Maundy Thursday – The Last Supper & Betrayal of Jesus


Maundy Thursday

 What is this Day with the strange-sounding name and what does it mean?

I must admit, that I had never heard the name until well into my adult life, even though I had “grown up” in the church. I do not remember hearing it mentioned in my denomination.


The Origin of Maundy Thursday.

Maundy Thursday is the day before the three-day Easter Celebration in the Christian Church, which begins on Good Friday.

The word Maundy comes from the Latin word “mandatum”, meaning “a commandment”.

The commandment referred to here is the one given by Jesus to His Disciples during the Last Supper.

“ I give you a new commandment, that you should love one another: just as I have loved you, so you too should love one another” (John 13:34 Amplified Translation)

Maundy Thursday is also known as Holy Thursday.

In Germany, Maundy Thursday was also known as “Green Thursday”. This had nothing to do with the colour green (gruen), but because of the similarity to the German word for “grief” (Gram). Many German families would eat only green leafy vegetables as a way of showing humility on this day.


Why is Maundy Thursday so important to Christians?

Passover was due to begin the next day, the 15th day of Nissan in the Jewish Calendar. This was and still is, an important day in the Jewish Religion.

Passover was a commemoration of the event which occurred when the Children of Israel were slaves under Pharaoh in Egypt. God had warned everyone in Egypt that the first-born of every creature would die unless blood was painted on the lintel and side posts of the doors to their homes. The Israelites escaped death because they followed God’s instructions. You can read about this in the Old Testament section of the Christian Bible. (Exodus:12)

Jesus wanted to have a meal to celebrate this event with His disciples. This became known as the Last Supper. During the meal Jesus took bread, which He broke it into pieces and wine and shared them with His disciples. He instructed them to do the same whenever they met.

He said that the bread represented his body which was going to be beaten and the wine represented the blood that was going to be spilt when He was killed the next day. (Matthew 26: 26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19-20

The Last Supper – Leonardo da Vinci

This was the beginning of what is known as The Eucharist to Catholics, Anglicans and Orthodox and The Lord’s Supper or Communion in other  Protestant Churches.


Other Ceremonies on Maundy Thursday.  

Washing the Disciples Feet

At the Last Supper, Jesus taught His disciples many things. One of those was the example of “servant hood”

Jesus took a bowl of water and towel and washed and dried the feet of His disciples. They had been arguing about who was going to be the greatest in His Kingdom. He showed by example; to be great you had to serve. ( John 13:4-17)


Jesus Washes Feet of Disciples

On Maundy Thursday, in Roman Catholic Churches particularly, the priest washes the feet of twelve male parishioners as representative of the twelve apostles . In Rome the Pope washes the feet of twelve selected Cardinals.

 In England until 1689, this act was followed literally, when the King or Queen would wash the feet of the poor in Westminster Abbey. Food and clothing were also given to the poor. This was done to remind kings and rulers that, in their privileged  position, they had a responsibility to serve their subjects. This is a lesson that could be learned anew in our modern society.

Consecration of the Holy Oil

In Roman Catholic churches the “Holy Oil” used for the next year’s services and ceremonies is consecrated.

Tenebrae Service.

Although originally meant for Good Friday, some churches conduct a Tenebrae Service on Maundy Thursday evening. The word “tenebrae” is Latin for “shadows”.

The service is a solemn one, for it’s purpose is to recreate the emotional aspects of the Easter story, such as the betrayal of Jesus by Judas Iscariot, and His abandonment by His disciples.

It begins with the church candlelit. During the service, the candles are gradually extinguished until the church is in darkness, save light from what is known as the Christ Candle. Then after a reading from Psalm 22, that candle is also extinguished, but later re-lit. Here the service ends because the climax of the story  is the Resurrection on Easter Sunday

Maundy Money

Beginning in England in the 13th century during reign of Edward I,  Maundy Money was given to the poor.

Every year, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, attends a Maundy Service in one of the many cathedrals scattered around Britain. “Maundy Money” is given to selected pensioners from the local community near the Cathedral. They are chosen in recognition of their service to the church or the community

The Maundy Money is given out in red and white leather pouches. The money in the red pouch is instead of food and clothing and is the normal “coin of the realm”. The coins in the white pouches are the specially minted Maundy Coins.

From the 15th century, it has been traditional to give coins in the white pouch, related to the years of the Sovereign’s life. As she turned 85 last year, I assume the value of the coins will be 85p this year.

Queen Elizabeth II Giving Maundy Money

Yoemen of Guard Carrying Maundy Money












This day with the strange name, Maundy Thursday, teaches us many lessons.

  • We are to show the same unselfish love to our fellow-man, as that demonstrated by Jesus to His disciples.
  • If we aspire to greatness, then we need to have a “servant heart”.
  • Jesus called His disciples His ” friends”. He wants us also to be called His friends. Jesus made this possible by the ultimate sacrifice , “His Life “

            “For greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15.13)

  • Whether we will be counted among His friends, requires a personal decision by each of us.


