“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” John 13:34
Holy Thursday is also called Maundy Thursday. Some scholars trace this name back to the Latin word “mandatum”, translated as commandment, because on this day the Lord gave a new commandment in John 13:34 that would serve as the sign by which the world might know that we are His followers. In this day the Lord proclaimed the fulfillment of the Old Testament and the inauguration of the New Testament in His blood. Now, as Paul states in I Corinthians 5:7, “Christ, our Passover, [is] sacrificed for us.” In the events of this day and night, we find the foundations laid for the ministry of reconciliation that begins with the shedding of the blood of Jesus. These include:
- The everlasting love of God for His people from which we will never be separated. John 13:1 records “Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.”
- The example of the true servant of God. John 13:14-17 remembers Jesus’ words, “…I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet; you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example…a servant is not greater than his master…if you know these things happy are you if you do them.”
- A new command to love in John 13:34 a love that fulfilled the two greatest commandments to love God and to love others.
- The eternal assurance of faith. John 14:3 includes Jesus’ assurance “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself that where I am there you may also be.”
- The promise of the Holy Spirit. John 14:16 includes Jesus’ promise, “I will pray the Father and He will give you another Comforter…even the Spirit of truth…for He dwells with you and will be in you.”
- The abiding sign of His sacrifice for sins. Luke 22:20 includes the declaration “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.” And Matthew 26:28 adds “…this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.”
It was also on this Holy Thursday night, the night in which the Lord Jesus was betrayed into the hands of sinful men, that Jesus instituted the Eucharist, the abiding ordinance given to the church to be done in remembrance of Him and His death. This was the “last supper” that Jesus ate with His disciples before His death, and at that supper the Old Covenant was fulfilled by the establishment of the New Covenant. The bread and wine of God’s Passover deliverance became the Body and Blood of the perfect Lamb of God, given now once, for all, and eternally powerful to deliver. As Paul records in I Corinthians 11:26:
“For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim [acknowledge and make present once again] the Lord’s death until He comes.”
This day is the eve of our redemption and our celebrations move from sorrow to joy, joy to sorrow. The one thing that should guide us in our celebration of the remembrance of our Lord Jesus is His words recorded for our benefit in Luke 22:12:
“And He said to them [us], ‘I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.’”
As we contemplate the forgiveness of our sins, the gift of God’s love and grace, and our eternal deliverance we might ask with the psalmist “What shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits toward me?” (Psalm 116:12-13) Our answer is clear, “I shall lift up the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord.” On this day, lift up your heads, for your redemption draws near.
Russell currently serves as an elder in the church. His own spiritual pilgrimage extends back almost 40 years and includes a sojourn in the Roman Catholic, American Baptist, Lutheran, Independent Charismatic, Independent Congregational, home fellowship, and Federated Congregational church settings. In these settings he has served as a catechist, bible teacher, independent school principal, outreach coordinator, and ordained pastor. His current life verse is Romans 1:15. “So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you…”