Posts tagged Holy Week
Posts tagged Holy Week
John 13:1-17, 35
Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.” After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them… By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
In a darkened chapel, an unadorned crossed lures mourners to draw near. Sorrowful gratitude often fills the hearts of those taking time out of their day to listen to an organ drone on in macabre melody. Christians gather to remember the last days of Christ, the final meal share with disciples and in John’s gospel the humble washing of feet. Parishioners often leave the service in silence, forgetting the final command of fourth gospel message.
The term Maundy Thursday for our services, also known as Holy Thursday, derives from the beginning of the Latin phrase (“Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos” - You should know I don’t know Latin and copied/pasted this phrase) of Jesus’ command in verse 35, “A new command I give to you, love one another.” The affectionate detail of John’s story of foot washing symbolizes the intimacy of the Christian community among each other and the importance of sharing intimacy with the world. Other’s, outside of the Christian church, become aware of God’s love as witnessed in love for one another.
As a woman working in ministry, it is easy to love those in your congregation who support women in ministry. Gatherings at conferences for women in ministry evolves into a support group and encouraging session of men and women all over working towards pulpit parity. However, Jesus’ Holy Thursday command of love for those in the Christian community who don’t accept or legitimize women called to ministry becomes more difficult. Some women, with the sting of time and dirty comments ringing in their ears, become bitter and vocally abrasive. Some women, abused by verbal desecration and rejection, shrink into a silence. Acting as a loving, grace-filled supporter of women in the pulpit, serving communion, leading Sunday school, or teaching in Bible classes is not easy. Too often the ugly shouting of hostility and resentment shrieks over the passionate but gentle words of a woman seeking reconciliation.
At his final meal, Jesus did not discriminate when washing the dusty feet of disciples. Judas, a betrayer, Peter, a denier, and other cowards all received the humble gift of cleanliness, forgiveness, and love through foot washing. What does this mean for honest women seeking ministerial positions? Most women I know are tired of working harder, pushing farther and covering all their bases only to be ignored, excluded, or chastised based on gender bias. Yet, the command of this sorrowful Thursday grimly reminds us to display our discipleship by loving one another… even if we are not loved (equally) first.
After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.” The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking. One of his disciples—the one whom Jesus loved—was reclining next to him; Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “Do quickly what you are going to do.” Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the festival”; or, that he should give something to the poor. So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night. When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.
In our house, a highly theologically educated house, Lady Gaga and Judas are both highly debated topics. Singer, dancer, songwriter and fashion icon Gaga tells the story of a misunderstood, culturally abused Judas in a motorcycle gang of disciples in her controversial music video. As Mary Magdalene seated behind Jesus in a crown of thorns, Gaga sympathizes with the darkness, betrayal and understanding of forgiveness portrayed in the literary elements of the character Judas. She qualifies that her video is not a religious statement but an attempt to understand those who feel outcast and demonized much like the biblical character.
I am a Judas sympathizer. Perhaps it is my love/fascination with Gaga or my reading of the play “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot,” but I have witnessed the cultural message of a negative, demonized Judas. Everyone wants a villain. Our stories are wrought with a protagonists and antagonists from childhood. Underneath it all, we have come to believe real life, stories of good and evil, and Jesus’ life story, are all similar. There will always be right and wrong. The good will always win out over evil.
In all actuality, real life is much muddier. There is good and bad within the human being, much like the biblical message testifies. However, in our attempt to dramatize good and bad we have created impossible standards for our selves and society. In reality, forgiveness intermingles with betrayal. And light penetrates darkness.
Judas’ rejection of the Messiah and submission to corrupt religious leaders played the necessary role in Jesus’ sacrificial forgiveness on the cross. In a sense, we owe Judas a bit of gratitude for making forgiveness possible. What was once deemed purely evil (a Judas kiss), seems almost hopeful in another light.
Maybe I’m too sympathetic. I’m not in love with Judas. But I do feel sorry for him… and Jesus. Just as I pray that God’s grace be extended to me, I pray that grace is extended to Judas as well.
Lady Gaga’s “Judas” music video
Christian Post on the “Judas” music video
Other Holy Week readings:
Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.
“Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—’ Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die. The crowd answered him, “We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” Jesus said to them, “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.” After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them.
In the presence of Holy Week, we reflect on our forty days in the wilderness. The tumultuous weeks of wrestling with scripture and looking for hope in dark world becomes daunting. I don’t know about you but blogging everyday about depressing and confusing scripture passages has been difficult.
In John’s gospel, there are few revelations from heaven. There is no transfiguration. John the Baptist finitely testifies about Jesus’ divinity, and up until this point the reader never hears a word from God first hand. But here, surrounded by a crowd, a voice booms from heaven,“I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The good news of the gospel is glorified in Jesus’ life. It will be glorified again in his death and resurrection.
