Holy Week – Thursday

Holy Week - Thursday
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Holy Week – Thursday

There’s no denying that the name “Maundy Thursday” is peculiar. You may have never heard that name, but even if you have – you’re probably wondering “Why do we call it that?”

The origin of the word Maundy ties back to the Latin word “mandatum,” the first word of the Latin version of John 13:34: “Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos” – “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.” So Maundy Thursday is named for the commandment Jesus gave his disciples to love as He did through humble servanthood, which He modelled by washing the apostles’ feet immediately after the Last Supper. You can think of it as “Mandate Thursday” if that helps you grasp the meaning.

Although foot washing is certainly Biblical and a beautiful representation of loving servanthood, it seems far too weird for our current culture and so we don’t celebrate it much anymore. A pastor once told me that foot washing services are “guaranteed to be the least attended service of the year.” And so Maundy Thursday is now associated more with the Last Supper and celebration of the first communion than the washing of feet. Many don’t even use the term “Maundy Thursday” anymore at all.

After another long day at the office, Jesus decides to stay in town for the night – ostensibly in preparation for the Passover celebration. Although He has already specifically told the apostles He will be crucified on the Passover, He is perplexingly the only one aware of the true gravity of the moment. He retreats to an upper room to share one last meal and some final instruction with His cherished inner circle.

Do your well-intentioned family dinners ever go awry with drama? Have you ever said to yourself or out loud “For ONCE can’t we just have a nice family dinner?!” Jesus drops a bomb during supper by announcing someone at the table will betray Him. This leads to a round of pretentious denials by everyone present, and eventually devolves into an argument about which of them is the greatest. (Sigh. Rolling my eyes…)

You’ve probably heard the words of 1st Corinthians 11 so often you can recite them in your sleep: “…the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread… For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” One of the things I love about Living WATERS is how we really try to grasp the gravity of the situation when we ceremonially replicate this event.

When they are done eating, Jesus washes the feet of the apostles. John tells us “He loved them to the end.” At some point Jesus tells Judas to get on with what he plans to do and Judas leaves.

Jesus’ final teaching to His beloved apostles is packed with familiar verses we treasure: “I go to prepare a place for you.” “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever…” “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.” “Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” “I am the vine; you are the branches.” “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Amen.

They close the meal with a hymn and Jesus chooses to spend the rest of His evening praying in the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives. Along the way He drops another bombshell by scandalously announcing that not only will they all fall away for a time, but Peter himself – Petros, THE ROCK – will deny Him three times.

He enters the garden, falls on His face, and pours out the emotion on His heart: “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” Luke tells us He is in agony and His sweat becomes like drops of blood. Midnight arrives to find Jesus still praying in the garden. He will get no rest this night.

Reading through this passionate story of Jesus’ last free night on earth, what does “Mandate Thursday” mean to you now?

Tomorrow: The empire strikes back & What’s so good about Good Friday?

References:
https://bible.org/article/chronology-synopsis-passion-week
Matthew Chapter 26
Mark Chapter 14
Luke Chapter 22
John Chapter 13-17
1 Corinthians 11:23-26

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