March 29, 2018
All DayCategory: Adult Education
This I Leave with You
Today we celebrate Maundy Thursday. One of the many “special days” of Holy Week, it counts only as a “minor” holiday. It doesn’t seem particularly important when you compare it with the palm branch waving in the parade of last Sunday – let alone the significance of Good Friday and Easter Sunday, which follow immediately thereafter.
This was the day of Jesus’ final meal with his closest friends, celebrating Passover. During the meal Jesus broke bread and poured wine for them, speaking words that they would only understand later. You might say that Jesus gave his disciples what they needed before they realized they needed it. He knew that people need routines and rituals to help them remember the important things in life. Once he was gone, they would require just that to remind them of what Jesus’ life and death had meant. Little did the disciples know that their meal would become one of the central parts of church services throughout the world and for centuries to come.
A further element in this special meal connects it to the odd-sounding word, “Maundy.” According to Wikipedia, the word is derived from the Latin mandatum (i.e. a “command”). To understand why this particular day came to be associated with the term mandatum, we need to consider the Gospel of John, and his account of the last supper. Jesus starts the evening off by washing his disciples’ feet; then he talks for quite some time. In John 13:34 he says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” On his last evening, Jesus gave a new command to love with a powerful example of what this means – humble servitude. When we use the term “Maundy Thursday” we refer implicitly to this command.
One day later, Jesus died; then came his resurrection and his ascension into heaven, which seemed to leave his disciples alone. Only, they were not alone. He left them a helper in the Holy Spirit; he left them rites to remember him by on Maundy Thursday – communion and love through service. So in a sense, we celebrate “Maundy Thursday” more often than any other day in Holy Week. We do so every time we take communion and every time we bend down to serve.