What is it?
Maundy Thursday, sometimes called Holy Thursday, is celebrated the Thursday before Easter. On this day, participants remember Jesus’ last supper with His disciples. During this last supper, Jesus also washed the disciples’ feet.
The name “Maundy” comes from the first word of the Latin phrase “Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos” (“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another”) (John 13:34).
Maundy Thursday services often include the observance of communion (the Lord’s Supper) and some churches also have a foot washing service.
Biblical Account of the Lord’s Supper
John 13:1-11 gives the account of foot washing, which is often observed on Maundy Thursday:
- “It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love. The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
- He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
- Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
- “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”
- Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
- “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”
- Jesus answered, “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.
Mark 14:12-26 gives this account of the Passover meal:
- On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?” So he sent two of his disciples, telling them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. Say to the owner of the house he enters, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large upper room, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.”
- The disciples left, went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover. When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me.”
- They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, “Surely not I?”
- “It is one of the Twelve,” he replied, “one who dips bread into the bowl with me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”
- While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.” Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it. “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them. “I tell you the truth, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God.” When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
What can we learn?
The events of Maundy Thursday highlight the humility and servanthood of Jesus. His command to His disciples is a command that He leaves for us as well, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).
Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div
Co-Founder of The Mystical Order