Maundy Thursday is the day when many Christians remember and celebrate Jesus’ final meal (the Last Supper or Lord’s Supper). Many church traditions do not use the term or do anything particular to recognize the day. Consequently, many inside and outside the church are unfamiliar with “Maundy Thursday.” Note: A printable PDF of this article can be found and downloaded here.
During His final meal with His disciples (it was a Passover meal), Jesus said and did many things to prepare His disciples for His impending death and departure. One of the things He said was, “I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another” (John 13:34). He repeated this “new command” in John 15:12 and 17.
So, one of the things that night is remembered for is the “new command” of love Jesus gave to His disciples. There were other things as well, but as Jesus prepared His disciples for a new time when He would not be with them, one of the things He stressed is the need for His people to love one another.
Mandatum is Latin for “Command”
The word for “command” in John 13:34 (above) is translated as “mandatum” in the Latin Vulgate. Mandatum then became shortened to “Maundy” so “Maundy Thursday” is a reference to the final Thursday (“Command Thursday”) during which Jesus gave the “new command” to His disciples.
Churches may observe Maundy Thursday in a variety of ways depending on their tradition and preferences. It often includes participating in communion or the Lord’s Supper and sometimes includes foot washing in recognition of when Jesus washed His disciples’ feet that same Thursday evening. However it is recognized in any particular church or home, it can become a meaningful addition to the church’s passion week observances and the individual believer’s life.
Author, Speaker, Bible Teacher
See a list of other articles by Rick Edwards.