Matthew 6:16-17 – Now whenever you fast, do not make a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they distort their faces so that they will be noticed by people when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 17 But as for you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 so that your fasting will not be noticed by people but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
It is Maundy Thursday of Holy Week. Maundy is derived from the Latin word for ‘command,’ and refers to Jesus’ commandment to the disciples to ‘Love one another as I have loved you.’ Maundy Thursday also commemorates the Last Supper, where Jesus humbled himself to wash his disciples’ feet, setting an example for them to follow.
Fasting meals was a regular part of life for the early church and Jesus assumed it in his teaching here. Fasting is associated with prayer and humility. We replace a meal time, or maybe take a more extended time, to deny ourselves the impulses of the flesh and give ourselves to prayer in its place. Rather than feeding the flesh, we seek to align our spirit with God’s Spirit to be able to love as He has loved us.
Agape love is not based on feelings, although certain feelings often follow from it. Agape love is a commitment one makes to lay down one’s life and interests for others’ best interest and well-being, regardless of how deserving they are. Agape is a kind of love you can have when there’s nothing about the other you like, when you have no romantic interest in the other, and even when the other is your enemy rather than your friend. On the cross, God expressed this love in its most perfect form.
Is it any wonder that Jesus calls us to fast and pray to fulfill His command to love one another as He has loved us? Join us at Hilltop Church tonight at 7 pm for a time to meditate on this love and this calling as we participate in communion together.
Heavenly Father, our Lord Jesus Christ, thank you for setting your will to love us even when we’ve been undisciplined and indifferent. Holy Spirit, compel us with Christ’s love to deny ourselves the impulses of our flesh in order to give ourselves in service to those in need around us, in Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.