Maundy Thursday

The New Command*  

Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34

The Thursday before Easter is called Maundy Thursday. The word maundy means “command,” and this day commemorates the command Jesus gave to His disciples on the night He was betrayed. They had just eaten a Passover meal together, which we call “the Last Supper.”

Jesus knew that He was about to leave His disciples. The Bible tells us “He now showed them the full extent of his love” (John 13:1). How? He poured water into a basin and began to wash their feet.

This job was usually performed by the lowliest of servants. Israelites wore sandals and their feet were dirty from dry, dusty roads when they entered a house. One of the servants usually washed the guests’ feet before they ate.

But Jesus and His disciples were borrowing a place for their Passover meal. Imagine this group of guys eagerly digging into the meal with no thought of washing up beforehand! It wouldn’t be the first time. Earlier some Pharisees and teachers of the law had come to Jesus asking, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!” (Matthew 15:1).

A basin and towels were provided with the room, but who was willing to be the servant? Jesus explained that He was giving them an example: they should show their love by humbly serving one another, just as He was doing. Jesus was humble, but He was not weak or powerless. Jesus “did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant” (Philippians 2:6-7).

Jesus served His disciples because He loved them. He commands us to love and humbly serve the way He did. The only way we can do this is by knowing His love in us and extending it to others, serving them.


Read John 13:1-17, the story of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. What was Peter’s reaction? Why didn’t Peter need a “bath”?  (Compare Hebrews 10:10-11 with 1 John 1:8-10.)

Why do you think Jesus washed Judas’ feet? (John 13:18-30)

Why is it significant that Jesus gave His new command to the disciples after Judas left? (John 13:34)

Nancy J. Baker

*This devotion first appeared in The Secret Place, Spring 2009


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