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From: "A Slice of Infinity" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Thu, Apr 21, 2011 3:04 am
Subject: [Slice 2445] Man and Mystery (April 21, 2011)
To: "jen grace" <email@example.com>
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Man and Mystery
Author Annie Dillard once observed, "We wake, if we ever wake at all, to mystery."(1)
Today is Maundy Thursday. For those who experienced it first, Maundy Thursday, which is Latin for "command," was an eventful day. It was the day the disciples received the command to love and had their feet washed by Jesus. It was the day they perhaps first saw the connection between the Passover sacrifice, their beloved teacher, and the bread of life. It was the day their eyes were roused by the uniqueness of the man before them, their minds filled with history, prophecy, and tradition—and they began to wake to the grand mystery of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
In fact, Jesus is a mystery that has unarguably shaped all of history. A 1936 Life magazine article on the life of Jesus noted, "Jesus gave history a new beginning. In every land he is at home: everywhere men think his face is like their best face—and like God's face. His birthday is kept across the world. His death-day has set a gallows across every city skyline. Who is he?"(2) The mystery of Christ, his life, death, and influence is uniquely unmatched. Even Napoleon, in a conversation while imprisoned at St. Helena, acknowledged: "The religion of Christ is a mystery which subsists by its own force, and proceeds from a mind which is not a human mind. We find in it a marked individuality, which originated a train of words and maxims unknown before—Jesus borrowed nothing from our knowledge. He exhibited in himself the perfect example of his precepts.... Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and myself founded empires, but upon what did we rest the creations of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ alone founded his empire upon love and at this hour millions of men would die for him."(3)
But who is the man behind these concentrated words? I can think of no better question to ask on Maundy Thursday. And yet, as Ravi Zacharias states, the precursor to the answer is the intent of the questioner. Magazine articles and television programming may reflect curiosity in the man the world remembers this week, but do we want to know who Jesus was, who he is, beyond the philosophical exercise?
Perhaps that first Maundy Thursday, just before the Passover Feast, just a day before Jesus was betrayed, is a revealing scene for the honest seeker of Christ's identity. The story is recounted in the Gospel of John.(4) Jesus looks at his disciples, his friends, those who would soon deny even knowing him, those who even so, he would love to the end. And standing with those men, knowing the weight of the darkness before him, knowing from where he came from and where he was going—knowing that before the light of Sunday would come the blackness of Friday and the emptiness of Saturday—Jesus took a towel and a basin and began to wash their feet.
Indeed, who is he? Oswald Chambers said that drudgery is the truest test of genuine character. Foot washing was a lowly job—and an oft-recurring job due to sandals and dusty streets; it was a job for a servant. But here, the menial task was instead performed by the master, their teacher, the Messiah they hoped would save them with force.
The mysterious truth of Christ's identity is that he still does what is analogous to washing soiled feet: with our deepest sorrows, our sorriest actions, our smallest attempts at faith. Might we wake again and again to the enormity of who Christ is, and in so doing heed his command to love as he has loved.
Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.
(1) Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, (New York: HarperPerennial, 1998), 4.
(2) George Buttrick, "The Life of Jesus Christ," Life, December 28, 1936, 49.
(3) Napoleon I, "Napoleon's Argument for the Divinity of Christ," Evans & Cogswell, No. 3, Charleston, 1861.
(4) John 13:1-17.
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