Maundy Thursday and Trinitarian Love

Today is Maundy Thursday. “Maundy” comes from the Latin word mandatum, which means mandate or command. On Thursday night before his Friday crucifixion during his final meal with the disciples, Jesus gave them a new mandate, a “new commandment,” to love as he had loved them (John 17:31-35).

Sometime after the meal and this newly given command, Jesus prays something profound for his disciples. Like the rest of the prayer, he says it is meant for future disciples as well: “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me” (John 17:22-23).

Jesus says the remarkable and unthinkable: he has glorified us with the glory God gave him. He tells us why he has done this: so that we may be one just as the Father and Son are one. Then he tells us what the purpose of this oneness is: so that the world will know the Father sent the Son, and that the Son loved his church with the love of the Father. This is stunning.

Why does Jesus say all this? Jesus prays this so that the Christian community will be a living testimony to the Trinitarian nature of God. Though God is Father, Son, and Spirit, he is yet one. In the same way, though the church is many (i.e. made up of different individuals, personalities, nations, ethnicities, ages, denominations, etc.) she is yet one. One how? One in the fact that they have the same Lord, same faith, same baptism, even the same Father (Eph. 4:5-6). This separates Christianity from other religions or belief systems. Christianity has a common confession, yet many cultural expressions. Because God is a diverse unity of persons, Christianity can reject blanket uniformity while maintaining unity.

But the purpose of this oneness, as Jesus says, is not an end in itself. Oneness exists to deflect glory and honor back to God. Oneness will show the world that the Father sent the Son and that the Son loved his own as the Father loved him. In other words, the church is also a living testimony of the Trinitarian love of God. How? Just as Jesus submits to the Father and the Members defer to and glorify each other (John 16:14; 17:1, 4), so Christians serve, defer to, and glorify (i.e. make much of) each other. This is love, and love is God’s very essence (1 John 4:8). The church then reflects this–a community of persons who are self-giving lovers.

Do we reflect this Trinitarian God perfectly? Of course not, so we are not welcomed in by birth or religious activity or our moral effort. Even as a Christian, struggle to serve and defer to others. I struggle to love Christians who are different than me. If we do not reflect this God perfectly, then we do not deserve him. We have spit on his love rather than bask in it. You may be saying, “This sounds so good though! I want to know a God who gives love and defers and shares. The gods I serve only steal from me. How can we be welcomed by this God and enter this community?”

Just hours after his prayer, on Friday, on a hill called Golgotha, on a Roman cross, the Son was cast away. The Father removed his loving gaze from the Son and poured his wrath on him–the wrath you and I deserved as enemies of the Trinitarian God. The simple yet mind-boggling truth is that Jesus was cut off so you and I would be brought in. The Father did this so that all who trust in the Son’s finished work on the cross–not their own works–would be given the Spirit in order to be brought into this community as a true child and share in this eternal love.

We marvel. We wonder. We praise. We tremble. We sing,

What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul!

This wondrous love could only be Trinitarian love. O what love it is!

Life Theology

Passion Week – Saturday

This is a re-post of the Passion series from last year.

Isaiah 55:1-3:

Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.

During Jesus’ ministry, he said, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink” (John 7:37). When people heard this, no doubt their minds saw the words of Isaiah when he quoted Yahweh, saying, “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters!”

I’m thirsty for Jesus, but I want to be more thirsty. So often I take a couple sips from the divine glass of joy that Jesus offers, only to be satisfied five minutes later by my own self-righteousness, the Internet, entertainment, or something else.  I want to delight myself in true, rich food, not worthless food that will only leave me empty.

Good Friday is about reflection and repentance. On that day, Jesus bore the wrath of God for my sins. He took all my transgressions on his shoulders. Today, Saturday, is not about hiding out and passively waiting for Sunday. It’s about expectantly waiting for Sunday to arrive.  It’s about going to the tomb and waiting up all night, holding on to Jesus’ promise that he will rise. It’s doing what God, through Isaiah, told us to do: “Come to me!”

Father God, by your Spirit, make me glad in you alone. Give me the power to come to Jesus today, clinging to the Cross as my only hope for righteousness and forgiveness. And help me celebrate Resurrection Sunday this year — and every day — as my only hope for eternal life in your presence.

Life Theology

Passion Week – Good Friday

This is a re-post of the Passion series from last year.

1 Peter 3:18:

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.

2 Corinthians 5:21:

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Jesus did not come to make you a good person with upstanding morals and decent ethics.  He came to make you a perfect person. How does he do this?  He died in our place and bore the concentrated wrath of the Father that we deserved for our sin.  Our sin was credited to him; his righteousness was credited to us. Whoever believes in him, by faith, is presented to the Father, not as a “good” person, but as a completely holy and perfected person.

