Today is Maundy Thursday. It falls a few days after the praises of Palm Sunday and the gravity of Good Friday... but what is it about?
Mandatum is the Latin word for "commandment." It's where the word Maundy comes from. On this day we remember Jesus saying to his disciples, "I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another" (John 13:34-35).
We've seen this scripture written in a pretty font and framed in homes. We've heard it said in weddings before couples say "I do." And it's what we, Christians, say we're all about... but what does it really mean? And why does Jesus say it now?
If we don't just focus on these two verses but instead read from John 13:1 all the way to verse 38, we find the context for this “pretty” commandment. In this larger passage, Jesus seems to know what will happen next. He knows that he will be betrayed by a friend, denied by another, and arrested by religious authorities. He knows that he will experience pain and heartache, and that his time on earth is coming to an end.
But instead of punishing his betrayer, casting out his denier, or lashing out against religious authorities, Jesus chooses a different way. He chooses to wash the disciples' feet in a basin and wipe them dry on a towel around his waist. He does this for all of the disciples, even Judas. Then he chooses to break bread, dip it in wine, and give it to the disciples - all of the disciples, even Peter. Then, Jesus tells them to love one another - all of the disciples and everyone else, even the religious authorities.
Loving one another isn't something we can just hang on a wall and call it a day. Loving one another is hard. Loving one another isn't just a nice thing we do for people that we like. Loving one another includes all people, even the ones we haven’t yet learned to understand or love. It can be difficult and simple, messy and beautiful, uncomfortable and fulfilling.
Today and everyday, Jesus is calling us to choose another way: to wash and forgive one another, to serve and care for one another, to feed and nourish one another. Today and everyday Jesus is calling us to love one another. Let’s choose to live out this commandment today.
- Pastor Awit