By Emeka Arinze
Many Christians are observing today as Maundy Thursday, one of the days in the Holy week when Jesus had His Last Supper with His disciples. During the supper, Jesus removed His outer garment, wrapped a towel around his waist, poured water into a basin and washed the feet of His disciples.
Peter was overwhelmed by the meaning of this gesture. This is because it was for slaves to wash the feet of others. Hence, Peter could not accept seeing Jesus in that role. Thus, Peter refused to be washed and only accepted when told that unless he was washed, he would have no share with Jesus.
Jesus then explained to them the significance of His gesture. He said, “You call me Master and Lord, and rightly so. If I, then, the Lord and master, have washed your feet, you must wash each other’s feet. I have given you a new commandment”. The Latin word for New Commandment is mandatum novum. Hence, the word Maundy is derived from Mandatum. Suffice it to say that Maundy Thursday is the Thursday on which Jesus gave the New Commandment.
Foot washing by our Lord and savior has varied significance. The gesture vividly explains the life and person of Jesus. The foot washing shows the essence of Holy Communion, which was established on the Maundy Thursday. It equally shows the inner unity between the Supper, the gruesome death that Jesus was to undergo on the cross and His resurrection on the third day.
Jesus’ Last Supper with his apostles took place within the context of the Passover meal, which was being eaten on that same night in the home of every pious Jew to commemorate the liberation of the Israelites from the house of bondage in Egypt. While they were at meal, Jesus took bread, gave thanks, broke it, gave it to his disciples and said, ‘take, eat, this is my body’.
He also took a cup filled with wine and gave them saying, ‘this cup is a new covenant in my blood poured out for you’. He charged them to do this in His remembrance. In this action, Jesus gave a new interpretation to the Passover meal and to the death He was to endure the next day. In the light of the last supper, it becomes clear that Jesus was not a victim of circumstance. He willingly accepted His death in love and obedience to God, the father, for the sake of sinful humanity. In the supper, He foresaw the shedding of His blood.
Also, Jesus presented Himself as the lamb that was slain, whose blood on the door-post, guarantees safety and protection from the forces of chaos in the world. In this year’s celebration, the blood of Jesus Christ will guarantee safety and protection to all believers against this apocalypse pandemic called Coronavirus.
God showed that suffering, humiliation and death do not hold the last word. God always has the last word, which is that anyone who offers to God the suffering, humiliation and death undergone in loving service of others would be raised up from death on the last day, which is the hope of every Christian.
Notably, in His humanity, He did not find it easy. The Spirit was willing but the flesh was weak. He invited His disciples to watch and pray with Him in solidarity and for strength to overcome the evil one. Thus, may we heed His call and pray ceaselessly because that is the only way to remain in God, to feel God’s love and be impelled by this love to love and serve others.
Indeed, the spirit is willing but in Nigeria, the flesh is not only weak but wounded. It is as if selfishness is in the air we breathe. People’s minds are shaped by greed and selfishness. These attributes encourage people to look after their own interest first. As we celebrate these mysteries, may we be transformed by them and be obedient to the new commandment of serving one another in unconditional love. May we also serve God in truth and spirit; the service that is devoid of greed, arrogance, selfishness, cheating, unbridled quest for materialism and hypocrisy. Christians should emulate Christ’s exemplary lifestyle and follow His footsteps truly. They should abide by all His teachings without reservation. They must be hot and not lukewarm. By so doing, our Lord and savoiur will fight our battles, including the COVID-19 pandemic. That is the essence of the celebration. May God help us.