The Point Most Often Missed on Maundy Thursday

Today is what many followers of Christ refer to as Maundy Thursday. Have you ever wondered what Maundy actually means. You would be stunned to find out. I know I was. Maundy comes from the Latin mandatum from which we get the word mandate. In the Latin Vulgate translation of the scriptures, after Jesus washes the feet of the disciples it says, novum mandatum, a “new mandate” or “new command” do I give you. That command was that we are to serve one another and love one another as Jesus has served and loved us. Maundy Thursday was named as a reminder to all followers of Jesus that we are to serve and love one another just as He did. Somewhere along the way we have completely forgotten that aspect of being Christ followers, at least as it relates to Maundy Thursday.

With the expection of the ritual washing of feet performed by the Pope each year on this date, you rarely if ever hear of foot washing as an act of service for others. I have had the privilege of being on both the receiving and the giving ends of foot washings and can tell you that it is humbling from both directions. But it is also incredibly freeing. To serve and allow yourself to be humbly served is an amazing experience.

When I look at our contemporary methods of holding communion services I have often wondered why we simplified it down to a piece of bread and some juice when it was originally a full blown meal. I sometimes also wonder why we have simplified it by eliminating the foot washing. This may be the only instance in all the history of the church in which we simplified something instead of complicating it. We would have been better off to have left it in it’s original form.

Every year churches around the world with commemorate the Last Supper that Jesus had with his disciples. They will have a simplified communion service that will point them to the coming crucifixion and the sacrifice that Jesus made on our behalf. In many cases churches will have a Seder Meal, a Christian interpretation of the Passover, focusing on Jesus as the unblemished lamb that was slain. We will rightly look to the suffering savior and the incredible and unique way in which he served us.

Yet in spite of the name Maundy Thursday and the clear example that Jesus gave as a servant, and his New Mandate that we serve on another and love one another as he has demonstrated, I rarely hear us being called to that outward focus on this day. For some reason we have taken this event that Jesus intended to be used to direct us to the serving of others and we have truncated it into be about how he has served us. Yes it is about how he has served us by his life, teaching, foot washing, serving the meal, and eventually going to the cross. But it must not stop there. He said that he has given us, his followers, and example to in fact follow. We are to look to Jesus as the one who so sacrificially served us and we are to in turn do likewise for others. The day was given the name, New Mandate in order to remind us of that crucial truth. Maybe if we still had to learn Latin we would remember that. But I suspect that in our self-centered way we would still find a way around the New Mandate to serve on another. After all the first disciples did just that at the Last Supper. Jesus rebuked them because none of them were willing to serve one another. Not only would none of them wash the feet of the others. No one so much as got water for them to wash their own feet. Each one sat around waiting for the other to be the servant. So Jesus became the servant and showed them a better way.

Maundy Thursday is the day of the New Mandate, the New Command that Jesus gave. Love one another as I have loved you. Serve one another in the same way that you have seen me, the Master, serve you. In this way you will glorify my Father in Heaven. It is not just about remembering a last meal. Today is about remembering the last commands given us by the Lord.

Jesus’ Answer to the Economic Crisis

I am not a big fan of the WWJD bracelets, simply for the reason that a very good question, “What Would Jesus Do” quickly became a cliche’ and not a way of life. But with that said I have to ask the question about the current economic crisis, “What Would Jesus Do?” It is an important question, especially considering the current human response to it all. Politicians are posturing to get money funneled to pet projects that serve more to win them votes at home than to actually help the economy. Then they express outrage over things like AIG bonuses, only to find that one of their own put that loophole in the bill and they all voted for it. In the meantime people who have their jobs and have no hope that the government will ever really got to helping them, are left frightened and desperate.

Jesus gave His followers some very clear instructions about how to live and how to take care of one another. He said things like,  “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34. And just how did Jesus love us? That is simple. He sacrificed whatever was necessary so that we would have all we needed to be in relationship with Him. He died so we could live. As Philippians 2:5-8 puts it,

5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
6Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

The early church figured out how to do this in very practical ways. The Book of Acts tells us that no one in that first gathering of Christians in Jerusalem ever went without having the basic needs of life provided for them.

44All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.  Acts 2:44-45

This was not government forced socialism or communism. This was Holy Spirit led generosity and sacrifice for the sake of family. Those first Christians understood that they were family in Christ. They were brothers and sisters in the Lord. As family they took care of one another no matter what the sacrifice entailed. People have done things like that for family through out the history of mankind. But usually it was for family by blood. This was for family by Spirit. They didn’t just take care of family. They took care of anyone God put across their path, but they especially made sure that they took care of family. Paul said to “Do good to all men, especially to the household of faith”.

In that first church, if someone was out of work, they would be inviting into someones business to help out. If that was not possible the the people who had food would provide for those who did not. If someone lost their home then others would open their home and give them a place to live. No one was concerned with protecting his own little material bubble. Because they interacted with each other on a regular basis they refused to turn a blind eye to a brothers need. People like Barnabas sold property and had the money used to feed people.

Whether we want to admit it or not, Christians today are as infected by the virus of materialism as the rest of the world. Think of your gut response to the idea of opening your home to give people a place to live. Did you immediately go to the impact on your comfort. Did the very idea of it make you uncomfortable. Did you quickly come up with reasons why your life situation would not allow for that? Okay, what if it was your parents, or your child, or your twin sister who was homeless? Would that change the equation? I would hope so. Now, what about your father in the faith, or your brother in Christ, or your sister in the Lord? They are family too. The response should be no different.

What if you are faced with a need that is beyond you ability to meet. Maybe you have a spare room that someone can move into but you do not have the ability to provide food for them and you. You can’t provide transportation for them or medicine or clothing, then what. In the early church that was simple. They gathered together as the church, house to house. The typical church gathering would have been between 20 and 40 people who where the church at someones house. From time to time the various “House Churches” would come together for bigger meetings, but almost daily they would gather in their neighborhood in a House Church. So the person who was homeless, or out of a job, or sick, would be provided for by a couple of dozen people who shared the load. You might open your house, three other families would take turns providing groceries, someone else would make clothing, someone else would watch the children, someone else would you get their friend who was a physician to come and check on them. It was the people of God being led by the Holy Spirit to meet the needs of the family of God.

Those early Christians were so good at caring for their own that they quickly branched out and started doing the same for the non-Christians who lived near them. Eventually the Roman world noticed this as was put to shame by the sacrificial love of the Christians. Through that sacrificial lifestyle the Roman empire was turned on it’s ear as millions came to Jesus because of the love that we had for one another. Oh to see that happen again!

P.S. Props to Scotty Alderman for suggesting this topic and the next few that will follow the Church in Acts 2