Marking the history of Maundy Thursday

When I was in grade school, I read a series of historical novels called, "I Was There." The books were a firsthand, eyewitness account of an historical event. One book was about Pearl Harbor, another, the Battle of Lexington and Concord. The stories were told through the eyes of fictional characters, usually in middle school, the same age as the books' intended readers.

I always enjoyed the series, because it made history come alive in a way textbooks couldn't. The problem with reading history, especially if you've read the stories over and over, is they become wooden and lifeless. The truth is, their characters were just as real as we are today.

This is Holy Week, the time Christians believe Jesus was crucified for their sins. Thursday is Maundy Thursday when, according to the Gospels, Jesus took his last meal before being crucified on Good Friday.

I've often wondered what it was like for those who actually witnessed those events. My guess is that most of his followers were simple, blue-collar workers who weren't very educated and probably couldn't read or write. They were minding their own business when one day, out of the blue, this local carpenter claims to be the true son of God. Over the next few years, he does things they can't imagine, like raising people from the dead, walking on water and curing blindness, leprosy and who knows what else. He also preaches in a way they've never heard before.

Then comes that fateful week in which everything happens quickly. One night they're enjoying a traditional Passover meal and, less than 24 hours later, their leader has been arrested, tortured and killed on a cross like a common criminal.

I can't imagine how confusing and frightening it must have been as they hid out, trying to make sense of it all and wondering if the same thing was going to happen to them.

And then, on the third day, what must they have thought when Jesus actually rose from the grave, just like he said he would. Nothing like that had ever happened before, not even with kings or rulers or other holy men.

Books, plays and movies have been made in an attempt to bring these events to life. (Stagecoach Players just finished one of the more popular ones, "Jesus Christ Superstar," last weekend. A new TV miniseries, "The Bible," is airing on the History Channel this week.) Churches of all denominations are holding special services. The First United Methodist Church in Kirkland is staging a Last Supper reenactment at 7 p.m. Thursday.

As I write this, I don't know where I'll be Thursday night, My work schedule frequently takes me all over DeKalb County at odd hours. In the past, whenever I've had to work, I've always stopped by the nearest church. Over the years, I've had my feet washed, my forehead blessed and even been in a cross walk or two – all things my own church doesn't do.

To me, Maundy Thursday is a special night I don't want to miss out on. In fact, the whole week brings out feelings I don't get at any other time of the year, even Christmas.

I know a lot of people don't share these feelings. I'm just sorry they don't.

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