Christians all over the world will celebrate Maundy Thursday tonight. With solemn joy and reverential gladness, they will gather together in worship to share the Lord’s Supper.
The word “maundy” comes from the Latin “mandatum” and means “mandate.” In short, it speaks of the command Jesus gave his disciples the night before he died:
“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” John 13:34-35.
This command comes right after two great acts. It begins with the institution of the Lord’s Supper. Communion is an everlasting picture, a perpetual reminder of Christ’s sacrifice. Jesus gave us this ordinance so that we would regularly have his death before our eyes and in our bodies. It’s a reminder of love. “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers” 1 John 3:16.
In the middle of teaching his disciples what Communion is, he takes off his outer garments and starts washing their feet (John 13:3-15). In doing so he shows them the basic element of love: service. Wherever there is a lack of service, there is a lack of true love. Jesus says, clearly, “ 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” John 13:14-15.
So see the complete picture: Jesus says, here is a way to remember the depths my love – the breaking of bread and the pouring of wine, that’s my body given for you. Then, he bends down and washes their feet, saying, here is an example of what love looks like: service. I want you to do these things. I want you to remember my love, and to love one another.
That is why many Christians gather on Maundy Thursday. They recall Christ’s command, they follow his example, and they remember his love for his people.