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Maundy Thursday and the Command to Love

You’re probably familiar with Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday—the three most prominent days of Holy Week. But how much do you know about Maundy Thursday (that’s today!)?

Maundy Thursday, also known as “Holy Thursday,” is the Thursday before Easter. It’s a day of anticipation in which we wait for the grim events of Good Friday and the joyous news of Easter Sunday. The word “maundy” comes from the Latin word mandatum, which translates to “commandment.” The particular commandment is found in John 13. Jesus, washing his disciples’ feet on the evening of the Last Supper, says to them:

I am giving you a new command. You must love each other, just as I have loved you. If you love each other, everyone will know that you are my disciples. — John 13:34-35 (CEV)

(Click to read the entire story.)

(Jesus Washing Peter’s Feet; artist: Ford Madox Brown; 1876)

The act of washing someone else’s feet was and still is an incredibly humbling one, and clearly demonstrates Jesus’ love for his disciples. By lowering himself to the position of a servant in John 13, Jesus demonstrates how we mustn’t cling to a misplaced sense of pride. We are called to love our brothers and sisters as equals in Christ: “I tell you for certain that servants are not greater than their master, and messengers are not greater than the one who sent them” (John 13:16).

Some churches still observe the tradition of footwashing on Maundy Thursday. You might not re-enact Jesus’ ceremonial and symbolic cleansing of feet during this holiday week (although I recommend it to anyone who’s never done so before), but it’s a thought-provoking tradition, connected to an even more important command. This Maundy Thursday, on the eve of the crucifixion, how will you obey Christ’s command to love others?

Filed under Easter