Maundy What? What is Maundy Thursday?
All day I kept trying to remind myself it was the Thursday before Easter. Time goes by so fast; it’s hard to keep up. And in trying to keep a baby on a good sleep schedule, I’ve been missing some church services Sunday mornings, and tonight I’m unable to participate in Maundy Thursday worship. It sometimes makes days and weeks blur together.
I kept telling myself to make a point to reflect on today and its meaning. But with every opportunity, it seemed fleeting, and reflection became quick thought. I don’t like becoming irregular in my attendance at church because I learn there and get stronger in my faith. It’s where God is, but really, where is God? He’s with me wherever I go, and so finally, as I rocked my overtired baby to sleep, I had time to reflect on the meaning of Easter, and of Maundy Thursday. And I decided to write about it.
So if you would like to reflect a little bit more about the significance of this holiday, read on. It’s lengthy, but I hope you find it helpful in strengthening your faith. I hope to write more in a future post on Good Friday and Easter.
What Is Maundy Thursday – The Facts
Maundy is a weird word. Many think it’s Monday Thursday. Others, who know how to spell Maundy, have no idea why it’s part of this day. Maundy is the English word derived from the Latin “mandatum” (which means mandate or command), and its significance this Holy Week is that this is the night we remember when Jesus gave the command to His followers, “Take eat…take drink…do this to remember me.”
Its origin traces back to the days of Moses. God’s people were in slavery in Egypt. God chose to free them at a particular time in history. If you don’t know what I’m referring to, start reading Exodus in the Bible, it’s an amazing piece of history. After many plagues, the final plague would be death of the firstborn in every house, UNLESS they had faith in what God told them to do. Faith isn’t a passive thing, faith causes action. In faith, they put the blood of a perfect lamb on their doorpost, and the angel of death would pass over (hence Passover) their house. The meal they had that night was to be eaten every year to remember what God did to free His people from slavery.
Well, that’s what Jesus was doing. As a Jew, He was celebrating this annual Passover meal with the 12 disciples (his closest friends and followers). But, knowing he was soon to die, He gave this meal added significance. There was a usual format for these meals, but suddenly, things were different. He washed His disciples’ feet (to teach them how to serve others) and then spoke words never spoken before. When he broke bread he said, “This is my body given to you,” and took the cup of wine (yes, He drank wine!) and said, “This is my blood, given to you for the forgiveness of your sins.” What could His disciples possibly have thought when He said these things. (Did Jesus have too much wine? I think not! He was foreshadowing his impending death which would follow the next day.)
Okay, so that’s what happened in a nutshell…so what? What could a Jewish man over 2000 years ago, deviating from typical traditional ceremonial feast protocol, have anything to do with my life today? I’ll tell you!
What Is Maundy Thursday – What it Means to Me
It’s important to know the history to know why it’s so important today. There is a perfect God and because of our disobedience (sin), we are imperfect, so we cannot be connected to the perfect God. Bad news! So, for a time, He gave commandments and other law, not only to be a guide on how to have a great life (although they are a great guide!) they were to show us that no matter how hard we try, we cannot be perfect . Even if you think you are good, how good is good enough. If you are almost perfect, you’re still not perfectly perfect. So it seems hopeless. We become slaves to disobedience and addictions or slaves to the law. We are like God’s people enslaved in Egypt. We need to be saved. We need a savior.
So when Jesus said, this is my body given to you, He was telling them, and us, that He gives life. Bread is food for our bodies; Jesus (God’s Word made flesh) is food for our spirits. As soon as we broke our relationship with God, He already created a plan to win us back because He loves us. He knew He’d be sending Jesus as the way to connect back to Him, so He strategically built in tons of arrows in history pointing to what would happen to Jesus so that when it did, people would recognize that He was the Savior, the one come and free us from our slavery.
One of those arrows pointing to Jesus was a system to “atone” (make amends or repair) for disobedience; it involved blood, a lot of blood. The blood of innocent animals was the requirement to pay for sin so that one’s own blood needn’t be shed. It was the showing of repentance (being sorry for what you did and turning back to God) by shedding blood. But one time wasn’t enough; it needed repeating over and over. God said without blood there is no forgiveness. Blood has so much significance; it was thought that all of life was in the blood of a person or animal.
So when Jesus said, “This is my blood for the forgiveness of your sins,” He was telling them He would be the perfect lamb, the perfect sacrifice, and no more blood would be needed. The blood of the perfect lamb put on the doorframe of the houses at Passover was all pointing to the blood of Jesus on the wooden cross. Just as the angel of death passed over the houses so that God’s people could be freed from their slavery, so now Jesus’ blood covers those who trust in Him as their Savior, so they can be free from slavery.
This night, Jesus knew He was going to die. Being perfect, He is the only one not needing to make a sacrifice. We sometimes think “life’s not fair”. Well, it’s not, and thank God it’s not. It’s not fair that Jesus had to pay for my sin and it’s not fair that He had to pay for yours. But He did. That’s why that night has so much significance. He knew the time was coming, and He didn’t run from it. He prayed, He earnestly prayed if there were any other way to make it be so, but there wasn’t. So He became our Savior. He gave us freedom.
This is only part of what this holiday means to me. I am free. I am free from worry, doubt, shame, and guilt. Those things have no power over me anymore. I am no longer a slave to anger, addictions, pride, or self-preservation. I am free from fear – fear of rejection, failure, and even death. Am I perfect? No. Do I still struggle with these things? Of course! But the ropes that try to tie me down only hold me so long as I struggle to get free on my own. I am also free to do the things that sin prevents me from doing. I am free to forgive, love, be at peace, have joy, and enjoy this fleeting life through its ups and downs, until I reach my final destination.
Take eat and take drink…for the forgiveness of your sins…in remembrance of Him.