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

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