Maundy Thursday

The Readings for the Day
found at

Exodus 12:1-4, (5-10), 11-14
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
John 13:1-17, 31b-35
Psalm 116:1, 10-17

Final Instructions

by Marjorie George

We are down to the last hours now. Jesus has only a little more time to instruct his disciples. Soon they will be going it alone without his earthly presence. Christ speaks to them as a mother on her daughter’s wedding day, trying to cram in a lifetime of advice before the young woman leaves home for the last time. 

On these 12 disciples, Christ’s church will be built. If they fail, the entire mission fails. And what does Jesus choose to leave with them? “Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another” (Jn 13:34). Not the Ten Commandments, not the several hundred laws from Leviticus, not even the Great Commission (go and make disciples . . . Matthew 28:16-20)  No. The most important thing Christ wants to say is, “love each other.” The very name of this day – Maundy Thursday – comes from that verse. The word “maundy” derives from the Latin mandatum meaning mandate or commandment.  

A family member of mine is active in an organization that seeks to end the death penalty in Texas. Members of the organization frequently testify before the Texas legislature. The testimonies that have the most impact are not the political argument, not the moral argument, not even the religious argument. The testimonies that resound are those given by family members whose loved ones have been killed: the young man whose father was murdered in a robbery, the mother whose daughter was raped and killed, the father of an abducted child. Those witnesses are unassailable; they tell of what they know.

So it is with the Church; we are Christ’s witnesses. Why was Christ so concerned that his disciples, and we, love each other? Because, “By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:35). That is the church’s mission statement, the core value, the secret to evangelism, the way to “grow” the church. Just love each other; everything else follows.

So what does the world see when it looks at us as a church and as individual Christians? The Episcopal Church is imploding in divisiveness — what is the witness we are making? Our families are falling apart. Do our children see that we love one another? Children in Honduras and dozens of other third-world countries die regularly of dysentery because their water is not potable. Do we respond in mercy and love? What witness do we give as we live out love for others?

Soon the disciples will be in charge; they must love each other to survive. Even when they disagree. Even when they have to deal with a contentious one like Thomas. Even when they are frightened. The legacy with which the new church is to be imbued is a legacy of love.

Twice the writer of Psalm 116 vows to “fulfill [his] vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people” (vs 12 and 16 in the lectionary version; vs 14 and 18 in the NRSV).  The disciples vowed to carry on the work of Christ, and that is our vow also. We owe it him to be faithful to his final admonition and love one another.

Questions for reflection:

 1. Think of the people you find it most difficult to love. Ask God to help you love them anyway.

 2. Read again Paul’s great treatise on love, I Corinthians 13 (Find it at

 3. What one thing can you do today to express your love to someone?

 4. What one thing can you do today to express God’s love to someone?

As you continue to live out Holy Week, plan to attend a Good Friday service tomorrow. For a list of services in Episcopal churches, go here.






4 thoughts on “Maundy Thursday”

  1. What a grace-filled and simple reminder of what Christ asks from us. To love, only to love. He says this before he is treated in disgusting hatred, and he endures this because he loves us. This world is a hard place to reside in, but your reminder helps me to stop and think about what love is, how great it is, and just what all it can help overcome. Thank you. A blessed Maundy Thursday to you.

  2. I believe in the words of these passages, but they are not always that easy to achieve. My sister went through a divorce some years ago that has left her scarred ever since. There was mental and physical abuse and a bitter fight over child custody. She ultimately won the custody battle but never received any support from her ex husband. Her anger toward her ex has led to extreme problems in her life which she still deals with today even though her children are now grown and on their own. I told her one day that in my view she will never find true peace in her life until she asks God to help her find a way to love her ex, not as a husband but as another human. You would have thought I was asking her to make a pact with the devil. I do believe in these words, but as humans they are not always easy to fulfill.

    1. You are so right. It is not at all easy to do. So we just keep trying and failing and asking forgiveness and trying again. Thankfully there are people like you to speak the truth in love and continue to pray for us.

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