What is Maundy Thursday for During Holy Week?

The first time I was invited to attend a Maundy Thursday service over thirty years ago, I had no clue what it was. I understood Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday. What was Maundy Thursday?

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

Holy Thursday

Maundy Thursday, also called Holy Thursday, recalls the events that happened the next day after the traditional Passover meal. Maundy Thursday took place in the Upper Room between Jesus and His disciples (John 13-14). It marks when Jesus was betrayed by Judas for thirty pieces of silver.

However, many other significant events happened, as well. The gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke reveal how Jesus Christ instituted the Lord’s Supper (holy communion) for the first time. That life-altering table of forgiveness laid out for us by the Son of God.

Some refer to the Lord’s table that evening as Jesus’ Last Supper. However, churches around the globe still celebrate Communion with the words of institution, unleavened bread, and wine. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, it was by no means Jesus’ last supper served to His disciples (you and me).


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 Jesus’ ministry.

The Apostle 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 word mandatum novum, meaning “new commandment.” So, what did Jesus’ command convey 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).

sun through trees

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 — Son of Man in the flesh — stooped to wash the feet of His disciples. Including Judas Iscariot. (A good thing to keep in mind the next time we have trouble extending forgiveness.)

Jesus’ last night gathered with His disciples before Good Friday conveyed His pure love for them and all of us. Yet as His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane would reveal later that evening, the self-giving love of our Lord Jesus reigned supreme.

Out of all of the Passover lambs, His blood alone would keep us safe in our Father’s arms for all eternity.

rain, weep

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 require us to get in close. Get your hands dirty. Get on your 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. Yet Jesus bent low to wash the disciples’ feet.

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


Maundy Thursday Reflects God’s Faithful Love

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. There is no greater love!

Love instituted in a holy meal of forgiveness and redemption.

God’s love demonstrated by a foot washing, life-giving love.

Bottom Line

If you have the opportunity to attend a Maundy Thursday worship service, don’t miss out. Listen to the beautiful message of God’s everlasting love for us. Receive Christ’s body and blood with awe and wonder at the new life we have in Him alone.

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About the Author

Donna is a sought-after speaker, multi-published author, and Bible teacher. Her path from being unchurched to becoming passionate about sharing Jesus was not easy. Read about her God-breathed journey: “From Unchurched to Becoming a Multi-Published Author and Sought-After Speaker.” If you want to send Donna a quick message, then visit her here.

{Some of these links are affiliate links. This means if you purchase through that link, the ministry may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.}

Jesus wept

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.

Code Blue and Ash Wednesday

Once again, the darkened wee hours are startled awake as “Code Blue!” rings loud over the hospital’s ICU intercom. The staff rushes as one to battle the emergency.

I selfishly thank God that they are not rushing into mom’s room.

It’s 3am as I hear them working to save a life. As my prayers ascend each time Code Blue rings out, I know that God is already in each room.

God was in mom’s room before we were, as well. And He will be there after we are gone, whether the inhabitants acknowledge Him or not.

Prayer moves the heart of God, but faith reminds us that God is already moving.

The season of Lent begins this week with Ash Wednesday. Isaiah 53:5 tells us, “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.”

Jesus was crushed for our sin. And the most amazing thing? He did it willingly. He deliberately put Himself in harm’s way to save our lives – literally.

God positioned Jesus in a certain place and time to be the Savior of the world. Before Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, we were in a spiritually life-threatening situation.

We weren’t going to make it out alive.

We were bleeding to death in our sin.

We were going to lose the fight for life.

But because our Savior stepped in to take God’s wrath on our behalf, we have been extended the extraordinary promise to have eternal life.

If you would like to ponder more deeply the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus made for you and me, you can download my 4-lesson Bible study on Isaiah 53:5.


Jesus loves us more than we can possibly imagine. God’s blessings as you travel toward Calvary during Lent.