Thursday, April 9
John 19: 28-29
It’s Maundy Thursday, and usually we gather for a deeply meaningful service, punctuated by the more foreboding feeling it creates; a sort of deeply felt disturbance rather than a feeling of inner peace. It focuses on the very last moments of Jesus’ life, the sin of the world that drove him to the cross and our very real awareness of the consequences of sin in our own spirits. It’s haunting.
There’s a moment that sticks with me. We read the seven last words of Jesus, and with each one, we extinguish a candle. The growing darkness looms over the worship like a storm cloud. Finally, the singular white candle at the center of the altar table that represents Jesus is itself extinguished as a representation of his death. I find myself watching that candle be put out, and I shift my position, all in hopes of catching that fleeting light for just nano-moments more. It’s as if everything depends on my being able to see that light, and I have to have it.
That’s what Maundy Thursday is to me. It’s a longing to know that Jesus is still in the world despite the darkness growing around me. It’s captured beautifully in the notion of Jesus’ statement of thirst. Donald Senior, in The Passion of Jesus in the Gospel of John, says it this way: “Jesus’ cry of thirst is a deliberate act, reaffirming in the face of death his complete freedom and unswerving commitment to the mission God had entrusted to him. He thirsts because he desires deeply to drink the the cup given to him — the cup that will complete the work he has been given to do, the work of loving his own in the world until the end.”
We too thirst for hope in a world that gives us despair. We hope, not in what we accomplish and we hope, not in unknowing defiance of the world’s change around us, but we hope because Jesus chose the right longing, the longing to drink the bitter cup of his suffering, even to the point of death. We hope, not on the basis of our own sense of inadequacy or incompleteness, but instead on the basis of the finished work of Christ.
from John of the Cross (1542 – 1591)
I no longer want just to hear about you, beloved Lord, through messengers. I no longer want to hear doctrines about you, nor to have my emotions stirred by people speaking of you. I yearn for your presence. These messengers simply frustrate and grieve me, because they remind me of how distant I am from you. They re-open wounds in my heart, and they seem to delay your coming to me. From this day onward please send me no more messengers, no more doctrines, because they cannot satisfy my overwhelming desire for you. I want to give myself completely to you. And I want you to give yourself completely to me. The love which you show in glimpses, reveal to me fully. The love which you convey through messengers, speak it to me directly. Come to me with the priceless jewel of your love.
— J. Muckenfuss