Last night I went to a Maundy Thursday supper at church where we were reminded of the events taking place before Jesus’ crucifixion. I remembered my visit to Israel.
I walked down into the same prison where Jesus was taken like a criminal. I saw the area where Jesus was beaten, the games etched in the floor where Roman soldiers passed their time and laughed while prisoners suffered in the dark, cold, stone, stagnant cells.
I walked the Via Dolorosa along where Jesus carried his cross. I saw the garden where he cried out, “If there’s any other way…not my will, but thine.” I saw the hill shaped like a skull, Calvary where he was nailed to a cross.
I walked up onto Caiaphas’ courtyard where there’s a statue of Simon Peter, where he denied Jesus. The disciple who was so sure of himself, spoke out for Jesus, claimed he’d defend Jesus to the death and tried when Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. He was so loyal and determined he even followed Jesus and those who arrested him.
But that strong, eager, confident, bold man not only denied Jesus, denied even knowing him, not once but three times. Would I do that? Probably not. I probably would have run and hid at the first sign of trouble.
Then, as we stood near that statue of Peter, our leader asked, “Have you ever denied Christ?” Up until that time, I had not cried although most in our group had. But then I couldn’t hold back. The tears came as I thought what it means to deny Jesus. How terrible if anyone sincerely says, “I don’t even know him.”
I wondered if that’s what I say when I miss the opportunity to tell someone I know him. Or when I’m complacent and don’t do my best with what he’s given me. When I don’t fulfill my human potential. When I want things that are in my self interest instead of his. When I take Him for granted. When I don’t take advantage of walking and talking with him.
I went inside a tomb like the one in which Jesus would have been buried. Or I should say, like the one out of which Jesus arose. While our group partook of The Lord’s Supper in the garden outside that tomb, and sang, so did another group of another race who sang in a different language. We felt as one with that group. Brought to me thoughts of heaven.
As I partook of The Lord’s Supper, the words were said, “Do this in remembrance of me,” and I did. Just as he forgave Simon Peter, he forgives me. The bread was remembering his suffering body, the fruit of the vine his blood shed so I don’t have to suffer and shed tears about my denials.
How blessed I am to be able to ask forgiveness, turn from the denials and proclaim him in thought, words and action. Thank him and praise him.
Yes, I know him. Hallelujah, he is alive!