Devotional thoughts based on the chronology of the Passion Week
“Pursuing the Towel”
Christian churches all over the world are celebrating the greatest of all religious holidays at the end of Passion Week – Resurrection Sunday! Did you know that the word “holiday” comes from an old English word, “haligdǣg,” [halig = holy] and [dǣg = day]? In other words, holidays were originally rooted in religious festivals known as “holy days.”
Presently, we are in the middle of Passion Week – “Maundy Thursday.” You may ask, “What does maundy mean?” The word “maundy” is the abbreviated form of the Latin term, “mandatum,” which means command, a mandate. You might be asking another question, “What is this command and how does it factor into this holy week known as the Passion Week?
Let me explain. If you have been following along with these devotionals this week, you have read the events of Jesus Christ as He has moved closer to cross on which He shed His blood and sacrificed His life for the sins of the world. In fact, tomorrow’s devotion will focus on “Good Friday,” the day Jesus died on the cross. But for now, let’s focus on today.
THURSDAY, SPRING A.D. 30
Scripture seems to suggest that Jesus was in seclusion most of Wednesday, either in Bethany or in the surrounding hills, while the chief priests and scribes were busy, setting into motion their plans to arrest Jesus. Judas Iscariot offered to betray Jesus and set Him up to be arrested on the following evening, immediately following the Passover meal.
Here are a several noteworthy events that occurred throughout Thursday and into the evening.
As Thursday arrived, one of Jesus’ nameless friends [nameless because Scripture does not identify them] permitted Jesus and disciples to utilize a guest chamber to celebrate the Paschal feast (Luke 22:7-13).
When the hour of the Paschal feast arrived, Jesus said to His twelve disciples, “with fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Luke 22:15). But why was Jesus’ desire so fervent? The following verse explains the reason: “I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God” (Luke 22:16). I believe Jesus was referring to the future “Marriage Supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:7-10) and that His disciples understood Jesus’ meaning.
As Jesus reclined at the table with His disciples, the disciples were completely unaware of what lay ahead for them that evening, for each of them entered this meal with the following heart issues:
1. There was the PRESENCE of RIVALRY among them (Luke 22:24-30).
2. There was the PURSUIT for AUTHORITY among them (Luke 22:25).
3. There was the ATTITUDE of AUDACITY among them, especially from Peter
(Matthew 26:31-35; Mark 14:27-31; Luke 22:31-34).
4. There was the ABSENCE of HUMILITY among them (Luke 22:24-27).
Consequently, during the supper meal, Jesus washed their feet setting an example of humility and servanthood (John 13). Jesus’ actions and example were design to change forever their attitude towards one another and the kingdom of God. Instead of pursuing the throne, the disciples should have been pursuing the towel.
Jesus did not fight to keep His throne but with a humble spirit, He stepped down from His glorious throne, set aside His regal robe (Isaiah 6), and added humanity to His divine being by being born of a virgin – taking on the form of a servant (read Philippians 2:5-11) so that Jesus would die for sinners like you and me. John describes that Jesus’ humanity concealed Jesus’ glory!
And when it came time to wash the feet of the disciples, Jesus exhibited the same spirit of heavenly humility, as he set aside His outer garments and tied a towel around His waist, thereby taking on the role of a servant. Washing the feet of the disciples also symbolizes the washing away of our sins through His shed blood on the cross. It’s noteworthy that Jesus even washed the feet of His betrayer, Judas Iscariot.
Throughout the evening meal, Jesus explained many things to them. Read John’s Gospel, chapters 13-17 for the detailed conversation Jesus had with His disciples.
As the meal was ending, Jesus said one of them would betray Him. Consequently, the intimacy among this band of brothers during this Passover meal and the nearness of Jesus’ final hour caused Jesus to feel great anguish in His heart. Peter boasted that he would never betray Jesus. But when Jesus said to Peter, “Satan has requested permission to sift you like wheat,” Jesus was implying that Peter would fail Jesus; but Peter’s failure was not a betrayal of Jesus (Luke 22:31-34).
When Jesus discreetly directed Judas to go do what he intended to do, Judas left their presence. No one thought it was strange for Judas to leave. Now alone with His loyal friends, Jesus introduced a new element into the traditional celebration of the Passover meal by instituting the New Covenant as a way of remembering what He was about to do – to die on the cross for their sins and the sins of the world.
And as for the new commandment [“mandatum”], Jesus said, “A new commandment I give you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).
As I reflect on these noteworthy events that occurred on Thursday, I think of the nameless friends of Jesus who helped provide for His earthly needs. While they are nameless to you and me, Jesus’ friends are not nameless to Him. He knows each of His friends and desires to passionately fellowship with them.
But as for me, I think the greatest impact of all these events is the example of Jesus’ washing the feet of His disciples. While I know that His humble deed symbolizes His bloody sacrifice, as having washed away my sins, God has shaped my heart to serve Him and others. I genuinely want to pursue the towel and not a throne. Yes, I also know that Scripture reveals God will reward each of His saints; but honestly, those future rewards do not motivate me to serve Him. It is His love for me that truly stirs my heart to serve Him and others (2nd Corinthians 5:14-15). Thus, by God’s grace, may He help me always to pursue the towel and not a throne of glory.
Our heavenly Father, our hearts are Your home. We thank You and Your Son for making our hearts Your home (John 14:21-23). Search our hearts and remove any rivalry against our fellow Christians; remove any desire in us to pursue power and authority that might otherwise feed our egos; guard our tongues that we may not boast in ourselves but may our boasts be in the Lord; and finally, guard our hearts from harboring pride, for when we lift ourselves up over others, You are deeply grieved.
May our spirits be in sync with The Holy Spirit as He leads us to bless others. May our eyes always behold the cross of Jesus and our hands carry the towel to bless others. Please work in each of us and through us for Your glory. AMEN.