I was surprised when researching the history of Maundy Thursday. I understand the idea that it is based on the Latin word for command, mandatum. But I always assumed that this was in conjunction with the Lord’s Supper. Jesus commands his disciples to take and eat, take and drink. However the actual service is based on Jesus’ command in John 13:34. And specifically, the term for this day became associated with Jesus’ demonstration of the kind of love He was commanding by washing his disciples’ feet.
This is a worthy commandment (nice of me to agree with Jesus, eh?). It is incumbent upon all followers of Jesus to take it seriously. But by making Maundy Thursday about this, about us and what we do to and with each other, it takes our focus off of Jesus, and that is problematic to me. Each Gospel writer sees fit to spend a substantial portion of their account of Jesus’ ministry on his last week of ministry. John spends five chapters alone on the evening of the Last Supper! I can’t help but think that we are intended to look and listen to Jesus rather than look to ourselves on this night.
So I like this short essay that explains how Lutheran theology ‘hijacked’ Maundy Thursday a redirected the focus towards what Jesus gives to us – himself – rather than what we do to and for one another.