Today is Maundy Thursday. Sometimes we call it Holy Thursday.
The word Maundy comes from the Latin, mandatum novum. It means the new mandate.
Let’s talk about that for a bit. In John 13, the scene opens and Jesus is preparing to wash the feet of the disciples. We know that the washing of feet was a disgusting job.
Back in the day, there were no Nikes, Reeboks or Timberlands. People either wore sandals or went barefooted.
There were no fences to speak of and livestock pretty much roamed at will. Feet really took a beating in the ancient Middle East. Feet accumulated much of what it stepped in or on.
So, one can imagine needing a pressure washer and a tin tub to get those feet clean! I really cannot envision such a lifestyle.
In the text, Jesus is preparing to wash the feet of his inner circle; and, it’s a task that is beneath the lowest servant in the pecking order. Peter is mortified!
Peter was upset at Christ because firstly, it wasn’t proper for the Master to wash his feet and secondly, Jesus was behaving in an undignified manner.
And, Jesus is acting like the sort of king that Peter didn’t really want to follow. My suspicion is that Peter really wanted Jesus to cut this out, this whole undignified servant thing and act a little more like someone with some dignity!
(Note the text in John 6:66 where we are told that many turned away from Jesus because his teachings were too hard.)
But Jesus told Peter a very strange thing. He said, “Unless I wash your feet, you can have no part of me (John 13:8b NIV).”
In my mind’s eye, I can see Peter with a spot-lighted-deer look on his face. Maybe he paused. Maybe he didn’t. The Bible does not say.
But, then Peter got moving. “Then, Lord,’ Simon Peter replied, ‘Not just my feet but my hands and my head as well (John 13:9 NIV).’”
At the conclusion of the foot washing, Jesus issued the mandatum novum, the new mandate, the New Commandment, “I have set an example that you should do as I have done for you (John 13:15 NIV).”
Finally, the rubber hit the road. Jesus next issued his Great Commandment, “A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so must you love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another (John 13:34 & 35 NIV).”
Jesus has just set the bar! This new mandate is top shelf!
Jesus’ mandatum novum is elevated beyond the Law, the statutes, even the prophets. If we want the Gold Standard life of God Incarnate, we must live into his Great Commandment.
After his conversion experience, Paul would spend the rest of his life trying to unravel what Jesus meant. He would dedicate his life towards writing and preaching about it.
Let’s take a quick inventory, Maundy Thursday was a full day for our Lord. He performed the foot washing, prepared for the Passover, served the Last Supper, prayed in Gethsemane and then he was arrested and brought before the Sanhedrin (the Jewish court) for a mock trial.
Everything Christ did, he did for us! At any given time, Christ could have recanted and he’d have been let off the hook.
But he didn’t, such was his love for the world. No wonder it’s called the Passion of Christ.
A Course in Miracles says, “Teach not that I died in vain. Teach rather that I did not die by demonstrating that I live in you.”
There’s our mandate. And, I don’t see much in the way of wiggle room.
Today is a good day to teach that Christ did not die, because he lives in us. And, there is a world full of students that need this lesson as much as life itself.
At the end of the day, God loves the world. And, God holds every Christ-follower to this standard.
Finally, a hymn that’s 150 years old just came to mind:
I love to tell the story,
‘twill be my theme in glory,
To tell the old, old story,
Of Jesus and his love.
(I Love to Tell the Story, UMH #156, Katherine Hankey, 1868, chorus)
Not rocket science! The secret to life is in telling this old, old story every moment of our lives with thought, word and deed.