Maundy Thursday is the Thursday of Holy Week, and is the day when Jesus celebrated Passover in Jerusalem with his disciples, his last meal with them before he died on Good Friday.
What Does Maundy Thursday Mean?
The word Maundy comes from the Latin word mandatum which means command.
At the Passover meal, Jesus gave his disciples this command to love one another,
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.
Jesus also commanded his disciples to continue to celebrate the Lord’s supper in remembrance of him,
And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.’
What Happened on Maundy Thursday?
Read the Bible account of Maundy Thursday, or Holy Thursday, here: John 12 and Luke 22.
Two significant events happened during this final meal of Jesus’ life, which is why this is also called the Last Supper. Jesus was Jewish and so celebrated Passover with his disciples or family every year.
Yet this meal was different. During this meal, as Jesus celebrated Passover in an Upper Room with his disciples, he instituted the Lord’s Supper. He took the bread and said, “This is my body, given for you,” and took wine and said, “This is my blood, given for you for the forgiveness of your sins.” This must have been confusing and amazing to his disciples.
Today in church services across the world, Christians use the same words Jesus’ spoke that night.
The second important event of the night was when Jesus’ washed the disciples’ feet. Foot washing was a humble chore done by servants, yet Jesus washed the disciples feet. Jesus did this to show humility. He came to save the world by serving, not by ruling as an earthly king.
Do you follow his example?
On this night, Jesus also predicted that Judas and Simon Peter would betray him.
Later that night, Jesus went to the Mount of Olives to pray, where he was arrested by Roman soldiers. (See the next article, What Happened on Good Friday?)
How Can You Honor Maundy Thursday?
The words Maundy Thursday are not in the Bible, so it’s not a requirement to observe anything in particular on this day, but many people find it meaningful to remember what Jesus did during the Last Supper.
Most churches focus their worship services on Jesus’ institution of the Lord’s Supper (see Luke 22) during Maundy Thursday worship. Communion is offered and is the primary focus of the service.
Some churches have a foot washing ceremony, where members take turns washing one another’s feet, just as Jesus’ washed the disciples’ feet (John 13).
The Stripping of the Altar is a ceremony that takes place in some traditional churches at the end of Maundy Thursday worship. Because Jesus’ body and blood are present in the elements of communion, and the altar is where communion is received, the altar is stripped bare as a reminder of what happened to Jesus’ human body. Psalm 22 is read as the paraments are taken away to be stored until after Easter Sunday.
For dogs encompass me;
a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet—
I can count all my bones—
they stare and gloat over me;
they divide my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots.
Personal devotion time for Maundy Thursday to reflect on Jesus’ life is a way to add meaning to the day. Here is one resource.
Images of Maundy Thursday
This is one of the most famous depictions of the Last Supper.
Other Posts for Lent and Holy Week
Very First Lord’s Supper — Arch Children’s Book
Six Hours One Friday — Max Lucado