Thursday, April 9, 2009

Maundy Thursday & Good Friday

As I mentioned yesterday, Maundy Thursday gets its name from the latin mandatum which can be translated as "commandment" or "mandate". More specifically for Holy Thursday or Maundy Thursday the latin term refers to John 13:34 where Jesus says, "I give you a new commandment," mandatum novum "that you love one another."

So how are you going to follow the instruction of Jesus and love one another as he has first loved you? What does it mean for us to follow this command of Jesus? Notice that it is not a suggestion or a story, but a mandate and command, that is something that Jesus wants us to do more than and above anything else that we might say or do as his followers. Sounds easy enough, doesn't it, but when you think about it, it can be quite a daunting task.

So what about Good Friday? How can we call the events that lead to and the act of crucifixion anything but horrid and troubling? Well, the definition I found from the same source that I found the latin (The Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms) may be far less satisfying and may sound far less authoritative than something that has it's origins in Latin. What the author of my theological dictionary says is that "Good Friday" comes from the Middle English for "God's Friday."

A more satisfying definition for "Good Friday" can be found in J. Dudley Weaver Jr.'s book "Presbyterian Worship" where he says:

The term is derived from an early name for the second day of the Holy Triduum, God's Friday, but for those of us who see it from this side of the resurrection the day is indeed "good" Friday, for in the events of this day, painful as they are, the saving work that Christ set forth to do in obedience to the Father's will is brought to completion. It is also God's Friday, for even though Jesus' enemies appear to seize control and to direct his destiny, even though they succeed in causing his death, it is God who is in control and God's will that is being fulfilled. As Jesus himself said to Pilate: "You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above" (John 19:11a). It is with this understanding that we observe God's Good Friday.

All of that is to say, without the crucifixion there would be no joyous celebration of the resurrection on Easter morning, would there be?

So our task on this Maundy Thursday and the Good Friday to follow is to pray about what it means to love others as Jesus has first loved us as well as reflecting on what it means for God's hand to be directing the difficult events that lead up to and through the Crucifixion of Jesus.

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