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Easter: Maundy Thursday

What do Christians remember on Maundy Thursday?

Maundy Thursday is the Thursday of Holy Week, the Thursday before Easter Day. On this day Christians remember the event known as The Last Supper. It was also the night when Jesus went to the garden of Gethsemane to pray. He was later betrayed by Judas and arrested by soldiers and guards.

‘Maundy’ is an old word for a commandment. This word is used because, over dinner, Jesus gave his disciples an important commandment, to love one another as he had loved them. Jesus and his disciples, like thousands of other Jews, had gone to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of the Unleavened Bread. The Passover was part of this annual Jewish festival that celebrated the escape of Moses and the Hebrew people from slavery in Egypt.

The last meal that Jesus ate with his disciples before his arrest was the Passover meal. Before this meal Jesus washed his disciples’ feet, a job usually done by the lowest rank of servants. Jesus washed their feet to demonstrate that he had come to serve others. It was a way to show his followers how He wanted them to behave. Jesus did not want his followers to take on the role of lord and master but instead that of a servant to all people.

During the meal Jesus broke bread and poured wine. As he gave them to his disciples he told them to continue to do this to remember Him. This is the celebration now known as Holy Communion, communion or breaking of bread in churches today. He used the bread and wine as symbols of how he would die: that his body would be broken and his blood would be spilt. He told them that he would be betrayed by one of the men sitting at the table with them.

This turned out to be Judas Iscariot, who took the Roman soldiers to where Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. They immediately arrested him, putting him on trial, before executing him on the cross.

You can read the story for yourself in Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22 and John 13.