Maundy Thursday

Exodus 12:1-4, (5-10), 11-14 • Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19 • 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 • John 13:1-17, 31b-35


Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

13 Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father. He had loved his disciples during his ministry on earth, and now he loved them to the very end.[a]It was time for supper, and the devil had already prompted Judas,[b]son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him.

When Jesus came to Simon Peter, Peter said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

Jesus replied, “You don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.”

“No,” Peter protested, “you will never ever wash my feet!”

Jesus replied, “Unless I wash you, you won’t belong to me.”

Simon Peter exclaimed, “Then wash my hands and head as well, Lord, not just my feet!”

10 Jesus replied, “A person who has bathed all over does not need to wash, except for the feet,[c] to be entirely clean. And you disciples are clean, but not all of you.” 11 For Jesus knew who would betray him. That is what he meant when he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

12 After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing? 13 You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. 14 And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. 15 I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. 16 I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. 17 Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them.

John 13:1-17 New Living Translation (NLT)

31 As soon as Judas left the room, Jesus said, “The time has come for the Son of Man[a] to enter into his glory, and God will be glorified because of him. 32 And since God receives glory because of the Son,[b] he will give his own glory to the Son, and he will do so at once. 33 Dear children, I will be with you only a little longer. And as I told the Jewish leaders, you will search for me, but you can’t come where I am going. 34 So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. 35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

John 13:31-35 New Living Translation (NLT)


Today is Maundy Thursday. What does that mean? I get this question all the time, so let me start with that. Maundy comes from the Greek word mandatum which gets translated to English as mandate. The idea for Maundy Thursday derives from today’s passage where Jesus tells his disciples,

“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.”

John 13:34

So much is wrapped up in these few words.

Luke and the other gospel writers record Jesus words about the greatest commandment…that we should love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength and love our neighbor as ourselves. Here Jesus is reminding us just how important it is for believers to love one another because it is the way — as we learn in chapter 17 — that we show our love for God to the world. John is the only one who gives us this insight, by giving us 5 chapters worth of what happened on that last night.

Look at a Jesus’ love for his disciples. Someone should have washed the feet of the disciples when they arrived in the upper room, but no one does, so the master – showing true humility – steps down to the task. No wonder the ancient hymn (found in Philippians 2) reads like this:

Though he was God,
    he did not think of equality with God
    as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
    he took the humble position of a slave
    and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
    he humbled himself in obedience to God
    and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

Philippians 2:6-8

Jesus modeled true humility for all of us. John the Baptist captures the essence of what we are talking about here:


He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.

John 3:30 (NLT)

Jesus gives us the model for the way we interact with other believers and really with the world. Near the end of chapter 17, Jesus is praying a prayer for his disciples and bookends Jesus’ command

20 “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. 21 I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.

John 17:20-21

As we continue to journey through this Holy Week, let us remember Christ’s new commandment to love one another, as he has loved us.

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