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What Is Maundy Thursday? 5 Things Christians Need to Know

  • Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff
  • 2018 29 Mar
What Is Maundy Thursday? 5 Things Christians Need to Know

Good Friday, we know. And Easter most certainly. But what is Maundy Thursday? Maundy Thursday is the Thursday before Easter, believed to be the day when Jesus celebrated his final Passover with His disciples. Most notably, that Passover meal was when Jesus washed the feet of His disciples in an extraordinary display of humility. He then commanded them to do the same for each other. Maundy Thursday marks an important part of Holy Week; here is what you should know about this day that commemorates the day Jesus submitted His will to that of the Father and prayed "Not my will, but thine, be done" (Luke 22:42).

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1. What does Maundy Thursday mean?

1. What does Maundy Thursday mean?

Scholars believe that the word "maundy" comes from the Latin word "mandatum," which means "command." It was on the Thursday of Christ's final week before being crucified and resurrected that He said these words to his disciples, according to the article "What is Maundy Thursday?" This command marks Jesus' words to His disciples while they were sharing the Passover meal:

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

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2. What was the "New Commandment" Jesus gave on Maundy Thursday?

2. What was the "New Commandment" Jesus gave on Maundy Thursday?

Well, for one thing, it raised the definition of love to a new and higher standard. Jesus sacrificially met His followers' deepest need---that of new spiritual life and the forgiveness of sins. He even loved His enemies, and He calls us to show love to those who don't appear to deserve it. Just as Jesus loved sinners "to the end" (or "to the max" John 13:1) when He had nothing to gain from them, so must we. The Bible says that there was nothing attractive about sinful mankind that drew Him to love us. God loved us while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8). Salvation is not only a wonderful gift that protects us from the penalty that we deserve Romans 6:23, the work of Christ also embues new life, grants spiritual strength, and motivates godly action in those who believe.

As He was about to go to the cross, Jesus was telling his disciples, and demonstrating to them through washing their feet, that the kind of love He was talking about was much more than the rules of the Pharisees--it was sacrificial and selfless.

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3. What else happened on Maundy Thursday?

3. What else happened on Maundy Thursday?

Maundy Thursday not only marks the day Jesus shared the Passover meal with His disciples and when Judas left to go to the Jewish leaders to betray Him, it also marks Jesus' agony in Gethsemane.

Writing for, David Mathis says in the article "The House Had Come: Maundy Thursday in the Garden of Agony" that Maundy Thursday marks the time when "the hour had come." 

The Bible often records Jesus saying His hour had not yet come (John 2:4), but on Maundy Thursday, he knew that the beginning of the fulfillment of His greatest mission on Earth had come.

"All Jesus’s human life had anticipated this hour," writes Mathis. "Every careful attempt at keeping the messianic secret. Every emotional investment poured gladly into his disciples. Every glimpse of the ocean of his kindness as he healed the blind, the mute, the lame, the demonized, and even raised the dead.

Now the hour has come. All history hinges on this hour. And it is utterly terrifying. Jesus must decide: Will he protect his own skin, and soul, or will he embrace his Father’s perfect and painful will?"

On Maundy Thursday, Jesus agonizes over what He is about to face on the cross and he "prayed more fervently, and he was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood" (Luke 22:44).

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4. Why should Christians commemorate Maundy Thursday?

4. Why should Christians commemorate Maundy Thursday?

As mentioned, Good Friday gets a lot of attention, as well as Easter Sunday, of course, but the events of Maundy Thursday, while not as dramatic and monumental as Christ's death and resurrection, are integral to the story that God has been writing since the beginning of time. In Jesus' act of washing the disciples feet and in His crying out to His Father to "let this cup pass from Me," (Matt. 26:39), we see his humanity and the great sacrifice He paid for our sins. 

And that is something we would do well to reflect upon often.

Below is a prayer for Maundy Thursday:

John 13:1-17; John 13:34-35

Lord God,
You sent your Son into the world,
And before his hour had come,
He washed his disciples’ feet.
You had given all things into his hands.
He had come from you, and was going to you,
And what did he do?
He knelt down on the floor,
And washed his friends’ feet.
He was their teacher and their Lord,
Yet he washed their feet.
Lord God, help us learn from his example;
Help us to do as he has done for us.
The world will know we are his disciples
If we love one another.
Strengthen our hands and our wills for love
And for service.
Keep before our eyes the image of your Son,
Who, being God, became a Servant for our sake.
All glory be to him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
One God, now and forever.

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5. Maundy Thursday Bible verses

5. Maundy Thursday Bible verses

Luke 22:27-38 - " When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. 15 And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” .."

John 13:2-17 - "Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 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. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” 

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Publication date: March 29, 2018