Every Sunday in worship the church celebrates the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit gathers us to receive again the gifts of God that come to us through Christ, the saving Word. On several key days at the center of the church year, however, worship takes a particular shape. These central days have come to be known as the Three Days, recalling Jesus’ own words to his disciples that he would be handed over to death, and that “after three days he will rise again” (Mark 10:34). The Three Days encompass the time from Maundy Thursday evening through the evening of Easter Day. In particular, the services of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Vigil of Easter unfold in a single movement, as the church each year makes the passage with Christ through death into life.
On Maundy Thursday our Lenten observance comes to an end, and Christians around the world remember the Three Days of Jesus’ death and resurrection. On Maundy Thursday we remember Christ’s last meal with his disciples, but the central focus is his commandment that we live out the promise embodied in this meal. As Jesus washed his disciples’ feet, so we are called to give and receive love in humble service to one another. Formed into a new body in Christ through this holy meal, we are transformed by the mercy we have received and carry it into the world. In solemn silence, we anticipate the coming days.
The Lessons: Link to Maundy Thursday readings
First Reading: Exodus 12:1-4, 11-14
Israel remembered its deliverance from slavery in Egypt by celebrating the festival of Passover. This festival featured the Passover lamb, whose blood was used as a sign to protect God’s people from the threat of death. The early church described the Lord’s supper using imagery from the Passover, especially in portraying Jesus as the lamb who delivers God’s people from sin and death.
Psalm: Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19
I will lift the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD. (Ps. 116:13)
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 11:23-26
In the bread and cup of the Lord’s supper, we experience intimate fellowship with Christ and with one another because it involves his body given for us and the new covenant in his blood. Faithful participation in this meal is a living proclamation of Christ’s death until he comes in the future.
Gospel: John 13:1-17, 31b-35
The story of the last supper in John’s gospel recalls a remarkable event not mentioned elsewhere: Jesus performs the duty of a slave, washing the feet of his disciples and urging them to do the same for one other.
Holy God, source of all love, on the night of his betrayal, Jesus gave us a new commandment, to love one another as he loves us. Write this commandment in our hearts, and give us the will to serve others as he was the servant of all, your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen