Maundy Thursday

Exodus 12:1-14

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, “This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you. Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers' houses, a lamb for a household. And if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his nearest neighbor shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats, and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight.

“Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted, its head with its legs and its inner parts. And you shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord's Passover. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.

“This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast.

People tend to mark time according to radical, earthshaking events in history. In ancient cultures, time was often marked by the rise and fall of different rulers. You can see this in Chinese dynasties, in Egyptian pharaohs, and in the monarchies of Israel. One example of what is consistent throughout the Old Testament is in 1 Kings 14:25. “In the fifth year of King Rehoboam, Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem.” Time was recorded according to each new ruler, because a new king was a big deal that made everything different for those under his reign.

Not just the marking of years, but the monthly calendar observed by Israel and the Jews of Jesus’ day was marked with liturgical feasts that commemorated the works of God for his people. The first and greatest of these was the Passover that God declared would be the first month of each year from that time forth. It became their New Year’s because it was an earthshaking event that changed everything for them. The descendants of Abraham and Jacob had grown into a nation under Egyptian slavery and when God brought them out from Egypt it was their birth as a people, as God’s chosen people. The Passover was the beginning of their deliverance.

Each household would sacrifice a lamb and paint their door doorposts with its blood, so that the angel of death that brought God’s judgement on the Egyptians would pass over the houses of the Israelites and spare them. And when Pharaoh would wake the next morning to find his firstborn son struck down by the God of the Israelites as the last of ten brutal plagues, it would be enough. He would let Israel go. So the Israelites would keep no leftovers of the expensive lamb they sacrificed. They would eat it all or burn the rest in faith, believing that what God had said, he would do, that they would be free the very next day. And so they celebrated this hurried feast with belt fastened, shoes on, staff in hand, ready to go, because their salvation was at hand.

This was the beginning of a tradition that carried on throughout Israel’s history. Each year they would celebrate the Passover to remember and celebrate their God who brought them up from the land of Egypt. They would taste the bitter herbs and remember the hardship of slavery in Egypt. They would break the unleavened bread and remember that God would be true to his promises. They would eat the sacrificed lamb and remember the mercy of the Lord to let his wrath pass over them. The celebrate this feast remembering that the Lord was their God and they were his people.

It was at this commemorative feast that Jesus sat with his disciples and interrupted the script. Instead of what was customarily said, he took the bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to his disciples saying, “This is my body.” He took the cup, saying, “This is my blood. Do this in remembrance of me.” Jesus is our Passover Lamb. We who are marked with his blood are saved from the wrath of God against our sin and idolatry. We who participate in his body pass through the waters leaving our enslavers, sin and death, behind us.

And so we mark the beginning of every week with the commemorative feast of the Lord’s Supper, because everything is changed for us. We break the bread and drink the cup remembering our Savior bought us with his blood, and we are his. We live in the two thousand twentieth year of our Lord, because the ruler of this world is defeated and our King reigns.


  1. What are traditions that you or your family practice to mark the passage of time and significant events in your lives? How do those things shape you and remind you who you are?

2. Today is Maundy Thursday, the day of Holy Week when Jesus celebrated the Passover with his disciples in the upper room before he was arrested. Set aside sometime today to celebrate the Lord’s Supper on your own or with your family. Read the other Scriptures below, finishing with the Words of Institution from 1 Corinthians 11, and take of the bread and the cup, remembering who you are in Jesus Christ. That he has bought you for himself, paying the price of your sins, and you are his. When you are finished, pray this prayer from the Book of Common Prayer.


Almighty and everliving God, we thank you for feeding us with the spiritual food of the most precious Body and Blood of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; and for assuring us in these holy mysteries that we are living members of the Body of your Son, and heirs of your eternal kingdom. And now, Father, send us out to do the work you have given us to do, to love and serve you as faithful witnesses of Christ our Lord. To him, to you, and to the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen. 

Taylor Whitson, April 9, 2020

Other Readings

[Look for how these passages connect with each other and with the larger story of the Bible about Jesus.]

Psalm 116
I love the Lord, because he has heard
    my voice and my pleas for mercy.
Because he inclined his ear to me,
    therefore I will call on him as long as I live.
The snares of death encompassed me;
    the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me;
    I suffered distress and anguish.
Then I called on the name of the Lord:
    “O Lord, I pray, deliver my soul!”

Gracious is the Lord, and righteous;
    our God is merciful.
The Lord preserves the simple;
    when I was brought low, he saved me.
Return, O my soul, to your rest;
    for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.

For you have delivered my soul from death,
    my eyes from tears,
    my feet from stumbling;
I will walk before the Lord
    in the land of the living.

I believed, even when I spoke:
    “I am greatly afflicted”;
I said in my alarm,
    “All mankind are liars.”

What shall I render to the Lord
    for all his benefits to me?
I will lift up the cup of salvation
    and call on the name of the Lord,
I will pay my vows to the Lord
    in the presence of all his people.

Precious in the sight of the Lord
    is the death of his saints.
O Lord, I am your servant;
    I am your servant, the son of your maidservant.
    You have loosed my bonds.
I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving
    and call on the name of the Lord.
I will pay my vows to the Lord
    in the presence of all his people,
in the courts of the house of the Lord,
    in your midst, O Jerusalem.
Praise the Lord!

John 13:1-17, 21-31
Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.”Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!”Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

“Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ 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.”

1 Corinthians 11:23-26
For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.

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