“’Monday’ Thursday? That doesn’t make any sense… Why do we celebrate ‘Monday’ Thursday and why would we celebrate it on Thursday?”
“Muandy Thursday,” not “Monday Thursday,” has to do with remembering what happened on the Thursday before Jesus was crucified. There were a lot of significant things that happened on this Thursday.
Maundy Thursday is known as commemorating variously the day of the Last Supper and the institution of the Lord’s Supper, the foot washing of the disciples, Jesus praying in the garden of Gethsemane, and the betrayal and arrest of Jesus by Judas Iscariot. So we commemorate Maundy Thursday for these reasons. However, why is it called “Maundy Thursday”? What does Maundy mean?
Maundy most likely comes to us from John 13:34 where Jesus says at the Last Supper (on Thursday): “A new commandment I give to you, love one another.” The word for “commandment” in Middle English is maunde, in Old French it’s mandé, and in it’s Latin mandatum. So, in other words, “Maundy Thursday” could be called Commandment Thursday or even, as it is sometimes called, “Covenant Thursday.”
So on Muandy Thursday we think of the command and the covenant. It is important to remember both. So, what was the command? Love one another. That is what we are told to do. And that doesn’t seem that hard, at first. Until we realize that we are given a comparison. The command is that we love one another love even as Jesus has loved us (Jn. 13:34). On Thursday, so many years ago, Jesus gave us a huge “maundy,” command. How can we live up to it? We must remember the amazing context in which it was given.
There were all sorts of events and themes that converged on this weekend in history. The Passover, a historical event in the life of the Jews where they celebrated their spectacular salvation, was celebrated. Yet, we also see that the LORD reaches down to save again, and this time no blood needed to be painted on the door frame. There was no need for a Passover lamb. He had come in the form of a Suffering Servant (cf. e.g. Is. 53).
Jesus brings a New Covenant (Matt. 26:26ff; Mk. 14:22ff; Lk. 22:14ff; 1 Cor. 11:17ff). One that had long since been promised. One that gives His people new hearts, hearts to follow after God (cf. Ezek. 11:19-20; 36:26-27). God takes His peoples sins literally upon Himself (cf. God taking the violations of the covenant upon Himself, Gen. 15; Is. 53; Jer. 34:18). He fulfills the Covenant that His people continually failed to fulfill. Jesus felt the weight of being forsaken. He cried out, “My God, My God, Why have You forsaken Me?!” Jesus was cut off like we deserve to be for breaking His Law.
Understanding the covenant, Jesus’ amazing work of salvation, and understanding what Jesus calls us to is very important and we see them intermingled on Maundy or Covenant Thursday. Jesus fulfills the covenant and His blood is spilled for us, and yet there is still a type of condition to the covenant: we must follow hard after Him.
So, first notice that on Maundy Thursday so many years ago, Peter tells Jesus that he does not want Him to wash his feet (Jn. 13:6). It is striking to me that Jesus says, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me” (v. 8) and then He goes on to say, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet” (v. 14). So Jesus is saying don’t try and work for your salvation (you can’t) but follow my example and serve others because I have served you.
Works do not save us. We are saved by accepting the work that Jesus did on our behalf, He washed us. And, in fact, if we try to work for our salvation we “have no share with [Jesus] (v. 8). However, that in no way negates the importance of works, to the contrary; it gives works deep significance. We are called to imitate Christ (v. 14-16). Jesus told Peter he could not work for salvation (v. 6-8) but works do have their place. Jesus served Peter (even enabling Peter to serve Him cf. John 1:13; 14:16; Gal. 5:16-24; 2 Peter 1:3; Ezek. 11:19-20; 36:25-27) through the cross and thus Peter served Jesus imitating Him, even to death (cf. John 13:14-16); tradition says, death by upside down crucifixion (cf. John 21:18-19). Peter was saved by trusting Jesus Christ’s all-sufficient service and yet Peter served and imitated Jesus out of a supreme joyous thankfulness (cf. 1 Peter 1:3-9; 2:21-25; 4:13-14).
May we serve in the same way and with the same motivation that Peter did. May we work and serve Christ not to earn right standing before God but, to demonstrate that through Christ’s atoning death we have right standing before God. If we have been declared righteous in Christ then let’s live righteously before Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 1:2). Let’s obey Jesus’ commands in light of His New Covenant.