Good Friday, we know. And Easter most certainly. But what is Maundy Thursday? It is the Thursday before Easter, believed to be the day when Jesus celebrated his final Passover with His disciples. Most notably, that Passover meal was when Jesus washed the feet of His disciples in an extraordinary display of humility. He then commanded them to do the same for each other. Christ's "mandate" is commemorated on Maundy Thursday---"maundy" being a shortened form of mandatum (Latin), which means "command." It was on the Thursday of Christ's final week before being crucified and resurrected that He said these words to his disciples:
"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).
What was so "new" about this command? Well, for one thing, it raised the definition of love to a new and higher standard. Jesus sacrificially met His followers' deepest need---that of new spiritual life and the forgiveness of sins. He even loved His enemies, and He calls us to show love to those who don't appear to deserve it. Just as Jesus loved sinners "to the end" (or "to the max" John 13:1) when He had nothing to gain from them, so must we. The Bible says that there was nothing attractive about sinful mankind that drew Him to love us. God loved us while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8). Salvation is not only a wonderful gift that protects us from the penalty that we deserve Romans 6:23, the work of Christ also embues new life, grants spiritual strength, and motivates godly action in those who believe:
"For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people,12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works." (Titus 2:11-14)
While Scripture doesn't forbid us to commemorate days like Maundy Thursday, the main question is are we observing Christ's new command to love---especially those who deserve it least?
"Beloved, let us love one another. For love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love." (1 John 4:7-8)
Alex Crain is the former editor of Christianity.com.