Ever been confused of what Maundy Thursday is all about? Well, be confused no more my dear friend, you're in good company. Many people have come to believe Maundy Thursday is simply a high church celebration where we gather to remember the passion events of Jesus life. While this is true, it goes much deeper than merely remembering.
You see "maundy" is an old English word that came from a Latin word that meant, "mandate." Thus making it Mandate Thursday which takes us to Maundy Thursday in the English speaking world. Well a mandate is also considered a commandment (not a suggestion). The mandate or commandment that we remember most specifically is from John 13:34, "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." Yes, a verse you've heard many times and perhaps glazed over a time or two.
Truly, it's a verse that should shatter our worlds, send shimmers up our spines, and challenge every single aspect of our lives. We must remember that when Jesus said this, it was the night before he would be nailed to a tree, where he was left to hang and die. His thoughts on the night he was teaching them in John 13 were not, "Ok guys, get a battle plan together to seek revenge on those suckers who are going to put me on that cross." No, it was love one another - that was his commandment. He even went so far as to ask the Father to forgive the men who were driving nails into his body (Luke 23:34).
Jesus even has the actions to back up the whole love one another thing. A few hours earlier that evening he was washing feet and one set of feet belonged to Judas (the disciple who betrayed him for some money) and another set belonged to Peter (the disciple who lied to Jesus and then fled when times got tough) These were certainly unlovable people and who could blame Jesus if he didn't love them! But love them is what he did, so he washed their feet. So it would certainly appear there are no asterisks or clauses that prevent us from loving certain people, no matter how much they might annoy or badger our lives.
We love one another. Why? Because Jesus commanded us to. Loving one another, however, doesn't mean we agree with what everyone is doing with their lives, it means we love them because the perfecting love of Christ is now flowing through us, to love God and love our neighbor - regardless of political affiliation, denominational preface, and college basketball allegiance.
So why do we worship on and recognize Maundy Thursday? Well, it's a chance to remember that Christ commanded us to love and it's a reminder for us to get over ourselves and start loving people. The cross was too costly and the gospel is too precious for us to do anything else with our lives except love one another. Hate is such a heavy burden to bear and it actually ends up ruining your life. Love, however, has a way of turning the world upside down.
I hope you can make it to Nashville United Methodist Church next Thursday, April 13th at 6:30 in our beautiful Sanctuary so that we can remember once more the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made on that hill where his blood turned our sinful souls whiter than snow. The same hill where he didn't say, "I love you" instead he showed it with his actions. This is your personal invitation from me to you, to come on the 13th and hear the passion narrative of Christ forever love for all humanity. See you Thursday!
*Note: This is a revised version of an article that appeared in 2016.
Luke is the Associate Pastor of Nashville United Methodist Church in Downtown Nashville.