Summary: on Maundy Thursday, Jesus gave us the ultimate commandment: love one another
John 13:1-17, 31-35
Today is Maundy Thursday, the least understood, probably least attended, and surely the most intimate of the Christian holy days.
It was the time of Passover, when all Jews commemorated their escape from the Angel of Death while captives in Egypt. As we partake in our Agape meal at our homes, we share with those Hebrews and Jesus and His disciples in that last meal. This meal is the foundation of the Eucharist we celebrate today; reminding us of Jesus’ suffering and our redemption through His body and blood.
Jesus was aware that His path would be to the cross, and he tried, once again, to get the disciples to understand what would be happening.
The disciples were a rag-tag collection of men who gave up everything – their families, their jobs - to follow this man from Nazareth. There had to have been intense love and respect for Jesus. He had spent almost three years with these men and women, preaching and teaching. Yet, the disciples really don’t understand and were in serious denial that He would be going away.
One last time, Jesus provided an example of how the disciples, and WE are to live in relationship with God.
After the meal, Jesus humbled himself, as a servant, to wash the feet of the disciples – a custom that was relegated to the lowest of the low in the Jewish community. He instructed the disciples to follow his example:
For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them (John 13:15)
This is to remind us that by following His example of humbling himself, we can be more Christ-like and live a more godly life.
Today is call ‘maundy’ from the Latin ‘mandatum’, meaning commandment or order, because of the command that Jesus gave to ALL of us.
Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. (John 13:34)
That is our charge, not only on this Maundy Thursday, but now and for the rest of our lives.
After Jesus had shared a meal with his disciples, He went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. We are told, that for Jesus the Garden of Gethsemane frequently served as a place of quite reflection, and especially for prayers with his heavenly father. He took with him Peter, James and John, to keep him company and possibly protect him.
Jesus prayed that this burden should be lifted from him, but he understood that he must do this alone – there is no one who could bear the cross or share his pain and death. He alone was the Chosen One – and he accepted that. It was here that Judas came with the Roman soldiers and Jewish temple authorities and arrested him.
Delivered at Saint Stephen’s Episcopal Church & University Center, Columbus, OH; 9 April 2020