Throughout the Johannine gospel, Jesus uses phrases of light and darkness. Light is goodness, something to be desired. And darkness is of the world, inherent badness. Jesus’ light is present with the people for only a few years of ministry. Then the darkness returns; however it is not complete darkness. After Jesus’ death, the Gentile followers of him and his disciples are called to remain lights in the darkness as a testimony to God’s work in the world. Jesus, here with a voice from heaven, prepares his followers for his imminent death.
Our world is filled with dark places. Often times, as first world Christians, perhaps middle class and educated, we do not enter into the dark spaces very often. Our lives center around coffee shops where daily lattes cause $4. Or we use the internet to connect with others around the world, build businesses and continue education. In our bubble of churches, coffee and computers, we quickly forget the darkness of poverty, hard labor, and abusive systems.
March 31 celebrated National César Chávez day. The controversial Mexican-American leader fought for the civil rights of farm laborers in the 1970s in California and across the nation. He led grape and lettuce strikes which lasted years, fasted for fair wages, and implored nonviolence. Chávez promoted equal rights for all human beings, whether working behind a desk or working in the sunny fields. Typically the California and Texas holiday goes unnoticed. Schools do not close. Public offices remain open for business. The darkness creeps in to blackout the dimming light of justice for Latinos, immigrants, and Chicano history.
Jesus’ death was not merely for a latte drinking, Justin Bieber cologne wearing, iPhone using generation. Jesus’ death included salvation for the whole world willing to accept his forgiving grace. The life of light Jesus mentions shines on the hardships of poverty and abuse that Chávez worked so hard to overcome. Therefore, our Lenten reflection and anticipation of Easter not only inspires resurrection and hope for ourselves, but anticipates the resurrection and hope for a broken system of injustice to be eradicated by God’s justice.
Then after this he said to the disciples, ‘Let us go to Judea again.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?’ Jesus answered, ‘Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.’ After saying this, he told them, ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.’ Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead. For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.’ Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow-disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’
Is Thomas sarcastic in his retort? Jesus’ miracle of awakening the dead, acts as his sentence to death on a cross according to verse 7 when the disciples respond, “‘Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?’” Lazarus’ illness illustrates Jesus’ love for a family and the revelation of his power. The importance of this narrative marks the transition from unknowledgeable disciples to fully aware, probably frightened and continually educated followers. Does Thomas realize he is following Jesus to his death?: probably not, especially because, at the moment of Son of Man’s physical death, all the disciples, those befuddled, confused stooges, abandon him. So why give credence to a doubters words? ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’
Whether a chuckle or bitter, under his breath remark, Thomas’ ironic statement reiterates Jesus’ description of life in the light. Jesus says, “Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.’” Jesus does not mean to say that those following him will be free from persecution, hardship, spiritual or physical hardship. His entrance into Judea is the obvious indication that following Jesus does not free the Christ follower from suffering. However, the light of the world, Christians, guide the way to the cross by following at all costs, despite failure, inexperience or lack of understanding. Jesus does not promise of life free of troubles, much like Thomas’ jokes, death is inevitable.
However, Thomas’ statement is doubly ironic. Life for Lazarus, life for Jesus and life for the disciple does not end in death. ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him’ is not a definitive statement but an introduction, which concludes, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him… and follow him to life on the other side. Obviously Thomas does not understand this yet, otherwise he probably would have said so, right? But that is the benefit of the Johannine narrative. The reader is left in anticipation of the death and surprised, just like Thomas, by the resurrection. Therefore, following Jesus into death concludes with following him into eternal life.
On March 24, El Salvadoran Catholics and others remembered 32nd anniversary of the death of their archbishop Oscar Romero. In a war torn country, Romero spoke out against government bullying tactics of assassinations and torture, issues of human rights, working on behalf of the poor. During the 1970s, Romero openly criticized his own government in El Salvador, wrote to the U.S. and Vatican pleading for rebuttals against government officials and support for the liberation of the poor in the Americas. Although highly respected and recognized, Romero primarily met silence from other powerful leaders in his efforts to spread equality in his country. On March 24, 1980, according to the sound recording of his sermon, as Romero raised the Eucharist chalice to consecrate the wine, an assassin shot and killed him. His evangelistic message of siding with the poor and oppressed was quickly silenced.
Although Oscar Romero’s death ended the life of an outspoken martyr for the Christian faith and liberation theology, his death did not ultimately stifle his proclamation. Much like Thomas’ statement ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him,’ Romero paid the ultimate sacrifice with his life for the gospel. However, his legacy of providing for the poor, dignity for all human beings, and governments based on justice lives on 32 years later. In Romero’s death, we too understand dying and follow Christ to life on the other side by continuing to declare the message of setting the captives free.