I’ll be honest, even though I grew up in church, a pastor’s kid nonetheless, I had never heard of Maundy Thursday or Holy Thursday until my college days. My Baptist roots taught me a lot about the practical side of my faith, but I wasn’t exposed to a lot of the liturgical aspects. And when I became an adult, I was shocked to learn there were parts of the Easter holiday that I had yet to understand.
Maundy Thursday was one of them.
Maundy Thursday is the day we believe that Jesus partook of his final Passover meal with his disciples. This is what we call The Last Supper, which I’m thoroughly familiar with, but one aspect that I haven’t spent a lot of time looking at was what happened at the very beginning of the meal before everyone sat down and took the bread and cup.
Maundy comes from the Latin word mandatum, which means “commandment.” If you’ll remember, Jesus washed the feet of His disciples and then commanded that they do the same for each other. Read a recap of The Last Supper below from the Gospel of John here. But the verses I’m going to focus on today are 13:12-16:
“When Jesus had washed their feet and put on His robe, He reclined again and said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done for you? You call Me Teacher and Lord. This is well said, for I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example that you also should do just as I have done for you. I assure you: A slave is not greater than his master, and a messenger is not greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.'”
I love how Christ in the Gospels is always showing us how His way is opposite of what the world tells us. Instead of becoming bigger, He calls us to be small, to put others before ourselves. Our greatest commandment is to Love God with every piece of our being and then love our neighbor as ourselves. Christ, in his final meal, reiterates this truth by commanding his disciples to become smaller, to wash the dirt off of each other’s feet.
Before the bread and the cup, the Savior of the world became small and got his hands dirty loving on his people.
If you read the beginning of the chapter, Scripture says that Christ knew it was time to go and that, “Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.” This is how the story begins.
Can you picture our Messiah in the upper room, laying down his robe and putting a towel on? After he poured the water into the basin, he got on his knees and his calloused carpenter’s hands gently held his friends’ feet. Can you see Jerusalem’s dirt falling away into the basin. Dirty feet becoming clean again. Another foreshadowing of the grandest gesture he’ll ever make.
“Greater Love has no man than this, to lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13
Before He gave His final and greatest gesture of love, He did this small final one. He washed feet and then He asked us to join him.
In a world where bigger is better and more followers means more worth, I think we can learn a lot from this Passover meal. Today this Maundy Thursday, let’s allow Christ’s example to spur us on in good works.
Love big, become small.
Do the hard thing and get your hands dirty.
Give hope away by giving yourself away.
This is our call, His commandment.
This is Maundy Thursday.
“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Phil. 2: 1-11