Maundy Thursday, a New Commandment, & a Prayer

Today  is  Maundy  Thursday,  the  day  on  which  we  remember  Jesus’  final  night  with  his  disciples  prior  to  his  betrayal  and  arrest.  The  name  Maundy  Thursday  comes  from  the  Latin   word  mandatum,  which  means  mandate,  or  command.  This  is  the  Thursday  of   the  mandatum  nova  -­‐-­‐  the  new  command:

I  give  you  a  new  commandment,  that  you  love  one  another.  Just  as  I  have   loved  you,  you  also  should  love  one  another.  By  this  everyone  will  know  that   you  are  my  disciples,  if  you  have  love  for  one  another.    (John  13:34-­‐35   NRSV)

Jesus  gives  this  command  during  the  ‘Lord’s  Supper’,  just  after  washing  the  disciples’  feet   and  declaring  to  them  that  they  are  to  follow  his  example  in  serving  one  another.

For  nearly  two  thousand  years,  the  church  has  remembered  this  day  on  the  liturgical   calendar  by  gathering  for  Maundy  Thursday  services,  which  center  on  the  Lord’s  Supper   and  recalling  these  words  of  Jesus.

This  Maundy  Thursday,  my  emphasis  in  prayer  has  become  more  focused,  more  clear.  I   don’t  want  to  simply  consider  Jesus’  command;  I  also  want  to  consider  his  prayer.  Jesus’   command  is  that  we  love  one  another  in  the  same  way  that  he  has  loved  us.  Obedience  to   this  command  will  result  in  the  world  knowing  that  we  are  his  disciples.  

Yes,  our  love  for   one  another  in  the  body  of  Christ  is  missional  in  nature.  

While  the  church  gathers  annually  to  remember  Jesus’  command,  she  lives  daily  with  little   regard  for  his  prayer.  What  prayer?  The  prayer  he  prayed  shortly  after  giving  this  command:

I  ask  not  only  on  behalf  of  these,  but  also  on  behalf  of  those  who  will  believe   in  me  through  their  word,  that  they  may  all  be  one.  As  you,  Father,  are  in  me   and  I  am  in  you,  may  they  also  be  in  us,  so  that  the  world  may  believe  that   you  have  sent  me.  The  glory  that  you  have  given  me  I  have  given  them,  so   that  they  may  be  one,  as  we  are  one,  I  in  them  and  you  in  me,  that  they  may   become  completely  one,  so  that  the  world  may  know  that  you  have  sent  me   and  have  loved  them  even  as  you  have  loved  me.  (John  17:20-­‐23  NRSV)

Jesus  prays  for  the  Church  to  fulfill  his  command  to  love  one  another.  What  will  this   fulfillment  look  like?  Unity!

Slowly,  prayerfully,  read  this  prayer  of  Jesus  again:

I  ask  not  only  on  behalf  of  these,  but  also  on  behalf  of  those  who  will  believe   in  me  through  their  word,  that  they  may  all  be  one.  As  you,  Father,  are  in   me  and  I  am  in  you,  may  they  also  be  in  us,  so  that  the  world  may  believe   that  you  have  sent  me.  The  glory  that  you  have  given  me  I  have  given  them,   so  that  they  may  be  one,  as  we  are  one,  I  in  them  and  you  in  me,  that  they   may  become  completely  one,  so  that  the  world  may  know  that  you  have   sent  me  and  have  loved  them  even  as  you  have  loved  me.  (John  17:20-­‐23   NRSV)

The  prayer  of  Jesus  is  regarding  the  fulfillment  of  the  command  of  Jesus.  Jesus  commands   that  we  love  one  another  in  the  same  way  that  he  has  loved  us  and  he  prays  that  we  will   fulfill  this  command  by  being  one.  Once  again  we  see  that  this  command,  this  prayer,  is   missional  in  nature.  How  will  the  world  know  that  the  Father  sent  the  Son?  Through  the   unity  of  the  body  of  Christ.  How  will  the  world  know  of  the  Father’s  love  for  the  church?   Through  the  unity  of  the  body  of  Christ.

On  this  day,  this  Maundy  Thursday,  how  unified  is  the  body  of  Christ  throughout  the  world?   Throughout  your  country?  Throughout  your  state?  Throughout  your  city?  Throughout  your   neighborhood?

I’m  guessing  that  Maundy  Thursday  continues  to  be  a  painful  day  for  Jesus!

Once  a  year,  on  this  day,  we  gather  in  our  churches  and  go  through  the  motions  of   remembering  the  command  Jesus  gave  us-­‐-­‐love  one  another.  Then  we  get  in  our  cars  and   drive  home  passing  numerous  “church  buildings”  that  often  serve  as  an  indictment-­‐-­‐we   don’t  love  one  another.  We  are  not  unified.  We  are  splintered  into  a  million  little  pieces.  

We  host  conferences  for  the  people  in  our  tribe,  in  our  denominations,  in  our  coalition. We   pat  each  other  on  the  back  and  rejoice  over  the  fact  that  we  have  correctly  understood  the   gospel  and  all  manners  of  dogma. We  appoint  ourselves  as  guardians,  sentries  charged  with   the  defense  of  “our  correct”  interpretation  of  justification.  Not  once  do  we stop to ask ourselves  about  the  implications  of  our  tribalism  in  the  One  Kingdom  of  God.  Not  once  do   we  consider  the  prayer  of  our  King,  much  less  the  command  of  our  King.  Why?  Because we conveniently redefine “love  one  another” and “be  one” and “unity” according  to  those  who   are  in  our  tribe.

I  don’t get to change  the  command  of  Maundy Thursday.  I  don’t get to change the  prayer of Maundy Thursday.

I  get to obey. I get to pray.

Maundy  Thursday  should  be  a  day  of  deep  sorrow  throughout  the  body  of  Christ.  We  have   become  Judas  and  betrayed  our  Lord.  We  didn’t  like  his  command  and  we  didn’t  like  his   prayer,  so  we  have  conspired  against  him.  We’ve  built  a  cross  that  is  made  not  of  wood,  but   of  tribes  and  coalitions.  We’ve  hung  the  body  of  Christ  and  failed  to  see  it  bleeding  in  agony   and  pain,  and  yet  continued  to  wonder  why  it  has  lost  its  power.  Can  we  be  serious?  The   body  of  Christ  has  lost  its  power  because  it’s  hung  on  the  tree  of  disunity.  

We  can  only  hope  for  Easter!