Maundy Thursday (also known as Holy Thursday, Covenant Thursday, Great and Holy Thursday, Sheer Thursday and Thursday of Mysteries) is the Christian feast, or holy day, falling on the Thursday before Easter. It commemorates the Maundy and Last Supper of Jesus Christ with the Apostles as described in the Canonical gospels, it is the fifth day of Holy Week, and is preceded by Holy Wednesday and followed by Good Friday.
Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once. My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come. A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:31-35)
On this day around the world Christians remember that tense, sensitive time Jesus spent with his disciples in the upper room and the last supper he shared with them. Many refer to this day as “Maundy Thursday.”
The word “Maundy” comes from the Latin word for commandment (mandatum), which Jesus talked about when he told his disciples that he was leaving them “a new commandment,” that they “love one another.” There were probably so many things going on in the disciples’ minds in that upper room where they had their last supper together, including fear and bewilderment from Jesus telling them that someone in that very room would betray him.
Jesus handed the betrayer a piece of bread, just as he had been feeding all his disciples all along. Always giving, always gracing. Jesus fed thousands of people with fish and loaves, and every word that came out of his mouth was spiritual food for those who listened and understood. But on this night he fed them differently. Passing the bread, and then the wine, he spoke ominous, comforting words: “this is my body… this is my blood.” This was not an ordinary supper, not even an ordinary Passover. His words connected with what he had said on the shores of far-away Galilee “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty…. whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:35, 54).
Jesus told them to repeat this unique meal in the future, and then it was time to go out into the chilly night. In a quiet garden among olive trees, quiet but for the deep night sounds of dogs barking in the distance, Jesus prayed. In agony he prayed. The specter of shameful execution and of bearing the curse of sin tore into the human consciousness of Jesus. And in the end it was sheer obedience to the divine plan that carried Jesus into the hands of the conspirators waiting for him.