What Is Maundy Thursday

What Is Maundy Thursday?

Dr. Craig von BuseckBy Dr. Craig von Buseck5 Minutes

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another (John 13:34 ESV).

It was to be the last supper for Jesus and His disciples. Tension filled the room. Everyone understood that the stakes couldn’t be higher.

Throughout His earthly ministry, Jesus had proved to be an increasing threat to the religious authorities in Jerusalem. At first, they were merely jealous of his popularity. But as His teaching began to confront their hypocrisies, Jesus went from a nuisance to an enemy in their eyes.

There had already been confrontations. When Jesus boldly declared, “I and the Father are one (John 10:30),” the Jewish leaders picked up rocks to stone him. Somehow, miraculously, Jesus escaped from their hands.

But now Jesus turned up the heat.

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness (Matthew 23:27 ESV).

At that time, Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey, fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah (chapter 9, verse 9). As Jesus rode through the streets, people spread their coats or palm branches on the path before him. Crowds pressed in around him crying out: “Hosanna to the Son of David (Matthew 21:9). Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord (Luke 19:38).”

This outburst angered the Pharisees and they implored Jesus: “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” But Jesus refused. “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!”

This was the final straw for the religious leaders. Unaware that he was actually prophesying, the high priest, Caiaphas, calling for Jesus’ death, declared, “…it is expedient for you that one man die for the people… (John 11:50).”

So as Jesus and His disciples planned to eat the Passover meal together, Caiaphas and the Jewish religious leaders were planning to murder Him.

Jesus understood that the time had come for Him to fulfill the ultimate calling on His life (John 13:1) – to be the final Passover Lamb, shedding His blood to cover the sins of all mankind. What a profound event it must have been for Him to lead His disciples in the Passover meal, knowing that it symbolized the suffering He was about to endure.

Jesus would be the sinless, spotless Lamb.

Jesus would taste the bitterness of torture and death.

None of His bones would be broken.

The blood of Jesus would be poured out as a sacrifice.

Then that blood would be placed spiritually and symbolically over the doorway to the heart of every person who would receive Him as their Savior by grace and faith.

As the meal concluded, Jesus gave some final instructions to His disciples – and to all who would follow Him in the centuries to come. Then He did something quite remarkable. He took a towel and poured water into a basin and began washing the disciples’ feet (John 13:5).

In first century Israel, most people wore sandals and walked on dusty or muddy roads that were often covered by animal droppings. The task of cleaning people’s feet was given to a slave, or the lowliest servant in the home. But Jesus knelt before each of His disciples – even Judas who would betray Him – and took the role of the most humble servant.

Then He spoke the words that would give this solemn day its name, “Maundy Thursday.”

The word “maundy” comes from the Latin word mandatum – from which we get the words “commandment” or “mandate.” Jesus uses the word “maundatum” in His final instructions before going to the cross.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you… (John 13:34)

Facing the impending torture of a scourging and crucifixion, Jesus’ focus was on love. That is the message of Maundy Thursday.

Jesus took on the sins of the world on Calvary – including your sins and mine – to make a way for you to have peace with God.