I always get excited when I learn something new and this year’s Holy Week activities provided an amazing opportunity for
learning and growth. I suspect most of us are quite familiar with the history behind Good Friday and Easter and we’re
aware that the "Last Supper" provides the roots for our Communion service. But what is Maundy Thursday?
Over the years, I had heard it mentioned and I assumed it had something to do with the Last Supper; but never had the
occasion to dig into its background and significance. This year, to the best of my knowledge, we celebrated a "first"
at Grace by holding a Maundy Thursday service. At the Session meeting the week before, Pastor Dan had sought volunteers
to assist. Being curious, but a bit nervous about assisting with something about which I knew nothing, I decided to do
a bit of exploring before raising my hand to volunteer.
With my research completed, I was more than willing assist. Here’s some of what I discovered.
"Maundy Thursday (also known as Holy Thursday, Covenant Thursday, Great and Holy Thursday, Sheer Thursday, and Thursday
of Mysteries, among other names) is the Christian holy day falling on the Thursday before Easter. It commemorates the
Maundy and Last Supper of Jesus Christ with the Apostles as described in the Canonical gospels. It is the fifth day of
Holy Week, and is preceded by Holy Wednesday and followed by Good Friday. The washing of the feet is a traditional
component of the celebration."
At this point, I sent Pastor Dan a note and volunteered to assist, even though I still wasn’t clear on the whole picture.
"It commemorates the Maundy and Last Supper of Jesus Christ..." Well I knew what the Last Supper was, but what on earth
is a "Maundy"?
You won’t find the word in the Bible, but you will find the act to which it refers. Recorded in John 13:34 is a
statement made by Jesus near the end of the supper where He says, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have
loved you, so you must love one another."
It is Christ’s new command that we commemorate on Maundy Thursday – Maundy being an anglicised version of the Latin
"mandatum:" which translates to "mandate" or "command." We now know what a Maundy is; but what’s new about the command?
After all, wasn’t much of Jesus’ ministry about love and service?
There are a couple of things different here. The first noticeable difference is that Jesus, in an extraordinary display
of humility, got down on his knees and washed the disciple’s feet. This is something new and Peter’s reaction is
amazing – at first he is embarrassed and says, "...you shall never wash my feet." Then when Jesus explains things to him,
he is in – literally all the way – and asks for his entire body to be washed. Secondly Jesus’ command is “new” because
with respect to loving one another, he is upping the ante significantly.
His new command calls us to show love to those who don't appear to deserve it. Just as Jesus loved sinners "to the end"
when He had nothing to gain from them, so must we follow his example. There was, and still is, nothing attractive about
our sinful nature that would cause God to love us – yet He does and sent his only Son to die for our sins and reconcile
us to Him.
What an awesome and humbling experience it was, at our Maundy Thursday service, to wash someone else’s feet and then to
have my own feet washed. For the forty plus folks who were there, it was a special evening that brought a new and personal
meaning to the remainder of the Holy Week.
Now that we have introduced a Maundy Thursday service, are we ready to not only commemorate Christ’s new command(ment) but
to observe it as well?
"Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.
Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one
and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and
sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 1 John 4: 7-10 (NIV)
Note 1: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maundy_Thursday
Note 2: http://www.christianity.com/christian-life/what-is-maundy-thursday-11628350.html