Today marks a pretty special day in the life of the church. It’s actually a pretty cool thing that happens on this day and we’ll talk more about it tonight in our worship service but here are a few things I thought would be helpful as you consider what this day is all about.
Ok so for starters this is just a weird sounding word. We don’t use it any other time but so often we throw it around as if it’s normal or something. The word actually derives from the Anglo-French and means commandment. I know that’s not the normal focus of our Midweek Maundy Thursday worship but that’s where the word came from.
There actually was a command that was part of what we normally celebrate as the Maundy Thursday account. The command is to love one another as Jesus has loved them. The command isn’t about doing anything or performing some weird ritual. It’s about loving and serving one another and putting others before yourself. That’s the Jesus way!
Why did they all sit on one side of the table?
I know you’re probably not wondering this but I always find it odd that in every picture they’re all sitting behind the table as if for a photo op or something. But none of them are looking in the direction the camera would be! So obviously none of these pictures are real and they really in all likelihood sat around a table like most normal people do.
Why this night?
So there’s a lot of history and tradition and ritual in the timing of all of this. Jesus doing this on this particular night fits right in with the rest of the week. We talked about Palm Sunday and all of the cool hidden details in a previous post that you can read here. The idea is simple really. Jesus had to celebrate this meal with his disciples on this very night to fulfill everything the Old Testament points toward. There was a celebration in the Jewish calendar known as Passover which commemorated the plagues on Egypt and how God delivered his people by letting the angel of death pass-over the faithful. The way the angel would know whose house to pass-over was made clear by the sacrifice of a lamb in that house and the blood being on the door posts. This signified the people relying on God to deliver them.
Fast forward to this night and we see Jesus celebrating the Passover while he’s preparing to be the newer, better, fuller, forever-er sacrifice for all people not just the Israelite ones from the Old Testament.
Where’d he get the bread and wine?
Another cool thing that we might miss if we’re not paying attention is that while Jesus eats the Passover meal, he takes some of that meal as the elements for the new meal that he starts. So he takes the bread that was made for the Passover meal and consecrates it, sets it apart for what we call communion. He does the same thing with the wine. He takes a cup of wine, of which there were several in this meal to mark different attributes and actions of God. Then he blesses it and sets it apart as His very blood of a new covenant.
So when the Old Testament followers of God celebrated the Passover they had to kill a lamb to atone, bible word for pay for, their sins and their lack of faith. Now in the new Passover event, we don’t see the killing of many lambs but the self sacrifice of one lamb known as the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world.
How often should we do this whole bread and wine thing?
The simple answer is…yes. I know that’s not an answer to the question but really you should take it as often as it is offered. So if it’s offered once a year, then take it! If it’s once a month, then take it! If it’s every other week, take it! If it’s weekly, yep you got it – take it!
There is no set rule for how often a church should offer it. That’s left up to the context of each congregation. And no you will not lessen its meaning if you offer it weekly. No you won’t find it less special if you take it every week versus once a month. That’s ludicrous.
Who should take it?
Now this one is where the bus comes to a bit of a screeching halt for many. The church body to which I ascribe my doctrinal beliefs has a pretty solid teaching on this. The way we do this in the church I serve is I explain what communion is, and if you agree completely with the explanation I give and have had some teaching and instruction on it before that moment with a pastor (either me or someone else) then come on. If, however, you don’t think the same way, don’t believe it the same way, are confused by it, or don’t even think it’s important – then by all means don’t do it! This is a huge deal so don’t go at it willy-nilly. You have to understand what it’s about or you make a mockery of it and it will actually not benefit you at all.
So there you have it. A few little tidbits of info on what Maundy Thursday is all about, why we do it, and why you should too! If you have a church home then please set some time aside to go and worship tonight and this whole weekend (heck go every Sunday!) If you don’t have a church home, then we’d love to welcome you as our guests at Living Word Galena. And if you’re just not sure but want a little more, you’re welcome to check us out online first to listen along to see if what we teach and believe lines up with what you understand and believe.
Happy Holy Week!