Maundy Thursday: the Mandates

We entered into Holy Week, the journey towards Jesus’ arrest, trial, passion, crucifixion and death on Sunday welcoming him into Jerusalem as our rabbi, prophet, and king.

According to scripture, Jesus entered into the Temple chasing out those conducting business, flipping over the tables of the money changers, and teaching that the Temple had been transformed from a house of prayer into a den of robbers.

Historians argue that the account is embellished because of the ‘Pax Romana’ (Peace of Rome) policy paired with increased military presence due to the Jewish festival of Passover. If the account is not embellished, Jesus would have been arrested and contained immediately for disputing the peace.

Yet, Jesus acted in a manner that incited the religious elite, because the chief priests and scribes spent Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday attempting to entrap Jesus in a punishable teaching, hopefully one punishable by death.

Thursday was the Passover, which is celebrated with a significant and ritualistic meal known as the Seder.

According to John, Jesus begins to wash the feet of his inner-most circle of disciples. Foot-washing was a sign of hospitality performed by a often nameless servant or slave, but NOT the wealthy homeowner, the rabbi (or teacher), the prophet, or the king.

Jesus further reinforces servant leadership and that all people are worthy of dignity, of being served, and of being loved. It is the responsibility of those with power and authority to seek justice, to act with compassion and mercy, while loving and serving all people for the sake of God’s kingdom.

According to Mark, Matthew, and Luke, Jesus twice deters from the Seder script.

  1. Jesus lifts the unleavened bread for its final blessing and distribution, but says:
    “this is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
  2. Again, Jesus lifts the final glass of wine for blessing and distribution, but says:
    “this cup is the new covenant shed my blood for forgiveness of sin.
    Do this in remembrance of me.”

And thus, welcome to Maundy Thursday.

Maundy is derived from the Latin for ‘mandate’, ‘command’, or ‘order’.

Jesus gave a ‘mandate’ to wash the feet of others as he washed those of his disciples, for it is a humbling example of servant leadership.

Jesus gave a ‘mandate’ to remember him in Holy Communion, for he is truly present in, among, with, and around the bread and wine, his body and his blood. It is a mandate to taste the tangible grace of God, which strengthens us:

  • to proclaim Christ in word and deed,
  • to seek justice,
  • to act with compassion and mercy,
  • while loving and serving ALL people.

Therefore, we should come to the table with overflowing joy to receive said grace.
We should excitedly run out those doors to share Christ in the world.

But, according to John, Jesus gave us another mandate with the “New Commandment” eliminating the loophole in the ‘Greatest Commandment’.

The loophole is simple.
Since I do not always love myself or treat myself with compassion, mercy, and respect, then I do not always have to love my neighbors or treat them with compassion, mercy, and respect.

Instead, Jesus mandates that we love one another as Jesus first loved us.
Simply, “love ALL people, near and far, as Jesus first loved his closest disciples”.

Well, that is a difficult mandate that the world has needed since the fall of humankind.

On Facebook today, I stumbled across a quote from Henri Nouwen. It read:

In a world so torn apart by rivalry, anger, and hatred.
We have the privileged vocation to be living signs of a love
that can bridge all divisions and heal all wounds. 

In essence, that is Jesus’ mandate.

May we continually strive to live into said vocation.
May we continually strive towards servant leadership.
May we continually be strengthened in Jesus’ body and blood.
May we continually comply with Jesus’ mandate to love all people.

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