Tomorrow is Good Friday; the day we remember that sacrifice. He died a horrible death on the Cross. An innocent and good  Man, paid the penalty for our sins.

But that was not the end of the story. Remember, ” Sunday’s a-comin’ “.

Doctor Bill


Other Posts in the series:

The Season of Lent: Tradition, Reflection and Renewal

Palm Sunday- The Triumphal Entry

Easter Bunny, Easter Eggs or Jesus

The Resurrection: Hoax or History

Palm Sunday – The Triumphal Entry


PALM SUNDAY – It’s Origin and Significance

Have you ever heard of Palm Sunday?

Do you know the significance of Palm Sunday?

Have you ever attended a Palm Sunday Service


The Origin of Palm Sunday 

Palm Sunday is one of the most important days in the Christian calendar after Christmas and Easter. It is a celebration which occurs on the Sunday before Easter and is the first day of Holy Week, the last week of the Season of Lent.

Palm Sunday apparently began to be celebrated in the early days of the Christian Church at Jerusalem around the late 4thCentury. The services consisted of prayers, the singing of hymns and the preaching of sermons by the clergy. The faithful walked to various holy sites throughout the city. The last site was the place from which Jesus ascended, believed to be The Mont of Olives.  Here the clergy read from the Gospels, the account of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem.  The children would carry palm and olive branches as the Christians returned to the city, where evening services would be held.

The celebration spread to other parts of the Christian world over the next few centuries.

By the 6th century other traditions had been adopted, including the “Blessing of the Palms” and the introduction of a morning service instead of the evening one.

In countries where it was difficult to get palms, other trees were substituted such as the Box, Yew, and Willow etc. The Day was then referred to by the appropriate name or simply “Branch Sunday”

The Palm branches are saved in many churches and burned, to provide the ash for next year’s Ash Wednesday

After adoption by the Western Christian Church in the 8th century the celebration received the Latin name “Domenica in Palmis”, which means Palm Sunday in English


The Significance of Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday commemorates the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem almost 2000 years ago to celebrate the Passover.  

This event is recorded in all the four Gospels of the New Testament 

Matthew 21:1-11     Mark 11:1-11    Luke 19:28-44    John 12:12-19


This was the fulfilment of the prophecy in the Old Testament book of Zechariah 9:9 written over 500 years before the birth of Christ

“Rejoice, O people of Zion!     

  Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem!

  Look, your King is coming to you.

  He is righteous and victorious.

 Yet He is humble, riding on a donkey – riding on a donkey’s colt.     

This was the only time recorded in the New Testament Gospels of Jesus riding an animal.

The people, by throwing down their cloaks and branches in front of Him, performed an act of homage. In times past it was a custom in the Near East to place some form of covering on the pathway in front of a person considered worthy of special honour.  I guess our modern equivalent is the Red Carpet for Heads of State.

The palm branch was a symbol of triumph and victory in Jewish tradition and is referred to as such in the Old Testament.

They also sang words from Psalm 118: 25-26:


Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!

The King of Israel “.

The word Hosanna was also significant. The word “hosanna” comes from the Hebrew word “hoshi’ana, which means “O save” or “save us”.  The Jewish people had waited for centuries for the promised “Messiah”, the One who would rescue them from oppression. They were now under occupation by the Roman Army. 

Was this Jesus the one?

The symbolism of a donkey in eastern culture was that it was an animal of peace.

Contrast this with a conquering King or General entering a city.  He would arrive riding on a horse or in a chariot with all the trappings of war. The prisoners he had captured and the booty looted would follow on behind.

Therefore Jesus showed that He was entering Jerusalem as” The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6), not as a king waging war. 


The Real Meaning of Palm Sunday.

  In Luke 9:51-56 we see the real reason for Jesus going to Jerusalem.

 Jesus kept telling His Disciple that his purpose for coming to earth was to suffer and to die. 

 They headed off  to Jerusalem believing that Jesus was going to overthrow and rescue them from the Romans, restore His ancestor David’s earthly kingdom and they were going to be  important participants in that kingdom.

In verse 46 of that same chapter we find them arguing about who was going to be the greatest.

 Obviously the people had the same idea.  

They just didn’t “get it”!   

Jesus was living to a different agenda and marching to a different drum beat!

“As the time drew near for His return to heaven, He moved steadily onward to Jerusalem with an iron will. (Luke 9:51 LBT)

The entry into Jerusalem was another step in God’s plan for the Salvation of mankind.

“Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13)

“For God loved the world so much, that He gave His only Son, so that anyone who believes in Him, shall not perish but have everlasting life. God did not send His Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it”. (John 3:16-17 TLB)

Palm Sunday , heralds the life changing events of Holy Week and Easter! Hold your breath for the unfolding drama of Redemption to come!

If this is new to you, seek out a Bible preaching church near you to discover more. Your Spiritual Health depends on it.


Doctor Bill