What is Maundy Thursday?

The first time I was invited to attend a Maundy Thursday service over 25 years ago, I had no clue what it was. They tried valiantly to explain the significance.

But I had to experience it first-hand to understand the true meaning.

HOLY THURSDAY

Maundy Thursday, also called Holy Thursday, recalls the events that took place the night Jesus was betrayed in the upper room.

The gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke reveal how Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper for the first time. That life-altering table of forgiveness laid out for us.

JOHN’S GOSPEL FOCUSES ON SOMETHING DIFFERENT

The gospel of John hones in on Jesus’ final teachings to His disciples — this band of men who had followed Him, served Him, and witnessed three years of His ministry.

John realized that those who know their remaining time is short choose words carefully to ensure only the essential gets conveyed.

The word maundy is derived from the Latin phrase mandatum novum, meaning “new commandment.” So, what were Jesus’ instructions that night? 

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” John 13:34

SERVING JESUS REQUIRES LOVE

John doesn’t simply end his account with men enjoying a meal and hearing Jesus speak. He tells how Jesus dramatically punctuated His words with action.

In a shocking turn of events that almost sent Peter over the edge, Jesus — God in the flesh — stooped to wash the disciples’ feet. Including Judas. (A good point to keep in mind the next time we have trouble extending forgiveness.)

SERVING JESUS REQUIRES SERVING OTHERS

We can opt to serve others from a safe distance by sending money or supplies. However, serving to make a kingdom impact as His hands and feet requires us to get in close.

Get our hands dirty.

Get on our knees and pray.

Do the lowliest job.

That’s what foot washing represented in Biblical times. Only the lowest servant was relegated to the task of washing feet encased in sandals and thick desert dust. The job stunk. Literally.

That’s where Jesus meets us on Maundy Thursday — in the middle of our smelly lives.

He washes our feet in love and welcomes us to His table of forgiveness. And as we draw close, we hear Him remind us of His mandatum novum: “Love one another, just as I have loved you.”

The heart of Maundy Thursday reflects the heart of God: love.

Love instituted in a meal of forgiveness and redemption.

Love demonstrated by a foot washing, life-giving love.

If you have the opportunity to attend a Maundy Thursday service tonight, don’t miss out. It provides a beautiful glimpse into God’s everlasting love for us.

Be the Donkey

Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt (donkey) tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, “Why are you untying it?” tell him, “The Lord needs it.” (Luke 19:30-31).

That donkey did not do anything special. He was simply chosen. Then he obeyed a very simple instruction: follow where the master led.

They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it” (Luke 19:35).

Scripture does not say anything else about that particular donkey. We do not see where the donkey felt that his time in the spotlight was long overdue. Or that he deserved the pomp and circumstance of that occasion. No donkey selfies.

The donkey realized that it was not about him.

It was about the Messiah that he carried: the Word who became flesh to dwell among us.

It was about the message that the Messiah came to tell: the Light of the world who came to shine hope into our darkness.

In a world obsessed with fame we need to be the donkey.

When we grab after our own glory or fifteen minutes of fame, it is helpful to remember that we are just message-carriers. The picture frame and spotlight belong only on the One who gave us the message to share: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall no perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

As we enter Holy Week today with Palm Sunday, it is vital to remember our place in the story: to hold the spotlight on Jesus. To shine the light on what He accomplished for us on the cross.

We need God-given willingness to let Him untie us from the mundane to carry His extraordinary message wherever He leads us.

The story of Easter is not about us.

We did not do anything special.

By God’s grace, we are simply chosen.

And He asks us to obey a very simple instruction: Follow Me.

We are conduits of the message – not seekers of the spotlight.

Only Jesus deserves the accolades.