This year, April starts with the three days of remembering “the hour” of Jesus’s death and resurrection. Jesus marks his Last Supper with his disciples on the evening of Maundy Thursday (1st April). John records, “Jesus, knowing that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father, having loved those who were his in the world, loved them to the end.” (John 13: 1)
Jesus loved his disciples to the end. I think that means that he loved them utterly, giving them everything, holding nothing back. The Last Supper is all about Jesus giving things to his disciples. Through the disciples he gives them to us, his church. He gives the example of servant leadership by washing his disciples’ feet (John 13: 4-16). He gives assurances about eternal life (John 14: 1-6) and that prayers will be answered (John 14: 13-15 & 15: 7). He promises the Holy Spirit (John 14: 15-17). He gives the disciples a new commandment, “Love one another, as I have loved you” (John 13: 34) which he describes as his own (John 15: 12). He gives peace (John 14: 27). He gives joy (John 15: 11 and 16: 20-22). He gives the disciples a new status raising them from servants to friends (John 15: 14-15). Later he calls them brothers (John 20: 17). As a sign that he is giving them his very life, he gives them bread and wine and tells them that it is his own flesh and blood (Mark 14: 22-25).
And then on Good Friday (2nd April) Jesus does give his life on the cross. It is the ultimate sacrifice. And for a while it does seem like the end. It seems a rather pointless end, which could and should have been avoided. It seems that Jesus’ gifts have been shown to be worthless.
But then the resurrection is revealed on Easter Day (4th April)! It becomes clear that that Jesus’ death on the cross was not just about death. Much more it was about establishing a route through death to eternal life; a route by which sins are forgiven; a route to the fulness of life with God. It becomes clear that the gifts that Jesus gives have eternal value and are the most precious gifts of all.
Jesus calls us all to follow him on this extraordinary journey of self-giving, which passes through death to life (e.g. Mark 8: 34-35). Our church services on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Day, help us to do this. They help us to contemplate Jesus in the different stages of his journey, and to recognise and develop those stages in our own lives. Above all they teach us to trust and to walk with Jesus to eternal life.
Wishing you a very happy Easter, Fr Patrick
Prayer with St Peter (1 Peter 1: 3)
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!
By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope
through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled,
and unfading, kept in heaven for you! Amen.