It is Maundy Thursday. The Thursday unlike any other Thursdays. This day is also known as Holy Thursday, Covenant Thursday, Great and Holy Thursday, Sheer (meaning “clean” or “bright”) Thursday, the Thursday of Mysteries, among other names for this significant day!
On a Thursday like today, the disciples are with Jesus, celebrating together one of the most significant miracles in the history of the Jewish people: the salvation from the Egyptian slavery. Today was significant. Today was holy. It was a day of remembrance. I wonder what they were thinking throughout that day. I wonder if they sensed that everything was about to change. I wonder if during the preparation of the Passover meal their hearts were stirred in unusual ways.
This is the most unusual Thursday for all of us. I don’t know what your personal or faith tradition is for a day like today, but this year we’re all celebrating it in unplanned and unexpected ways. Maybe this is a good thing. Maybe we are given this as a gift to really think about what happened on a day like today.
Today is known as Maundy Thursday. “Maundy” comes from the Latin word mandatum, or commandment, reflecting Jesus’ words “I give you a new commandment.” Jesus’ words in the upper room have the ultimate weight. The last words of a person have ultimate value. They represent their mandate. Their will.
That day, Jesus was in an upper room with His closest friends and His last will was to show them the heart of the Father. Again. As a necessary reminder for hearts and minds that are easily distracted, that easily forget. Just like us, today.
Let’s be still for a little while, gather our dear ones around us, or light a candle as a simple reminder that God is with us, as we are reading and reflecting on what He is telling His close friends – from back then and from today…
“The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, 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 (how powerful it is to know our identity!); 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.” – The Master, the One who deserved the honor of being served, is serving. Because it is not one’s position that makes a leader a leader of influence, but their lifestyle and their humility. – “When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”
“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.”
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me so that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” […] “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”
“If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.”*
What a rich evening! And it is still just the beginning…
Which of these teachings and truths were fresh for you tonight? Sometimes we get so used to the most amazing things, that we no longer react to them. What stirs your heart? What truths are you struggling with? Take some time to ponder on what happened on a night like tonight. Fill your mind with our Master’s mandate, believe Him, receive Him, and hear Him call you His friend. Then you will see what God can do through the most simple of people – like you and me – His disciples.
Jesus conquered the world – not through wars and tyranny, but through His revolutionary love.
(** The texts are excerpts from John chapters 13-16)