In my opinion Maundy Thursday is one of the most important days of Holy Week, and it is often overlooked. Pretty well everyone knows and understands Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday but many people haven’t even heard the term Maundy Thursday.
A lot happened on Thursday. It was most likely Passover so Jesus and his disciples broke bread together in the upper room; a meal that we refer to now as the Last Supper, from where the institution of Eucharist or Holy Communion comes. This is typically the area that most Maundy (or Holy) Thursday services focus on.
It was Thursday night that Jesus spent in agony in the Garden of Gethsemane praying. It was also the night of Judas’ betrayal; when he turned Jesus over to the Roman authorities for thirty pieces of silver leading to his arrest and crucifixion.
But one of the most powerful moments for me comes from the Gospel of John. Instead of focusing on the Last Supper as the Synoptic Gospels do, John recounts an evening when Jesus kneeled and washed his disciples’ feet as a sign of servanthood and humility. Then he taught them one last lesson.
The term Maundy comes from the Latin mandatum which means “to entrust” or “to order”, because it was at this time that Jesus gave his disciples a “new” commandment. I see it as a kind of summation of His entire ministry. I can almost hear Him saying, “Listen to me – if you remember only one thing from our time together, remember this.” It all came down to three little words: Love One Another.
We live in a world divided by hate, bigotry, inequality and ignorance. Political parties are content to spew hatred based only on the principle of being on opposite sides and ignoring the fact that they’re all trying to reach a common goal. The mass media reaps enormous profits by selling the fruits of virtually all of the deadly sins – and we are obviously more than willing to buy it. Even our fellow Christians are too concerned with worshiping the idol of being offended by what everyone else thinks, believes or feels in order to make them feel better about themselves or evoke an air of false righteousness to even understand what Jesus tried to teach us.
It’s really not that difficult.
Jesus said it in three words.
LOVE ONE ANOTHER.
This is how they will know you’re a Christian. (John 13:35) Not by your Jesus t-shirt, or by the plastic fish on the back of your car, or by the big Bible that you carry with you everywhere you go, or by your anti-same-sex marriage picket sign. Nope. They will know you are a follower of Jesus by the way you love one another regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, economic class, geographical location, political affiliation… regardless of anything!
LOVE ONE ANOTHER.
These are the three words that I try to live my life by – the three words that shape my faith and the brand of Christianity that I feel is genuine.
So if you remember absolutely nothing else from this Maundy Thursday, remember this; “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34)