This week between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday is known as Passion Week. It is the final week of Jesus’ life. It is packed with significance for the Christian community. Growing up I went to a Church of Christ which celebrates Easter but not all the other events that pack this very holy week. So when I began to attend a Methodist church I had no clue what Maundy Thursday was. I had no clue about Good Friday services, or what a foot washing ceremony was all about. I knew about Easter. I didn’t know much about or even reflect much about the week leading up to Easter. As I look back on it now, that not knowing was not all that great as it pertained to my faith life.
In fact, I would encourage all of you reading this post to commit to attending the different services that lead us to Easter. If you do not attend a church that offers any of them, I would encourage you to find one that does and for this week attend the services not offered by your home church. The experience of being at church on Palm Sunday, celebrating Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, then experiencing Maundy Thursday and Good Friday will enhance the joy you feel when you attend church on Easter Sunday. So a little information about these mid-week services we know as Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.
Maundy Thursday is held on Thursday (surprise!) night to commemorate the Last supper and foot washing Jesus did when he gathered with his disciples to share the Passover meal. It is on this night that Jesus instituted the sacrament of communion. This service could be a reenactment of the Last Supper or it could be a foot washing service. It is a reminder just like the Passover meal, was a reminder to the Jewish people of their last night in Egypt as well as the freedom they were given. So just like the people of Israel celebrate Passover, we celebrate Maundy Thursday which reminds us of the freedom from sin we have been given when we believe in Jesus Christ, the son of God.
Good Friday observances date back to the 4th century and it was and still is a way people mark the day of Jesus’ crucifixion. It is not a celebration. It is a somber service, a watch service as we hear the last words of Christ on the Cross. It is a service of darkness because it is a service where we remember Jesus’ death and try to feel what his followers must have felt in those dark hours filled with chaos, uncertainty, betrayal, and finally death. And then when all the candles have been extinguished and the final song is sung…we leave the sanctuary in silence…in darkness…and we wait….