Maundy Thursday is the least well known of all the Holy Week celebrations. Few churches host services and few families commemorate this day, yet it has a significant place in the celebration of Easter.
Washing his Disciples Feet
So Maundy Thursday celebrates the servant actions of Jesus on the evening that he was betrayed, which begins with washing his disciple’s feet. This was a strange moment for the disciples, but a beautiful display of service as the Rabbi tied a towel around his waist, knelt before his students, poured water over their feet and gently dried them.
After he finished washing his disciples feet, Jesus explains why he served them in this way.
John 13:12-16 “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant[c] is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.”
After the lesson in love and service, Jesus and his disciples recline at a table for his final Passover meal.
At this meal Jesus reflects on the coming days as he loves, serves and enjoys the men who have walked with Him over the past few years. This would be the last moment of peace in the midst of the growing tension surrounding Jesus.
Luke 22:14-15, “And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. ‘I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.'”
As he reclined at the table with the disciples, Jesus teaches them the meaning of this and future Passover meals. When Jesus presents the wine and the bread, He describes the suffering the Son of Man is to endure. The rest of the time with his disciples would be short lived as the man who would betray Jesus sat at the same table.
Luke 22:21-23, "But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!’ And they began to question one another, which of them it could be who was going to do this.”
Night of Prayer
Jesus concluded the meal by leading the disciples to the Mount of Olives to pray. Here Jesus poured out his heart and soul to the Father. He cried out in heartache over what was to happen next. Jesus would soon be betrayed and dragged to the dwelling of the High Priest. As Jesus was being accused and mocked, Peter stood by watching it all unfold. The night ends with Peter denying Jesus three times before an interested crowd, fulfilling what Jesus had said to him at supper.
Luke 22:61, “And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, ‘Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.'”
Why Do We Observe This Day?
The purpose of setting aside Maundy Thursday is to begin reflecting on the suffering that the Savior endured. Just as Jesus anticipated His death at the Last Supper and during His evening of prayer, so Christians can use
Maundy Thursday to look forward to the next few days that recall what Jesus experienced for our salvation. When we see the horror of the pain, we can better understand the glory of Christ’s victory.