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"Maundy Thursday"

By Pastor Jerry Selleck,
Holton United Methodist Church

Maundy Thursday Primer

  Of all the holy-days coming up, probably the least understood is Maundy Thursday, the day before Good Friday, which celebrates the Last Supper. Aside from Easter itself, Maundy Thursday might be the oldest holy-day of all of them, and its history goes so far back, we’re not sure how it got its name.

    The term ‘Maundy’ is debated. It might come from the Latin ‘mandatum,’ which means ‘commandment,’ and is a reference to Jesus mandating that we serve and love one another, which he displayed when He washed the feet of the Disciples:

John 13:34 (NIV)

34  "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

     Or, it could be an old English term from ‘maund,’ which means ‘to beg.’ It was a reference to the ritual of the king giving coins to the poor on Holy Thursday. Hence, Maundy Thursday. This is a ritual that still goes on today.

   Various Christian Faiths might call it Holy Thursday, Great Thursday, Sheer Thursday, or my favorite: Thursday of Mysteries. But in this country, the most common is Maundy Thursday, and no matter what you call it, it refers to Jesus and His Disciples at the Last Supper. This event spawned two rituals: foot washing and communion. A service on Maundy Thursday usually includes one, or both, of these rituals.

   After the Disciples had gathered, Jesus took a bowl and a towel, and, one by one, washed the Disciples feet. This was highly irregular, because it is a task usually done by a slave, not a revered Rabbi and Messiah. But Jesus did it to show that he came to serve, and He wanted them to be servants as well.

John 13:13-15 (NIV)

13  "You call me 'Teacher' and 'Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am.

14  Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet.

15  I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”

   The Disciples and Jesus were meeting to celebrate the age-old Jewish holy-day of Passover, which celebrates Moses leading the Hebrews out of Egyptian slavery (‘The Exodus’). It includes a special meal, with special foods, mandated by God in Exodus 12. The Passover celebrates release from physical slavery, and also God’s special relationship to the Jews.

   Jesus took the elements of bread and wine at the table and added a new meaning to them. The bread represented his body (broken), and the wine his blood (shed), referring to his death upon a cross, which was to happen very soon. By His death upon the cross, Jesus sacrificed and paid the penalty for our sin, so that we might be forgiven and enter heaven. Just as God provided physical freedom through Moses, God provides spiritual freedom through Jesus. Every time we take communion, we remember and are thankful for the sacrifice of Jesus.

   Even if you can’t make a Maundy Thursday service on April 2nd, take time to serve another, as Jesus commanded, and be thankful for the forgiveness God offers.








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