This day in Holy Week is called “Maundy Thursday” and is celebrated as such in Christian churches around the world. If you read this blog and remember it, you will be among the very few (many pastors included) who actually know the name of the day and the meaning behind it. It’s not a weird or unusual story but to celebrate it knowing why you are doing it is very special indeed. On this day, Jesus had His last meal with His friends and followers before He was crucified. This meal is now known almost everywhere as The Last Supper. At this meal, Jesus and His friends would have followed the Jewish Passover custom of eating roast lamb and bread and drinking red wine. However, Jesus gave this bread and wine a very special meaning. When they got to the part of meal when the bread was eaten and the wine drunk, Jesus said that these two things were a symbol of His body and His blood for all who follow Him to help them remember that through Christ’s death, our sins are forgiven, all our sins, every single person’s sins.
“Maundy” comes from Latin and is the word for “Command,” this is because Jesus commanded His followers to think of Him whenever they ate bread and drank wine—which was quite often. This is very important to Christians and is now remembered in the Christian service known as Communion, Mass or Eucharist. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, thought that communion ought to be celebrated every single day, but most United Methodist churches only celebrate communion once a month—mostly because of the time it takes. Some churches only celebrate communion once a year, while Catholic Churches the world over celebrate it every single service. I’m pretty sure that what Jesus wanted was for us to remember His sacrifice as often as we ate and drank—every day (which is why saying “Grace” before meals is important).
On this day, Maundy Thursday, Jesus also washed His disciples’ feet before the meal to show how important it is to be humble and to serve others regardless of how important they are or think they are. People in Jesus time wore open sandals and the streets were very dirty, so washing people’s feet was normally done, as you entered the house, by the lowliest servant who got the worst jobs. When we built a church in the Amazon jungle in Peru, one of our group (Steven Whitaker if memory serves) suggested that we wash all the villagers’ feet before the first service, and, to our credit, we did. Every member of the team (there were sixteen or so) took turns washing the feet of every single villager, man, woman, and child. It was one of the most special things in which I have ever participated. I can remember to this day the faces of the villagers as they came forward one by one to have their feet washed by those Americans from Arkansas. Maundy Thursday will always be special for me, and I hope you can make it special for yourself. If your church isn’t having a service, find one that is (any denomination will do) and for a while think about that night so many, many years ago when the Son of God, who knew what was to come, did these things to help those who knew Him remember. We can do that, can’t we?