The Giving of a New Commandment
Maundy Thursday is the day Christians around the world remember the Last Supper on the eve of Jesus’ crucifixion. The following is a portion of His story that unfolded that evening in the Upper Room:
Judas left Jesus and the other disciples immediately after receiving the morsel. And it was night. Thursday night.
Being free of an “atmosphere of treachery,” Jesus then turned to the remaining eleven disciples and gave them a new commandment:
“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).
Malcolm Muggeridge clearly understood: “Ah, what he is unloosing on the world!”
The Dying Parent is unloosing His children to go into the world with the commandment tolove one another in His absence. “By giving His life for His people, His own love was a new thing on earth. And when His followers expressed love to one another, and had the same spirit that Jesus had, and were ready to do the same things He did, the world would stare – because it was new. They would be amazed and ask where it came from. The world would perceive that the men who loved in this way had been with Jesus” (A.B. Bruce).
Standing on Bruce’s shoulders, Francis Schaeffer rightly advanced the idea that the command Jesus gave to His disciples during His last Passover is the universal “mark of the Christian.” The duration of the command is “not just in one era or in one locality but at all times and all places until Jesus returns….Because a man is a man, he is to be loved at all cost.” After reading and re-reading Schaeffer’s work over the years, I continue to maintain that the most powerful sentence in his book is this: “Upon his authority, he (Jesus) gives the world the right to judge whether you and I are born again Christians on the basis of our observable love toward all Christians.” Then, he goes on to clarify Jesus’ teaching: “In other words, if people come up to us and cast in our teeth the judgment that we are not Christians because we have not shown love toward other Christians, we must understand that they are only exercising a prerogative which Jesus gave them.”
The command set a new standard: “as I have loved you.” And how did Jesus love the Apostles? Eternally. Preeminently. Sacrificially. Magnanimously. Securely, Unconditionally. His love is also an initiating love: “We love,” John writes, “because He first loved us” (I John 4:19). “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (I John 4:10).
Our problem is that we are unable to love others like Jesus loved His disciples. Blaise Pascal understood man’s fall into sin: “Without Christ man can only be vicious and wretched.” The good news of the gospel, however, is that Jesus’ death and resurrection atoned for our sins, and those who receive Him by faith enter into a personal relationship with Him. Then, as we abide in the vine (John 15), we are able to love others by the power of the Holy Spirit. Dr. Peter Kreeft summed it up this way: “You cannot love your neighbor without getting love (agape) from God.”
Lord, fill us with this kind of love and loose us, too, on the world!
When Jesus had finished speaking to His disciples, “He went forth with His disciples over the ravine of the Kidron, where there was a garden, into which He Himself entered, and His disciples” (John 18:1).
The Meaning of Maundy
The word maundy is borrowed from the French (mandet, mande), and the classical Latin mandatum novum means a new commandment. Maundy Thursday is celebrated on the Thursday before Easter in remembrance of Jesus’ command to love one another.
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