Maundy Thursday – The Worst Night of All Time
On this night almost 2,000 years ago, Jesus met with his closest followers, the men he had called and taught for three years. Jesus anticipated the terrible events of that night, his unjust condemnation, and his unspeakable suffering. On this night he would be betrayed, not only by Judas, but also by Peter, the “rock.” On this night he would be abandoned by all his followers, and his closest friends, Peter, John, and James would not even be able to wait with him or comfort him during his midnight vigil and torment. He would be arrested and brutalized, condemned in a “trial” that violated all the rules of Jewish law, and turned over to Rome for further abuse and imposition of the death sentence by the cruelest method. Worse than all the rest, the next day the Father would forsake him as he bore the sins of the world.
Despite All That Awaited Him, Jesus Was Keen to Celebrate this Passover with his disciples, and to pray for them, instruct them, and provide for them:
“I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Lk 22:5).
Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. (Jn 13:1)
In the long discourse recorded in John’s Gospel (chapters 13-17), Jesus indeed loved them to the end. He prayed for them and for union between them and himself and the father. He spoke to them of the promised helper, the Holy Spirit, to reassure them, and he promised them that where he was going, they (and we who believe in him) would join him in the many rooms in his Father’s house. He taught them that there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends, he showed them the purpose for his coming suffering, and in many ways he sought to strengthen and brace them for the terrible things that were to come. He instituted the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, reconstituting the memorial observance of the Passover into another form, both spiritual and practical, that would serve to help them remember him, knowing how quickly in our humanity we will forget God. He cared more for them than for his own self.
Among all these things, he gave them a new commandment, one with a purpose to show they belonged to him. It’s a commandment addressed to you and to me also.
Why is it called Maundy Thursday?
When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, 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 to you.
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A New Commandment (31-35)
When he [Judas] had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ 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. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Jn 13:31-35)
The story of Jesus’s act of humility in washing the disciples’ feet is often associated with the name Maundy, but the English word is derived from the Latin word mandatum, meaning 'command'. The Latin Vulgate renders John 13:34: 'Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos', in English: 'A new commandment I give unto you: That you love one another, as I have loved you, that you also love one another.'
Jesus explained the significance of his stooping and washing the feet of the disciples. In John 13:6-8, we see Jesus 'came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?" 'Jesus replied, "You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand." "No," said Peter, "you shall never wash my feet." Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no part with me."' Jesus’ new command' reinforces Jesus' call to imitate his sacrificial love, the love of volition, agape.
Jesus Gave the example, Jesus prayed for them, Jesus Instituted the Lord’s Supper to Provide for them A Means of Grace and a Reminder, and Jesus directed them to Love One Another
And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. (Jn 17:11)
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, (Jn 17:20-22)
Paul’s Admonition to Christians – Unity and Agape
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Eph 4:32)
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. (Gal 5:13-15)
Are We Living as Christians? Would the world know we are?
By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Jn 13:35). This is Jesus’s charge to us, his challenge to us, powerfully given on this dark and dreadful night two thousand years ago.