Holy Week Meditation: Maundy Thursday

Scripture reading: John 13:1-17, 31b-35

The word “maundy” in Maundy Thursday derives from a Latin word which means “commandment.” On Maundy Thursday, we specifically remember Christ’s command to “love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34.)

Maundy Thursday is a day we often closely associate with communion and sometimes with foot-washing. In fact, until recently, I thought of Maundy Thursday exclusively as the Communion day. But neither communion nor foot-washing, important as they are, are the essence of this day. They are the methods Jesus chose to demonstrate to his apostles, and now to us, what it means to love someone with God’s love. How has Jesus loved us? He has come to us, not as a dictator or tyrant, but rather as a servant. He has given his body to save and sustain our souls, and his blood to seal God’s new covenant for the forgiveness of our sins. And he asks us to show the same humble, life-giving love with those around us.

What a remarkable invitation this is! Christ is not asking us for anything that we might have to produce for ourselves. He has poured himself into us, filling us up with love. It’s that same love he wants us to spill out on others. This year, that love requires us to avoid the normal ways we celebrate this love-command - by repeating his actions in the Lord’s Supper and in washing each other’s feet. But God's love is not constrained by our traditional ways of sharing it! Here are some ideas for observing Maundy Thursday in your home:

  1. Food, even when it’s not the bread and cup of communion, is a powerful way to show love to others. Even if you currently live alone, consider preparing a nice meal today and eating it off your “good” dishes, as a way to remember and honor the meal Jesus shared with his disciples. Accompany your meal with a reading of John 13:1-17, 31b-35.

  2. Footwashing was often the responsibility of slaves in a household. When Jesus washed his disciples’ feet, he was giving a shocking example of the lengths he wants his disciples to be willing to go to in order to serve others. Is there a chore or some other favor you might do as a gesture of love for a member of your household that is normally not your responsibility?

  3. Do you know someone who could use a phone call, a card, or a text? Today is a great day to honor God by reaching out to them in love!

A Prayer for Maundy Thursday

Holy God, source of all love, on the night of his betrayal Jesus gave his disciples a new commandment, to love one another as he loved them. Write this commandment in our hearts; give us the will to serve others as he was the servant of all, who gave his life and died for us, yet is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.