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Maundy Thursday

March 31, 2015

This is the time of year on the Church calendar called “Holy Week,” which is book-ended by Palm Sunday on one side and Resurrection Day (Easter Sunday) on the other. Sandwiched between these two are the events that culimated in Christ’s betrayal, arrest, death, and crucifixion. To remember the events of this period, many church congregations have end-week worship experiences for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. As these experiences are fast approaching, it is important to take a look at them each in turn. In this post, we will concentrate on Maundy Thursday, which commemorates the events spanning the hours between the Passover meal with the Disciples in the upper room to Jesus’ betrayal and arrest in the garden.

Most scholars agree that the word Maundy comes from the Middle English/Old French word mandé, which is derived from the Latin word mandatum, meaning “mandate.” Well, what is mandated? Scripture shows two things during this moment in time which still speak to us today.

First, Jesus mandated the act of Holy Communion. Luke 22:19b-20 states that “he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”

This mandate is confirmed later by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26. “For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”

Christ observed this experience with the Disciples as a remembrance of what He was about to do for them (and us). Paul takes it a step further and states the experience proclaims Jesus’ sacrifice publicly until He returns. In view of this mandate, it is important that the followers of Christ observe Holy Communion as an act of rememberance and thanksgiving for the work Christ completed upon the cross at Calvary.

Second, Jesus mandated that His followers be loving servant leaders. John 13:34-35 states, A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Jesus explained this mandate in more than just mere words. He explained it with his actions.

John 13:3-5 – Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. 

Peter and Jesus have a bit of an exchange after this passage, showing very clearly that Peter still had no concept of what Jesus was trying to teach. And so, just a few short verses later, Jesus completes the explanation.

John 13:12- When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

Jesus mandated “washing feet.” Now, this is not necessarily the actual act of washing another person’s feet, although that may very well be the case from time to time for each of us. Rather, his act demonstrated humility, submission, and servanthood. Just as Jesus chose to demonstrate these characteristics, we are called to do the same.

This is made clear in Ephesians 5:1-2 – Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. 

What are we to imitate? Scripture has a good list.

1. Be at peace with each other (Mark 9:50)

2. Wash one another’s feet (John 13:34)

3. Love one another (John 13:34-35; 15:12,17)

4. Be devoted to one another (Romans 12:10)

5. Honor one another above yourselves (Romans 12:10)

6. Stop passing judgment on one another (Romans 14:13)

7. Accept one another, just as Christ accepted you (Romans 15:7)

8. Serve one another in love (Galatians 5:13)

9. Carry each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2)

10. Be patient, bearing with one another in love (Ephesians 4:2)

11. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:21)

12. In humility consider others better than ourselves (Philippians 2:3)

 

As we approach Maundy Thursday, it is my sincere hope that each of us will pause for a moment to share in Communion with Christ, and will imitate His actions with the Disciples by being loving and willing servants, imitating His characteristics. Amen.

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