This is the fourth installment of our devotional guides, which introduces Thursday of Holy Week and the events in Jesus’s life and ministry that dovetail with this momentous day. As we’ve seen in previous posts, the events of Jesus’s final week before his death accord with each day of Passion Week in the following way:
Monday: The fig tree incident and Jesus’s cleansing of the temple courts
Tuesday: Conclusion to the fig tree incident, Jesus’s teaching in the temple courts, and the Olivet Discourse
Wednesday: Further teaching in the temple courts, continued scheming to arrest and kill Jesus
Thursday: Preparation for Passover, the Last Supper, the Farewell Discourse, betrayal and arrest at Gethsemane, and Jesus’s initial hearings
Friday: Jesus’s final hearings, sentence, crucifixion, and burial
Saturday: . . .
Thursday of Holy Week is notoriously called Maundy Thursday. Beginning the great triduum, the three days of the paschal celebration, the day gets its name from the French term mande, which translates the Latin mandatum novarum (“a new commandment”; John 13:34). In Christian tradition, the primary purpose of this day, and any services held on it, is to celebrate Jesus’s giving of the “new” commandment to love one another, a commandment given in the context of the Lord’s washing of his disciples’ feet.
As Jesus’s final full day before his crucifixion, Thursday also corresponds to much in the Gospels:
- preparation for Passover (Mark 14:12–16 and parallels [pars.]);
- Jesus’s washing of his disciples’ feet (John 13:1–20);
- his prediction of Judas’s betrayal (John 13:21–30);
- the Last Supper/Passover meal (Mark 14:17–26 pars.);
- his prediction of Peter’s denial (Mark 14:27–31 pars.);
- the Farewell Discourse (John 14:1—17:26);
- prayer, betrayal, and arrest at Gethsemane (Mark 14:32–52 pars.);
- the initial hearing before Annas (John 18:12–14, 19–23);
- the trial before the Sanhedrin (Mark 14:53–65 pars.);
- and Peter’s denial (Mark 14:66–72 pars.).
Note that most of these events have parallels in the other Gospels. John, though, is the only one to include the foot-washing episode, the prediction of Judas’s betrayal, the Farewell Discourse, and the initial hearing before Annas.
Again, like Tuesday, there is a lot of reading material for today. We suggest either reading only the material from Mark (i.e., 14:12–72) or dividing the reading, including the material from John, into two sittings: the first five events above in the morning (in order: Mark 14:12–16; John 13:1–30; Mark 14:17–31); and the last five in the evening (in order: John 14:1—17:26; Mark 14:32–52; John 18:12–14, 19–23; Mark 14:53–72).
We conclude with a prayer from the Revised Common Lectionary Prayers:
God of the covenant,
as we celebrate the beginning of the paschal feast,
we come to the table of the Lord
in whom we have salvation, life, and resurrection.
Renew the power of this mystery
in our service to one another and to you,
so that with Christ we may pass from this life
to the glory of your kingdom. Amen.
 Robert E. Webber, “An Introduction to the Maundy Thursday Service,” in The Services of the Christian Year, vol. 5 of The Complete Library of Christian Worship, ed. Robert E. Webber (Nashville: Star Song, 1994), 317.