For the second year in a row, a member of my church read the poem below written by Lucy Nanson, from New Zealand, at the Maundy Thursday service. Following this reading, everyone was invited to form two lines up in the center aisle to have one of two pastors pour water on our hands from a bowl at the front of church while making the sign of the cross on our palms. Next to each bowl were little wash cloths, neatly rolled up in a basket, to dry the hands.
Just like last year, my emotions were heightened and I had tears in my eyes while I listened to the poem and thought about how my hands fit many of the descriptions.
Maundy Thursday: Wash My Hands
Wash my hands on Maundy Thursday
not my feet
My hands peel potatoes, wipe messes from the floor
change dirty nappies, clean the grease from pots and pans
have pointed in anger and pushed away in tears
in years past they’ve smacked a child and raised a fist
fumbled with nervousness, shaken with fear
I’ve wrung them when waiting for news to come
crushed a letter I’d rather forget
covered my mouth when I’ve been caught out
touched forbidden things, childhood memories do not grow dim
These hands have dug gardens, planted seeds
picked fruit and berries, weeded out and pruned trees
found bleeding from the rose’s thorns
dirt and blood mix together
when washed before a cup of tea
Love expressed by them
asks for your respect
in the hand-shake of warm greeting,
the gentle rubbing of a child’s bump
the caressing of a lover, the softness of a baby’s cheek
sounds of music played by them in tunes upon a flute
they’ve held a frightened teenager,
touched a father in his death
where cold skin tells the end of life has come
but not the end of love,
comforted a mother losing agility and health.
With my hands outstretched before you
I stand humbled and in awe
your gentle washing in water, the softness of the towel
symbolizing a cleansing
the servant-hood of Christ.
Wash my hands on Maundy Thursday
and not my feet.
At the end of the service all lights went out in the church and the final moments of light at dusk was nearly the only light available to aid a handful of church members as they stripped the altar while my Pastor sang Psalm 22. For on this evening, Jesus is going to be betrayed by one of his disciples.
I was listening to a talk show on Moody Radio yesterday called Chris Fabry Live, and a caller mentioned that two people that night actually betrayed Jesus. Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus with a kiss and Peter denied knowing Him after His arrest.
This caller made me think about all the times I betrayed Jesus in my life. Judas could have asked for forgiveness and it would have been given. This breaks my heart to know that out of the guilt he felt, he hung himself without any attempt to seek forgiveness. Peter, on the other hand, recalled Jesus’s words predicting his betrayal, and he wept, asked for forgiveness, was granted it and used this as a stepping stone to witness for Christ.
Friends, it is not too late for you to ask for forgiveness for denying or betraying Jesus in your lifetime. As the events unfold for Jesus on this Good Friday, His arms will stretch out as wide as they can on the cross. His arms are opened wide for everyone to fit inside His embrace which never lets go.
Psalm 22:7 “Commit your cause to the Lord; let him deliver–let him rescue the one in whom he delights!”