Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him. (Matthew 26:14-16)
This Thursday night we welcome you to join us at the Minnehaha Academy Lower School (4200 W River Pkwy) from 7:00–8:30 for our Maundy Thursday service. While nearly everyone has heard of Good Friday, I anticipate that there probably many of us have never experienced a Maundy Thursday service. With that in mind, let me give a brief overview of the significance of Maundy Thursday, why we are choosing to recognize it, and what to expect.
What Is Maundy Thursday?
Historically, Maundy Thursday has referred to the final Passover Meal that Jesus shared with his disciples. The word “maundy” is connected back to the word “mandate,” referring to Jesus’s command at the Passover Meal in John 13:34, “A new commandment I give you, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”
Several of the most memorable scenes from Jesus’s incarnate ministry occurred around that table: Judas had just connived with the Jewish leaders to betray Jesus for a mere thirty-pieces of silver (Matthew 26:14–16); as his disciples entered the Upper Room, Jesus, in incredible humility, set the standard of servant leadership for his followers by washing their feet (John 13:1–17); and, most significantly, Jesus identified himself with the Passover Lamb as he instituted what we now call “The Lord’s Supper” by breaking bread and serving wine to his disciples, telling them to eat and drink and to recognize the elements as symbols of his body given and his blood poured out for the forgiveness of their sins (Matthew 26:26–29; Luke 22:14–23).
The events of Maundy Thursday make it one of the most dramatic days in the most dramatic week of all time. After their solemn meal, Jesus took his disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray with him. While his disciples fought to stay awake, Jesus prayed to his Father the most intense and intimate prayers recorded in Scripture. He submitted his own will to that of his Father’s, despite the horror he was about to face (Matthew 26:36–46). It was in that very garden that Judas met Jesus and betrayed him with a kiss, setting in the motion the arrest and crucifixion of Jesus on Good Friday.
Why Do We Have a Maundy Thursday Service?
What’s shocking about Maundy Thursday is not only Judas’s betrayal of Jesus, but the betrayal of the other eleven disciples as well. Jesus had just washed each of these men’s feet as an example of his love and care for them. He had just served them bread and wine as a symbol of his immanent sacrificial death, and still every single one of them abandoned him in his moment of greatest need.
The disciples are mirrors for us as we see our own sinfulness in them. The disciples’ scattering and denial of Jesus reminds us how “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way…” (Isaiah 53:6). Therefore, the reason we hold a Maundy Thursday service is because before we can celebrate Jesus bearing the cross for us, we must own the reality that he was hung on the cross by us.
As Isaiah 53:5 says, “He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities!” We believe that tasting the bitterness of our betrayal of Jesus on Thursday will help us to savor the sweetness of Good Friday — of all that Jesus is to us and for us as he bears the wrath of God in our place — and to celebrate the sweet sweet victory of Jesus over sin and death come Easter Sunday.
What to Expect at This Service?
We want, as best as we’re able, to feel the gloom and the weight of that original Maundy Thursday as we reflect upon the betrayal and looming crucifixion of Jesus. The lights will be low and the setting will be quiet. The moments before and after our service in the chapel won’t include the usual talking and fellowship. The plan is to enter and exit the chapel in silence. During the service, we will read from the Scriptures. We will sing songs of lament, mourning, and longing, and we will hear short devotionals on the seven sayings of Jesus on the cross, concluding with the Lord’s Supper. We welcome all to join us. We won’t be offering childcare, but children are invited to participate with us at their parent’s discretion. I hope to see you all there.