It’s the night of the Last Supper.
Jesus and his disciples are reclining around a knee-high table in a quiet upstairs room near the heart of Jerusalem. They’re enjoying good wine. Aromas of roasted lamb, herbs, and bread mix with the smoke of oil lamps, and everyone feels the uniqueness of the moment. As they share this Passover meal, each participant eats and drinks a story they belong to. In a way, this ritual is like transcending time to enter into the first Passover moment in Egypt while bringing the story into their present world. And during this sacred meal, Jesus offers a new mandate — a new command.
We often celebrate this day as Maundy Thursday, employing the Latin term mandatum, which means “mandate” or “commandment.” Jesus says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34). This is a new chapter in Israel’s long story, and he invites them to eat and drink this new chapter in the story along with the old. Jesus will instruct his followers to continue remembering him when they have meals like this, which includes remembering his forgiving, nonviolent way of love toward everyone in the world. We are made to love, forgive, and bless others like Jesus does, and we eat and drink his story every time we participate in remembrance celebrations like communion meals, Lord’s Supper celebrations, the Eucharist, and sharing meals with others. We are joining him in this upper room moment as he joins us in our own.
To love one another in Jesus’ way means a willingness to give our own lives in love for all — something Jesus demonstrates the next day, Good Friday. And what does it mean for Jesus to give his life for others? How does his death bring life to humanity? Take a closer look in today’s video.
Prayer for Maundy Thursday
Almighty Father, whose most dear Son, on the night before he suffered, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood: Mercifully grant that we may receive it in thankful remembrance of Jesus Christ our Savior, who in these holy mysteries gives us a pledge of eternal life; and who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
— Book of Common Prayer