Maundy Thursday

“Maundy” is such an odd word.

Maundy comes down to us from the Middle Ages, entering English in the old French form of mandé, which leads back to Latin and mandatum, meaning command, order.

The mandatum comes from Jesus’ words to his disciples.

The meeting in the Upper Room began with a shocking event for the disciples.

They have followed Jesus of Nazareth–which some acknowledge as the Messiah–for three years: astonished by His miracles, listening to His lessons, and gifted by Him with the powers of healing and casting out demons.

Yet more astonishing events await them.

But tonight, this Thursday night, the Lord gathers them to the Upper Room for a meal that they do

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Exterior of the Cenacle, traditional site of the Upper Room, and located in David’s Tomb compound in Jerusalem

not know will be their last meal together.

Servants would normally provide water for cleansing before the dinner began.  Part of that cleansing was to wash feet dusty from the dirt roads of the time.

Instead of a slave performing this service, Jesus himself humbly washes His disciples’ feet.

More on Humility

Humility is necessary for Love.

Humility is not pity, which is looking down on those beneath you.  “Oh, I have to help those poor people” is not a statement of love;  it is a statement of pity.  Pity has as its root Pride, one of the seven deadly sins.

Another form of pity is the statement “There but for the grace of God go I.”  This is still Pride, to be so glad that you are not in such a lower state.

Humility is removing self from the first position.  Humility is seeing a need and reaching out to fulfill it.  It’s understanding we are all the same:  same weaknesses, same sins.  No one person is above anyone else.

More on Washing the Feet

Jesus performs one of the lowliest duties when He rises from the table and washes 12 pairs of feet.

Then He gives them a true challenge:  as He has done to them, so should they do to each other.

This is one of the many multi-layered events of Christ’s entire existence, with more than one lessons occurring.

The disciples had seen such lessons for three years.  They must have wondered why he was washing their feet?  Why he challenged them to treat each other as higher than themselves?

Were they surprised by His comment that “no servant is greater than his master”?  That certainly upended their world.

Did any of them think of His earlier words to them when He sent out the 12, like sheep among wolves:

“Whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave.  As you enter the home, give it your greeting.   If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you.  If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.” (Matthew 10: 11-14)

Is He symbolically casting off the dust of the world in which Christianity will face rejection?

Ten of the 12 disciples die horrible deaths of martyrdom (Judas commits suicide).  Only John dies a natural death.

Christians have faced rejection for two thousand years.  And still face rejection, more hotly antagonistic than in the last few centuries.

Will humility and love help us overcome those who reject His message?

Image result for last supper painting
Leonardo da Vinci’s famous “Last Supper” restored

The Maundy in the Last Supper

Christ completes the Last Supper with his 11 true disciples, and then says,

“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)

This is the mandatum, the new commandment.

The original 10 Commandments just received an 11th commandment, as He has 11 disciples with him.

The first four commandments are about people’s relationship to God:  no other gods, no idols, no sacrilegious cursing, keep His day.

The other six are about people’s relationships with each other: honor parents, don’t murder or steal or commit adultery or lie or covet.

Now, here is an 11th commandment:  Love one another.

More Love

When we do not have humility, when we put ourselves higher than others rather than viewing them as equal to ourselves, when we do not love, then the evils of the world take root and grow and bind and choke us.

This is our 11th Commandment, now.

And Christ’s willing sacrifice is the greatest gift of love.


Another Latin word, Tenebrae sounds just as intriguiing as Spy Wednesday and Maundy Thursday.

Totally new.  Totally cool.

Until we understand the meaning.

Tenebrae means shadows, darkness.  The Tenebrae service may be done after the Lord’s Supper on Maundy Thursday or after an evening Good Friday service.

And the shadows?  During Tenebrae, the candles in the sanctuary are gradually extinguished.

Beginning on Thursday evening, the evil forces of the earthly world—through their arrogance and rage, their greed and envy, their quest for more and more, and their lust and laziness—conspire to bring about the death of the revolutionary Jesus of Nazareth.

They never understand—not until after Pentecost, at the earliest—that this conspiracy will only cause a greater revolution.

The gradual extinguishing of candles, lovely symbolism, is equally beautiful in practice.  All candles are blown out.

Sometimes one candle remains, representing the sole light of the world, Jesus.  Usually, however, all lights are extinguished.

One Last More on the Last Supper

This clip comes from The Passion of Christ and combines the Last Supper segment with a later clip, providing the reason for the whole Passion, the reason for the Holy Week, and the whole reason that Christ came to Earth. (found on YouTube)


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