The first Maundy Thursday service I ever attended was at Palm Desert Community Presbyterian Church. I had never heard of Maundy Thursday before, despite having been a follower of Christ for many decades. Like many, I knew all about Good Friday and Easter Sunday, but my Baptist and Pentecostal background had not included the observance of the Thursday before Easter.
What I experienced in that first service and in the years thereafter, can only be described as profound, mystical, and moving.
As the impact of scripture and music began to unfold, layers of emotion in my head and in my heart were revealed, and the recognition of Christ laying down his life to save the world became omnipresent.
I later learned that the ominous peeling of the bells, forty in total, were in commemoration of the 40 strikes of the whip that pummelled Jesus’ body, before he walked to Golgotha, the Way of Suffering.
Maundy, which means “command” recognizes Jesus' last interaction with his disciples, where the Lord’s Supper and the washing of his apostles’ feet is followed by the sacred commandment that “you love one another, just as I have loved you” John 13:34.
Later, Peter, John and James accompany Jesus to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus confronts his fate and is later arrested.
Luke describes the Last Supper scene in chapter 22, verses 27 to 38:
" When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. 15 And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” .."
And John tells us of the washing of feet by Jesus:
“...so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” John 13:2-17.
The silence and solemnity of Maundy Thursday and the utter despair of Good Friday would be unbearable, if not for Jesus leaving the tomb, the victorious King of Kings and Lord of Lords!
As we reflect on the events of this Easter season, may we rejoice anew in the life sacrificed to save our lives.