way to Gethsemane, they heard His words about the coming Comforter, but they did not fully understand what He meant. Those faithful followers--who bravely said "let's go to Jerusalem so we can die with Him"-- would need something more than bravery and promises of "comfort to come" to keep them from Friday to Sunday: they needed love. Their love for each other would have to sustain them through the suffering to come--both Jesus' and theirs.

Over thirty-five years of ministry, I have seen suffering in all of its flavors. I have seen those with no church-connection (no apparent faith in God) face suffering and I have seen believers suffer. I have seen people suffer alone, and I have seen people suffer in crowds. I have seen people fall-apart in minor suffering (although suffering is seldom minor to the one experiencing it), and I have seen people face the suffering of death with calmness of soul. I have seen people face suffering in sudden tragedy and in prolonged illness.

After witnessing all that suffering, I think I can boil it all down to two responses: hopelessness or faith. What makes the difference? Without a doubt, faith in Jesus Christ sustains us in our suffering. But, there is something more that I have witnessed. It is the faith community coming together to share, to hold, to care for, to lift up, to pray for, to encourage, to strengthen, to truly love those who suffer. The love of Christ expressed through loving believers makes all the difference.

The Apostle John, who was with Jesus at the Last Supper and had those words about "loving one another" burned into his heart says this in 1 John 3:14-18. "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth." (KJV)

Let us live out the command of Jesus to love one another, not just this week or not just when people are hurting and suffering, but at all times of our life. That is truly putting Holy Week and the Love of Christ into action.

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