Today is Maundy Thursday. Today is the Thursday night of Holy Week. It is the day on which we remember Jesus’ last night with his closest friends. Jesus and his disciples gathered in an “upper room” to share the Passover meal. While at the meal, Jesus did some unexpected things. The Passover meal is a highly ritualized and traditional meal. Any departure from the norm would be remembered. And Jesus definitely departed from what was expected.
First, he washes the disciples feet. This was the job of a slave, not the master. Yet Jesus turns that expectation upside down and he does the job of the slave. And he tells his disciples that they should do to one another as Jesus has done to them.
Second, Jesus takes a loaf of bread, and after blessing it, he breaks it, gives it to his disciples and says “Take, eat. This is my body.” Then he takes a cup, and after giving thanks, he gives it to them. “This is my blood of the covenant which is poured out for many. Do this in remembrance of me.”
These two unexpected actions of Jesus are the main reasons why the Last Supper is remembered and celebrated. But Jesus also does something else unexpected at that Passover celebration. He gives his disciples a new commandment: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
In the wake of Jesus washing his disciples feet and giving them his body and his blood, the new commandment often gets lost or overlooked. And that is a shame. For it is just as radical, just as world changing, as the other two things Jesus does at that meal. We ought to pay more attention to it.
“Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” These words are what Maundy Thursday should be about. In fact, that is where the name Maundy Thursday comes from. The word maundy is derived from the Latin mandatum, which means “commandment” As much as this day is about foot washing and Holy Communion, it is also about Jesus’ commandment that we love one another.
As we come to worship tonight, as we receive the bread and the cup, as we remember how Jesus loves us, let us also consider how we love each other. Are we living by Jesus’ new commandment? Do we love one another as Jesus loves us? Does everyone know that we are his disciples by our love for one another?