This coming Thursday, many Christians all over the world will be celebrating what is traditionally known as Maundy Thursday. Whilst the words ‘Maundy Thursday’ are not found in the Bible, the event itself can be found in the thirteenth chapter of John’s Gospel. The word ‘Maundy’ comes from the Latin ‘Mandatum’ which translates into mandate/commandment. Hence, Maundy Thursday is about the commandment Jesus gave to His disciples on the night before the cross.
On the night before Jesus was crucified, He spent His last few hours with his disciples (Thursday evening). Here he broke bread with them and gave them a mandate and told them what manner of life they ought to life once He was to depart from them. These parting words are a reflection of Jesus’s heart and mission and His abounding love for His people.
I believe that the cross is the most important message to be found in the Bible – for here we discover three things about God: His person, His purposes and His promises. Jesus, the perfect and sinless Saviour (Person) died for your sins and mine (Purpose) and as result, grants everlasting life to all repent of their sins and place their faith and trust in Him (Promise).
However, the night before Jesus would die a horrendous death upon the cross, we can get a deeper glimpse from John 13 of what was in Jesus’s heart for His followers. There are three things He gave to His disciples on the night before the cross:
1) An Institution for the Believer to Observe
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. During supper…(John 13:1-2 ESV)
During supper, Jesus gives His disciples an institution to observe. They are to continually remember Jesus broken body and shed blood through partaking in a special meal. This special meal is called the Lord’s Supper or Communion. Luke 22:14-23 adds further details of what Jesus said to His disciples and what He commanded them to.
2) An Example for the Believer to Copy
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. (John 13:5 ESV)
For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. (John 13:15 ESV)
The second commandment/mandate Jesus gave was an example for the disciples to copy. Here, Jesus surprises His disciples by doing what a servant would do for his master – washing the disciples feet. This is a real insight into the heart and mind of Jesus. His humility and servant like nature is to be imitated by all those who follow Him.
3) A Commandment for the Believer to Obey
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. (John 13:34 ESV)
Finally, Jesus gives a commandment on the night before the cross. The commandment is simple: love one another as I have loved you. He does not give the disciples a custom, tradition or ritual to practice, but a simple commandment to love one another.
On the night before Jesus’s crucifixion, He continues to give and invest in His disciples. Jesus truly is a giving Saviour.
If you would like to know more about Him, let me encourage you to read the following Bible verses:
- John 1:1
- John 3:16
- John 4:13-14
- John 6:37
- John 8:12
- John 8:31
- John 14:6