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.
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.