Maundy Thursday and Good Friday have been for me very special events this year.
On Maundy Thursday we had long planned a fellowship meal followed by a simple act of Holy Communion. How exactly the evening would run was another matter. But the nearer Maundy Thursday drew near, the more we sensed we wanted to create something of the atmosphere of the Upper Room, and not just in the sharing of the bread and wine.
Whatever else may have happened there, we know Jesus celebrated the Passover, read the Scriptures and taught His disciples. So during the course of the meal we tried however faintly to follow this example. We read through Matthew 26, and on each table we put out cards with questions about forgiveness, for folk to use as they saw fit.
How the evening would turn out, I had almost no idea. But what I found fascinating was how through the words of the Bible, and the conversations one with another, the Holy Spirit was so clearly at work. As folk openly and honestly shared real life situations, so we began to understand each other so much better and deepen our sense of unity as the body of Christ.
Nobody, I think, found the whole subject of forgiveness easy. We all could tell stories of when it was hard to forgive, and when our efforts to bring peace had failed. But certainly for my part, as we discussed the issues we faced, it made me realise what a mighty work God achieved in Jesus Christ by forgiving us our sins. We so often and so lightly talk about the forgiveness God offers, but the cost to Jesus was painful and it was real.
After all, as I shared briefly, Jesus on that night was betrayed by the chief priests (who should have welcomed the Messiah), by Judas Iscariot, even by Peter. When He took His friends into the garden of Gethsemane, they fell asleep instead of supporting Him in prayer. When He was arrested, all the disciples deserted Him and fled in terror. It’s hard to imagine such a lonely, terrible experience for Jesus, and all that even before the beating, the insults and crucifixion. Yet Jesus went through it all so that in Him we could experience the forgiveness of our Heavenly Father by dying in our place for our sins.
It was only natural, then, that our conversations led after the meal to a act of Holy Communion, and a simple act of passing the loaf and cup to one another reinforced our sense of belonging to Christ and to each other. We ended up by singing, “When I survey the wondrous cross”, and for me the evening was summed up by the last lines of that hymn which took on a new and profound significance:
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my life, my soul, my all