At school I like to spend my 30 minutes of break sitting outside. Our school is owned by a Catholic church and in their courtyard is a statue with a couple benches around it. The statue is of the Virgin Mary holding a very young Jesus. Yesterday, for the first time in several months, it was warm enough for me to go out and enjoy the sunshine, birds chirping, and fresh air.
It struck my during this Holy Week, the unease of sitting before the Christ Child--the very one whose birth we celebrated a few months ago--knowing we are about to mark His death on the church calendar. Uncomfortably I note that the babe, about whom we sing idyllic carols of praise at Christmas, was born for the purpose of dying. Of course, His purpose was much greater--to show us love and how to live. But God gave us His Son to be our sacrificial lamb--the Pascal Lamb the Jews slaughter each Passover because the lamb's blood saved them from being visited by the angel of death; the "lamb" (goat) the High Priest sacrificed on Yom Kippur to atone for sins.
I cringe knowing that the Infant Jesus will grow up only to be flogged, beaten, and nailed to a cross where He will die an agonizing death. I cringe because I know He did nothing to deserve such a death, but that He went to the cross willingly on my behalf. I cringe because it was my sins that put Him there.
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Tonight is Maunday Thursday. It marks the eve when Jesus gathered with His closest friends. The eve when the Master disrobed Himself and washed His disciples grimy, dirty feet. The night when Jesus took the cup of wine and the Passover bread and gave thanks for them, despite their representation of His blood which would be poured out and His body which would be broken.
The name "Maunday" comes from the Latin maundatum, which means "commandment." That evening, while taking a towel and a basin of water and washing feet like a lowly servant, Jesus commanded His followers to do the same. To serve. To love.
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Tomorrow we will go to church to mark Good Friday. An odd name. Most would see nothing good about a man being sentenced to death--a death carried out upon a hill for all to see. A death where a naked man hangs nailed to wooden beams where he slowly asphyxiates as he can no longer breathe under the weight of his own body.
His mother watches the scene unfold, unbelieving at what is happening. Her Son--the one whom the Holy Spirit placed within her, the one whom God said would be the Savior--was being crucified like a common criminal.
Her disciples were there--the ones who had followed Him for three years as their Master. The ones who had their feet washed by Him, who ate the bread and drank from the cup. The ones who had deserted, disavowed, and betrayed Him the night before.
And we are there, knowing it is because of our rebellion and disobedience that Jesus is in such agony. Yet it is also because of the greatest love in the world. And it is simply because of this love that we can even dare call such a scene "good."