And they compelled a passerby, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross. And they brought him to the place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull). And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. And they crucified him and divided his garments among them, casting lots for them, to decide what each should take. And it was the third hour when they crucified him. And the inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.” And with him they crucified two robbers, one on his right and one on his left. And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!” So also the chief priests with the scribes mocked him to one another, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also reviled him.
On Maundy Thursday we remember the last evening Jesus shared with his disciples in the upper room before his arrest and crucifixion. The name “Maundy Thursday” comes from the Latin mandatum novum, referring to the “new commandment” Jesus taught his disciples. In John 13, Jesus says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (13:34-35). But the disciples do not fully comprehend how deeply Jesus has loved them.
In these last words to his disciples, Jesus is defining what it means to love him. Five times Jesus said that love for him was connected to obeying his commands. And five times he said that his command is that we love each other as he has loved us. The point is unmistakable: our commitment to and love for Jesus is expressed by our love for one another. We are not only united with God in Christ; we are also bound together in Christ, for better or for worse. We married into a family—the family of God. But like the disciples, we do not fully comprehend how deeply Jesus has loved us.
Take in the deep love of God for you through the person of Jesus:
“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 3:1, 4:9-10).
“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8).
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35-39).
Jesus lived the life we should have lived and died the death we should have died, so that God can adopt us into his family. He sends the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” (Gal. 4:6) God gives us the thing we most desperately need—himself.
God’s love for us is most powerfully displayed in the death of Jesus on the cross. Love is defined at the cross of Jesus. To the degree that you are able to comprehend and soak in the love of Jesus for you, to the degree that it sinks deep into your fabric—this is the degree to which you will be empowered to carry out the new commandment that Jesus gave to us.
Think back on the past seven days and spend some time confessing your specific sin before God.
Now reflect on the truth that Jesus went to the cross and died for those very sins. Receive God’s forgiveness in Christ, worshiping him for his grace and mercy.
Lead us, O God, in the way of Christ. Give us courage to take up our cross and, in full reliance upon your grace, to follow him. Help us to love you above all else and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, demonstrating that love in deed and word by the power of your Spirit. Give us strength to serve you faithfully until the promised day of resurrection, when, with the redeemed of all the ages, we will feast with you at your table in glory. Through Christ, all glory and honor are yours, almighty Father, with the Holy Spirit in the holy church, now and forever. Amen.