Maundy Thursday (Mandato…Jueves…)

Luke 22:7-23 ESV - Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. 8 So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it.” 9 They said to him, “Where will you have us prepare it?” 10 He said to them, “Behold, when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him into the house that he enters 11 and tell the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 12 And he will show you a large upper room furnished; prepare it there.” 13 And they went and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover. 14 And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. 15 And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. 18 For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 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.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. 21 But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. 22 For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!” 23 And they began to question one another, which of them it could be who was going to do this. 

John 13:1-15 ESV - Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2 During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. 6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” 8 Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” 9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.” 12 When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 

This is Holy Week, 2017.  Good Friday commemorates the sacrificial death of Christ, our Passover, who offered Himself in our place to satisfy the wrath of God we deserve for our sins.  Because the Lord Jesus is the embodiment of God Himself, the cross was neither unjust nor a case of divine child abuse.  God - the offended party - provided the solution and satisfaction for all who will believe and receive it.  Easter Sunday is the most important Holiday on the calendar as we celebrate the literal, bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from death - proving that His identity, His message, and His promises could be trusted with complete confidence.  The resurrection we celebrate is the ultimate, cosmic game-changer.  Really it was THE walk-off game-winner.  So why is it that some churches commemorate a day called “Maundy Thursday” during Holy Week?  How does that apply to us?  What does Maundy even mean?

Maundy Thursday commemorates the night the Lord Jesus celebrated the Last Supper with His disciples and washed their feet.  Needless to say, this was a huge deal.  All Christians celebrate Communion as a response to what Jesus did at the Last Supper.  Many Christians still practice a literal foot-washing service at various times throughout their lives (though it does not have the same Biblical or historical importance as the Lord’s Supper).  So these sacred actions of Christ give us some indication why Maundy Thursday would be important.  But what about the term “Maundy”?

Maundy comes from the Latin word, mandatum, where we get the word mandate in English or mandato in Spanish - meaning command.  There was a mandato, a command that occurred during the original Holy Week that became a key point of remembrance for all Christians throughout history.  What was it?

John 13:34-35 ESV - “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. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” 

Maundy Thursday reminds us of Christ’s command for His followers to love one another like He had loved them…sacrificing self and status to take the heart and position of a servant.  Loving is serving.  Love is action more than it’s a warm sentiment.  Love acts for the benefit of those who are being loved.  Love for one another - for our fellow believers - involves concrete action that testifies to all people that we are the followers of Jesus Christ.  While doctrine and lifestyle matters, the world does not gauge who is a disciple of Jesus by our secondary arguments about pet doctrines or practices but by who loves most similarly to Jesus Christ.  Because this is a command, it is within our power to obey it or disobey it - regardless of our involuntary feelings and fickle emotions.  Loving one another is a matter of the will to obey Christ more than how we feel.  What will you do to serve other Christians according to the mandato of Christ?

In each New Testament instance, Christ’s Last Supper mandate to love one another is repeatedly contrasted by its opposite.

1 Corinthians 11:23 ESV - For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread…

Isn’t it interesting that what many Christians call Maundy Thursday or the Last Supper was known and presented by the Apostle Paul as “The night when Jesus was betrayed”?  On the original Holy Week celebration, the pure light of love was contrasted against the bitter darkness of betrayal…by a friend, by a disciple, by one who had experienced all Jesus had to offer.  If something similar were to occur among people today, many might say, “Well, there’s two sides to every story”, or “Why didn’t Jesus pull Judas aside one-on-one and talk to Him to try to find out what was wrong?”  That’s because many Christians are too often ignorant when it comes to dealing with the self-deceptive nature and reality of betrayal. Christ knew exactly what was happening and even He did not try to “counsel” or “love” or “reach out” to Judas.  He had done that for over three years, and it didn’t stop Judas from pursuing his pathway of damnation.  Think about how upset and confused Judas must have been to get to this point where he makes (what he considered to be) rational plans for betraying Jesus!  If a disciple can do it to Christ Himself, who among us is immune from this temptation with one another?  It’s why Christ’s Thursday mandate to us is so vital!

In each of the four Gospels, the betrayal of Jesus by Judas Iscariot is a prominent feature of Maundy Thursday.  It is such a big deal that Scripture portrays Judas’s actions as determining his very identity and destiny.  Unlike Peter who denied Christ and recovered, Judas Iscariot became known forever as the “betrayer.”  While it is usually accurate to say that failure is an event and not a person, Judas shows the exception to the rule.  Betrayal was the failure that became his new identity.  Perhaps this is why the ancient poet Dante portrayed the lowest level of Hell as being reserved only for the treacherous, the betrayers.  It is against this backdrop of painful, bitter betrayal that Jesus gave the mandate to love one another.  

Let yourself imagine the emotion of Christ as He knows the Satanic intent and actions of a disciple whom He had loved, befriended, empowered, and with whom He had done life together.  Jesus pronounced a curse on Judas!  He said it would have been better had Judas never been born!  What kind of emotion was Jesus feeling at that Last Supper to say those things?  Imagine the passion Christ had while pleading, charging, and commanding His disciples: “Love one another”!   We tend to read John 13:34  as though Jesus were teaching an emotionless Bible study.  But Jesus had just watched a friend walk out the door to betray Him.  This Maundy Thursday, let us consider the depth of emotion Christ was feeling when He gave the command, the mandato to His faithful disciples…

John 13:34-35 ESV - “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. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Think about a spouse, a relative, a co-worker, an employer, a client, especially any who may be a fellow believer… What misunderstandings, offenses, or wounded pride have you let fester inside you?  What wrong voices (like Judas with the Sanhedrin council members) are you letting fill your head with bad ideas to encourage a betrayal?  How often do you rehearse grievances about how “wounded” or “disappointed” you feel with the words or behavior of another?  Is that of the Holy Spirit or some other spirit?  How often do you think Judas did the same before his fateful acts?  

Instead, what intentional actions can you take to love your fellow believer (even when you’re upset or confused)?  How can you better represent Christ to the world by fulfilling the Maundy Thursday command to love your fellow Christians (by active serving not emotional sentiment)?  What better time than Holy Week to demonstrate the holy action of loving one another?