What is at the heart of Maundy Thursday?
Some would point to Jesus’ washing of His disciples feet and see a call to radical social action.
Some would point to Jesus’ sharing bread and wine and see the institution of the Eucharist.
Some would point to Jesus’ new command and see the inauguration of Christian community.
Some would point to Jesus’ agony in Gethsemane and see Jesus’ identification with the persecuted and the downtrodden.
None of these points of view are necessarily wrong. But I would argue they do not go deep enough to find the common denominator behind the rich drama of that night. All that Jesus did that night arose out of a deep, deep submission to His Father’s will. His washing of feet, His sharing of bread and wine, His giving of a new command, His prayer in the garden all revealed Him to be the faithful Son of God who fulfilled the will of the Father.
But we mustn’t imagine this was easy. This evening, it seems to me, brings out the sharpest tension between the human and divine aspects of Jesus’ nature. It wasn’t that Jesus serenely went on His way knowing that everything would be all right in the end. The sweat and the blood He shed in the garden was real enough. Yet the level of obedience that He showed was beyond anything you or I could ever imagine. The events of the following day involved neither the sacrifice of an unwitting victim, nor the mere appearance of suffering. It was the offering of Jesus fully human, fully divine as the propitiation for our sins.
I for one cannot even begin to imagine what was on Jesus’ mind as He walked down these steps, past the pool of Siloam and up onto the Mount of Olives. I can only be so profoundly grateful that this was the path He chose to tread.