I had honestly never heard of this holiday until we began working in Ecumenical ministry. It is not a holiday that was ever observed in the churches I attended growing up. And even after hearing about it, I really had no idea what the holiday was or what it was for, so today I Googled it.
Here's what I came up with:
Maundy Thursday is observed during Holy Week on the Thursday before Easter. Also referred to as "Holy Thursday" or "Great Thursday" in some Christian denominations, Maundy Thursday commemorates the Last Supper when Jesus shared the Passover meal with his disciples on the night before he was crucified. In contrast to joyful Easter celebrations when Christians worship their resurrected Savior, Maundy Thursday services are typically more solemn occasions, marked by the shadow of Jesus' betrayal. While different denominations observe Maundy Thursday in their own distinct ways, two important biblical events are the primary focus of Maundy Thursday solemnizations:After experiencing a Messianic Passover Seder with my PWOC group on Tuesday morning, this holiday holds a lot more meaning for me than it ever would have before! First of all, on Tuesday I learned that Passover and all of the symbolism it embodies, is not just full of meaning for Jewish people, but for all believers - who are grafted into Abraham's family. It is even commanded in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 5:7&8)! Crazy, right?
Before the Passover meal, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. By performing this lowly act of service, the Bible says in John 13:1 that Jesus "showed them the full extent of his love." By his example, Jesus demonstrated how Christians are to love one another through humble service. For this reason, many churches practice foot-washing ceremonies as a part of their Maundy Thursday services.
During the Passover meal, Jesus took bread and wine and asked his Father to bless it. He broke the bread into pieces, giving it to his disciples and said, "This is my body, given for you. Do this in remembrance of me." Then he took the cup of wine, shared it with his disciples and said, "This wine is the token of God's new covenant to save you--an agreement sealed with the blood I will pour out for you." These events recorded in Luke 22:19-20 describe the Last Supper and form the biblical basis for the practice of Communion. For this reason, many churches hold special Communion services as a part of their Maundy Thursday celebrations. Likewise, many congregations observe a traditional Passover Seder meal.
Sometimes I think that as "new covenant" believers, we discount the traditions and rich heritage of Judaism and dismiss it as "legalism" or "law" - which could not be further from the truth! The beauty and richness of many of the traditions and festivals of Judaism hold even more meaning for those of us who believe in Jesus as Messiah because the prophecies to which most of the symbolisms refer have been fulfilled in Christ! Praise the Lord!
All of that to say, although some people may observe Maundy Thursday as a rote, liturgical service simply because "that's what we do on the Thursday before Easter." I plan to celebrate this day - today and in the years to come - as a reminder of my Servant King who washed the feet of his disciples, observed the Passover in obedience to God, and gave Himself up as "our Passover Lamb," the perfect and final sacrifice for the sins of all humanity!
Praying that the traditions of Easter may have deep and lasting meaning for you this year and forever!