What is Maundy Thursday and why is it important?

What is Maundy Thursday and why is it important?

“Holy Week” is when the church remembers the final week of the life of Jesus Christ. Last Sunday we celebrated Palm Sunday which marks Jesus’ triumphal entry into the city of Jerusalem riding upon a donkey. Today is Maundy Thursday. Tomorrow will be Good Friday when we reflect upon the substitutionary death of our Savior upon the cross. And this Sunday is Resurrection Day or Easter Sunday.

Out of all the days associated with Holy Week, Maundy Thursday is probably the one you know the least about. The name comes from the Latin word “mandatum” which means commandment. During the celebration of the last supper, Jesus humbled himself and washed the feet of his disciples.

After washing their feet Jesus said, “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. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:34-35). This “new commandment” was given in the context of foot washing. That is why many churches honor this day by celebrating a foot-washing ceremony.

But it was also a day in which Jesus enjoyed his last meal with the disciples. During that traditional Passover meal, Jesus instituted what we call the Lord’s Supper. While foot-washing is practiced by many, participating in communion during a Maundy Thursday service is universal among those who honor the day.

The reformed tradition is quite sparse on its teaching regarding the church calendar. The reformers emphasized Sunday as the Lord’s Day and sought to minimize the necessity of honoring so many other days as sacred. That is not to say they were entirely hostile to the practice. For instance, many of the reformers celebrated Holy Week and Easter during their regular Sunday worship service. They read and preached upon the relevant texts of Scripture and celebrated the Lord’s Supper together.

We kicked off our current sermon series, The King and His Kingdom (Matthew 26-28), by considering the subject of the Lord’s Supper. If you have not had a chance to watch these messages, I encourage you to takes some time to watch all three videos below.

The Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper
Four Major Views of the Lord’s Supper
The Institution of the Lord’s Supper