Maundy Thursday (also called Holy Thursday) is always the Thursday before Easter (during Holy Week). The worship service is historically part of the Easter Triduum, a three-part worship service that begins with Maundy Thursday, continues with Good Friday, and ends with the Easter Vigil (a Saturday service that takes place as the sun sets the evening before Easter). As a three-part worship service, the Maundy Thursday service begins with an invocation, but normally does not include a benediction. Likewise, the Good Friday and Easter Vigil services normally do not include an invocation, and only the Easter Vigil service includes a benediction, completing the Easter Triduum.
Maundy Thursday commemorates the Last Supper as Jesus celebrated the Passover with His disciples the evening before the crucifixion. The Passover has its beginnings in Exodus 12 when the Israelites were slaves in Egypt. The Israelites were instructed to sacrifice an unblemished male lamb. Blood from the lamb was to be placed on their doorposts, and for those who complied, the tenth and final plague striking down all the firstborns would pass over their home and they would be spared. The lamb was also to be roasted and, along with unleavened bread, provided their final meal before leaving Egypt. As a reminder of this, the Israelites annually celebrated the Passover.
The term “Maundy” is connected to John 13:34, where Jesus says, “A new commandment I give to you: Love one another. Even as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” The Latin for “commandment” is “mandatum,” which is where we also get the word “mandate.” Shortly before this new command (or mandate), Jesus washed the disciples feet, demonstrating love, service, and humility. Jesus also instituted the Lord’s Supper, saying: “Take, eat; this is My body, which is given for you. This do in remembrance of Me. Drink of it, all of you; this cup is the new testament in My blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”
After the resurrection of Jesus, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 5, “Christ our Passover has been sacrificed.” Paul reaffirms the presence of Jesus in the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians 10:16, saying, “Is not the cup of blessing that we bless a participation in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?” On Maundy Thursday and every time we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, we are reminded that Jesus is our Passover Lamb present in this sacrament who in love willingly sacrificed Himself for us, shedding His blood on the cross for our forgiveness.