Hear these penetrating words from C.S. Lewis.

God, who needs nothing, loves into existence wholly superfluous creatures in order that He may love and perfect them. He creates the universe, already foreseeing — or should we say “seeing”? there are no tenses in God — the buzzing cloud of flies about the cross, the flayed back pressed against the uneven stake, the nails driven through the mesial nerves, the repeated incipient suffocation as the body droops, the repeated torture of back and arms as it is time after time, for breath’s sake, hitched up.  If I may dare the biological image, God is a “host” who deliberately creates His own parasites; causes us to be that we may exploit and “take advantage of” Him. Herein is love. This is the diagram of Love Himself, the inventor of all loves.

Father in Heaven, let me feel the weight of glory of Christ’s crucifixion. This is no game. My sin is serious, and it put the God-man to death. Yet that is the only way I could be made perfect, the only way I could be right with you. Thank you for your Son. Thank you for the Cross. Let my eyes always be on the Cross.

Life Theology

Passion Week – Tuesday

This is a re-post of the Passion series from last year.

Daniel 7:13-14:

I saw in the night visions,
and behold, with the clouds of heaven
there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days
and was presented before him.

And to him was given dominion
and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
that shall not be destroyed.

The kingdom of God is about one Man, namely, Jesus.  In our meditation yesterday, I wrote, “Jesus is bringing [the disciples] in [to the kingdom], not so that they can be the king, but so that they can be a part of Jesus’ kingdom. We, by grace, get to be participants. It’s all about Jesus.  Not me.”

In Luke 22, when Jesus is standing before the council, he implicitly refers back to this passage in Daniel by calling himself the Son of Man.  When Jesus says, “From now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God” (Lk. 22:69), he means that he is going to reign over his kingdom — the kingdom that God the Father, the Ancient of Days, has given him.

Jesus will not reign as a weak, feeble, doormat king.  No.  He will reign in power.  The first time he came, he was abused and mistreated and murdered.  Now he reigns with the Father after completing his work on earth (see Heb. 1:3).  When he returns the second time, it will not be in meekness nor will it be to save, but to judge and establish his throne upon the earth (see Rev. 19-21).

Daniel tells us that the son of Man — Jesus Christ, the God-man — has been given “dominion and glory and a kingdom.”  His dominion is everlasting, and his kingdom will not be destroyed.  His kingdom will reach every kind of people with every kind of language in every kind of place.  And Jesus purchased this kingdom, these people who serve him, by dying on the cross on Good Friday and raising from the dead on Easter Sunday.

Lord God Almighty, I praise you for giving your Son dominion, glory, and a kingdom — a kingdom of people he purchased with his own flesh and blood. Remind me daily that I am a part of this kingdom by grace and no merit of my own.


Passion Week – Wednesday Meditation

Part 3 in a 7 part series. View series intro and index.

John 19:12-13:

From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.”  So when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Stone Pavement, and in Aramaic Gabbatha.

Jesus was on death row, and Pilate was very close to letting him walk free.  He said a handful of times that he found no guilt in this Galilean pauper.  But when the chips were down, Pilate had no courage.  The Jews pushed a button.  What button did they push?   It was the praise of man button. Everyone has that button, and the Jews knew exactly where Pilate’s was and how hard to push it.

Pilate’s problem was that he considered his kingdom to be more significant than Jesus’ kingdom. His problem was that he loved the praise of the Jews, Caesar, and the hostile crowd more than God’s praise.  Had Pilate released Jesus — whom the Jews were accusing of being a political rebel and spiritual blasphemer — he would have practically forfeited his governorship.  Why?  Jesus called himself a king, and “everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar” (v. 12). Just the threat of some Jews telling Caesar on him a made Pilate shrink back and say, “Okay, okay. You want your so-called King crucified? You can have it.”

Crucify a carpenter to start the weekend or risk losing your job and face treason charges? It was an easy choice for Pilate.

Hold on, though. What about me? Jesus wasn’t crucified because Pilate loved man’s praise and wanted to build his own kingdom, or because the Jews were blind and stiff-necked, or even because the disciples ran away. No, Jesus was crucified because I love man’s praise.  Jesus was crucified because I love my kingdom. Jesus was crucified because I run away everyday. Of course, Jesus died for other people’s sin, too. But if I’m pointing fingers and shaking my head at Pilate, I’m missing the point.

Almighty Father, help me desire your praise and hate the praise of man. Help me feel how ugly my sin really is. Make me realize what it meant for you to be crucified for me. Help me grieve over my sins, great and small, and point me to that blessed Cross, where all my sins were washed away.