In the church calendar, Thursday of Holy Week is known as Maundy Thursday; its name originates from the Latin word for “mandate,” and refers to Jesus’s words found in John 13:34, “A new commandment I give to you…” Each year, we gather as a church body to remember this day, fellowship, and observe the Lord’s Supper. As we are not able to meet this year, join with us as we look back to when Jesus forever altered the meaning of the traditional Passover meal.
We begin with what happened within a day before Jesus and His disciples celebrated the Passover, which comes from Matthew 26:6-13.
Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table. And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.” But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial. Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”
This woman (identified as Mary, sister of Lazarus and Martha in John’s account) used her expensive oil, which cost nearly a year’s wages, as a symbol of her love for her Lord. The disciples did not understand the significance at the time, but less than a week later, they understood completely.
Matthew continues his record by discussing something significant that happened during the meal. We pick it back up in Matthew 26:26:
Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.”
We know what came next for His body; it was beaten beyond all recognition, to the point where Isaiah’s prophecy came true - “his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance…” Reflect on His bodily sacrifice, as you worship through the song “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded.”
Picking back up in Matthew 26:27-28:
And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
One of the key concepts in Levitical law was that blood is required for atonement; Leviticus 17:11 says:
For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.
Jesus would soon pour out His life, on the ground around Jerusalem; up the hill of Golgatha; and on the cross, that terrible instrument of death “perfected” by the Romans. Reflect on His willing sacrifice of His very life’s blood, and contemplate “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us.”
Finishing up with Matthew 26:30:
And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
As we’ve looked and reflected on the sacrifice that Jesus made for us, we have the advantage of knowing how the next 4 days went. The next day, He was indeed betrayed, falsely accused, illegally tried, convicted, beaten, and crucified; but 3 days later, He arose – defeating death, Hell, the grave, and sin once and for all. As we conclude our reflection today, let us be grateful that He extends this triumph to us, paying a debt we could never pay; and let us be motivated to serve Him more fully. May we truly say, as the chorus of this song says, “Once again, I thank You; once again, I pour out my life.”
(All Scripture quotations taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, 2016 Edition. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.)