This Holy Week running up to Easter is unlike any I can remember. Usually, it is a week during which the faithful attend church to recall the events of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.
On Maundy Thursday, we recall Jesus washing his disciples’ feet, the events of the Last Supper, and Jesus praying in the Garden at Gethsemane.
Jesus washing his disciples’ feet reminds us that Christians are not to lord it over one another, but to serve and be served.
At the Last Supper, Jesus shared the Passover meal for the last time with his disciples, and predicted what was going to happen to him the following day:
And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19, NIV)
Jesus tells his disciples that he is giving up his body for them. He breaks a piece of bread in front of them at the Passover meal. The very next day he would die in agony on the cross.
At the Last Supper, Jesus gave his disciples instructions to break bread in remembrance of him. This is done at every service of Holy Communion. Traditionally, we would take communion together on Maundy Thursday and again on Easter Day.
This year, we are unable to do so. Sometimes, it is not until something is taken away that we realise how important it is! This Easter, we cannot receive Holy Communion, but we can remind ourselves of the significance of Jesus’ death.
On Good Friday, the Bible passages we most often read in church include Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22. In Isaiah we read:
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
As we read the words of the David, the psalmist, and Isaiah, the prophet, it’s remarkable to see how accurately they predict the crucifixion of Jesus.
But, for Christians, this is not surprising! Because, of course, the whole Bible, … indeed the whole of human history, … finds its fulfilment in the events of Good Friday and Easter morning.
One well-known hymn that is often sung on Good Friday is “There is a green hill far away”. I can still remember being moved by the words of Mrs Alexander’s Easter hymn when I was at school. I knew that I was singing about something important:
He died that we might be forgiven, he died to make us good;
that we might go at last to heaven, saved by his precious blood.
There was no other good enough to pay the price of sin;
he only could unlock the gate of heaven, and let us in.
We may not be able to meet together in church this week. But the significance of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday is more relevant than ever this year.
Revd Stephen Robertson