Holy Week History: What is Maundy Thursday
What is Maundy Thursday?
Maundy Thursday is the fifth day of Holy Week leading up to Easter, which remembers the Last Supper with Jesus and His disciples. We call this event the "Last Supper" because it is one of Jesus' final meals with His disciples before He is crucified. They had gathered for Passover Supper, which set an important context for what Jesus did at the Last Supper.
The Passover meal remembers when God liberated His people from captivity after striking Egypt with the tenth and final plague. For the tenth plague, God told Moses that every firstborn son would die unless their families had marked their door frames with the blood of a "lamb without blemish" (Exodus 12:5). Moses directs the Jews to kill a lamb and mark their doors with blood. As promised, God "passes over" the homes marked with blood and spares the firstborn sons of His people. After suffering this final plague, Pharaoh releases the Israelites from their captivity as slaves.
What is the Meaning of Maundy Thursday?
Understanding the story of Passover gives incredible meaning to the events of the Last Supper. During this Passover meal, Jesus establishes what we know as Communion or the Lord's Supper. Jesus breaks bread, saying "Take, eat; this is my body" and then tells the disciples to drink from the cup of wine, which he calls the "blood of the covenant" (Matthew 26:26-28). With these actions Jesus establishes himself as the Passover Lamb, the sacrifice required for the New Covenant. Jesus tells us to take Communion to remember his death and to "proclaim the Lord's death until he comes" (1 Corinthians 11:24-26). Communion not only reminds us what Jesus did, but that He will return again. We will commune with him to celebrate His return at the Marriage Feast of the Lamb (Revelation 19:7-10).
How do People Celebrate Maundy Thursday?
Most churches celebrate Maundy Thursday by taking Communion and also remembering Christ's commandment to his disciples. During the Last Supper, Jesus performs the humbling act of washing the feet of his disciple. Jesus uses this act to demonstrate how he wants his disciples to serve and love others. "If I then, your Lord and Teacher have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet" (John 13:14). This mandate extends to all believers. Christians remember this command on Maundy Thursday, with some churches actually practicing the washing of feet.
As we continue to prepare for Easter Sunday, Maundy Thursday is a great time to focus on what it means that Christ is our Passover Lamb. Set aside some time to talk with your family about Jesus as the Blameless Lamb sacrificed for us. This powerful image is simple, yet profound. We are reminded that just as Christ processed humbly into Jerusalem on a donkey, He will humbly go to the cross. What does this tell us about the kind of King He is? He does not conquer with violence, but with love. And so we are called to further his kingdom in the same way, by loving one another as Christ first loved us.