Maundy Thursday


Maundy Thursday, the day before Good Friday, was a very busy and stressful day in the life of Jesus. In the Gospel of John five chapters alone are set around that day’s dinner table. It was on this day that Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper and washed the disciples’ feet, told them he was going to prepare a place for them and promised to come again. It was also in the Upper Room that Jesus comforted his followers with the promise of the Holy Spirit and prayed that they would be one before uniting their voices in the singing of a hymn.

It was also at the end of this day that Jesus entered the dark night of the soul praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, “If it be your will, let this cup pass from me, nevertheless not my will, but your will be done.” Yet with all that activity, the word ‘maundy,’ which means ‘command,’ suggests that Maundy Thursday can be summarized in one word.

At supper that day Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another,” (John 13:34-35). The word is love, but on this day, it is so much more than just a word.

For most of us the thought of love brings to mind sunny days and moonlit evenings in the springtime of life, or the glimpse of a mother holding a newborn babe. Calling us to love one another is motherhood and apple pie. But the new commandment to love came on the eve of the day the sky turned black as everything God had once pronounced good was eclipsed by a world full of hate focussed on the very One who commanded love. He was tried unjustly, subject to beatings and abuse and finally nailed to a cross and left to die. And die he did.

Time to throw in the towel on love? As Christ pressed on that day, he showed that love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. Jesus didn’t give up. His words from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,’ opened a grave that would swallow up sin and guilt and even death itself. On Easter God raised him up to prove that love never ends.

Few of us will be called on to die for love, but that is not what Jesus had in mind when he called us to love one another. He wanted us to live for love. Day after day he showed us what love looks like through his warm heart and listening ear, his endless kindness and compassion, his insistence on forgiveness and his undying belief in the transforming power of grace.

On Maundy Thursday he girded himself with a towel and washed the feet that he knew would soon run away and abandon him. And yet wherever we run away to, he is already there with arms open to welcome us home to love. Still Christ fills the basin and washes our feet in love, but today he also hands us the towel as a sign that the time to love one another is now.

Love so amazing, so divine
Demands my soul, my life, my all!