Some Christians call this day “Holy Thursday.” We Lutherans continue to use the older term, “Maundy Thursday.”
The problem is that no one knows what this word “Maundy” means. We don’t use the word in everyday conversation, or even in fancy go-to-meetin’ talk. The word “Maundy” comes from the Latin word meaning “mandate” or “command.”
Since the highlight of Maundy Thursday is the Last Supper, which the Lord made to be His Supper, it seemed natural to me that the mandate of Maundy Thursday was the Lord’s twice-spoken, “Do this in remembrance of me.” Right?
Nice try. No dice.
Before the Lord got to the consecration of the bread and wine, what did He say? “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. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:34-35).”
Was this really a new commandment from the Lord? Of course not. It was a commandment, stated in a new way, but not a commandment which cannot be found all over the Bible. Indeed, in our Lutheran catechism, the answer to the question, “What one word summarizes all of the commandments?” the answer is “Love.”
And, of course, at this point, you should have ringing in your ears how the Lord Jesus summarized the Ten Commandments. First, He said, we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart and soul and strength. Then, we are to love our neighbor as we love our self.
Love. It’s all over the place.
In fact, because it is so short, one of your favorite memory verses, from your long-lost youth, is 1 John 4:8: “God is love.” And, there is the Love Chapter of the Bible, 1 Corinthians 13. You know these words: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. . . . So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love (13:4-8, 13).”
How is it that love never ends, but not faith and hope? After you die and go to heaven, you will see Jesus, face to face, so no more need for faith. After the resurrection, your hope will be fulfilled, so no more need for hope. But love? God is love. In the resurrection to Paradise, love will rule the day. Love will be perfected in us. We will never break the commands of love—never impatient or unkind, never envious or boastful, never arrogant or rude. We will never insist on our own way, nor will we be irritable or resentful. We will not rejoice in wrongdoing, but only in the truth.
That love which we will perfectly display will never end, praise the Lord. But know this: That love has already begun. In love, the Holy Spirit called you by the Gospel. In love, He baptized you in the love of Jesus Christ. In love, the Lord feeds you on His body and blood as He was given and shed upon the cross. That love already courses through your veins.
So, how ya doin’, disciple of the God of love? Can all people tell that you are a disciple of Jesus by how you conduct yourself? Would they say that you are patient with them and kind, or would they point at the envious and boastful part?
Would they say that you are an arrogant you-know-what, or a humble sort? How about rude, or, no, by all means, she’s always polite, he’s a true gentleman?
Are you irritable—you know, cranky? Do you like people who are cranky? Aren’t they thoughtless jerks? Well, which are you? How about resentful? “How come good things always happen to her?” “How come his wife lets him do whatever he wants?” Ugh. Are you known as a whining, bitter, pain in the neck?
When you live love, your family, friends, co-workers, and everyone see the love of Jesus Christ and can easily trust that you are His disciple. When you don’t, you really need to check the pulse of your faith and question whether you are alive in the Spirit or a spiritually dead corpse.
Since families who love each other eat together, it is good that the Christian family eats together. Therefore, on that Holy Thursday night when the Lord Jesus was betrayed, He took bread and handed out His body; He took wine and handed out His blood. He provided the eating and drinking for the forgiveness of our sin. He instructed us to remember Him. He left us a new commandment, to love one another as He loved us.
As He loved us.
He loved you so deeply, so profoundly, that He took your sins, and the sins of the world, into Himself and, in return, gave you His love—forgiveness, life, and salvation.
His command is not a heavy yoke around your neck. Because He, who is love, lives in you, His desires are your desires. His love is your love. Loving one another, therefore, is not a chore but a joy, not an obligation but a privilege, because you are in Christ and Christ is in you.
Love one another. Do this in remembrance of Him. He is love. He is your Savior. Because He lives in you, God the Father sees you as holy, and invites you to eat with Him, forever. Amen!