–By Tina Mari Combs, Author
AUTHOR’S NOTE: The objective of this piece is to clarify the meaning of Maundy Thursday to Christians who are young in their faith and Non-Christians searching for answers. I am not a minister nor claim to be a theology expert. I am a Christian lay person who has developed a strong relationship with God through extensive formal and independent study, prayer, meditation and contemplation. God is my best friend and is with me 24/7. If I can help you find this, I will be a very happy person.
Maundy Thursday is observed on the Thursday before Easter. Traditions in both Eastern and Western Christian Churches have ceremonial rites and services to honor the Last Supper on this day. Holy Thursday is a popular term that is used in some western churches.
The word ‘Maundy’ is derived from the Latin word ‘mandatum’ which is the term used for an order or mandate. Some translations indicate that mandatum specifically means commandment. (Wikipedia) During the Last Supper on that Thursday before Easter, Jesus gave his last instructions to his disciples which included two mandates that are central to Christianity today. Hence the name Maundy Thursday.
These two mandates are the reason Christians commemorate this day. Church services are usually held on Maundy Thursday evening in honor of the Last Supper and include ceremonial rites commemorating Jesus’ two mandates. The Last Supper holds a high significance in the lives of Christians. It was the last time Jesus sat down with his disciples before his Crucifixion the following day. It was and is a solemn day.
It is the day that Jesus revealed his Father’s plan for him. It was the day that Jesus told his disciples that he would be betrayed by one of their own. Jesus said as he pointed out Judas Iscariot, “One of you will betray me.”(John 13:21-30) He explains that he will be put to death and that they, his beloved disciples,, will deny him. (Matt 26:21) The disciples were in shock, in a state of disbelief, and saddened by what they just heard. They did not want to accept Jesus’ death.
During this evening meal Jesus demonstrated two lessons that he ordered his disciples to teach their followers; lessons to be passed down to all generations to come. The first of these was Feet Washing. (John 13:4-5) To demonstrate that rich or poor, we are all the same in God’s eyes. Out of love for the disciples Jesus picked up a basin and began to wash their feet. The men protested, saying he was too good to be washing there feet. Jesus commanded as he washed, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 13:34) Jesus also said, ” “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet…,” (John 13:14-17) This was a lesson in humility and servitude. We are to love, care for and serve each other to be more Christ-like as that is God’s instructions for us. Feet Washing in churches today is said to be a symbolic gesture of breaking social barriers.
The second mandate Jesus gave that night was that of Communion or Eucharist. This ceremonial rite is performed to remind us that under the New Covenant, Jesus lives within us. Communion is described in full detail in the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 22. With his disciples, Jesus breaks bread saying, “This is my body,” and as he pours the wine he says, “This is my blood.” As he passes the bread and wine to his disciples he commands the to, “Do this in remembrance of me.” This was the First Communion. The bread and wine are a symbolic reminder that Christ lives within us as the Holy Spirit.
We must remember to contemplate on the meanings of these rites when we partake in them. They are not mere rituals to be aloofly performed. They are a testament and a recommitment of our faith in Salvation in Christ. They are a demonstration of our love and obedience of God’s desires for us. They are a promise to our fellow man, Christians and Non-Christians that we will love and care for them as God instructed.
PART TWO: HOW THE LAST SUPPER RELATES TO JESUS’ JEWISH HERITAGE