Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos
"A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another; as I have loved you."
Those words, spoken by Jesus, is how we got the name of this day. Maundy means "mandate" or "command;" (mandatum novum = new mandate). It is on this day that Jesus gives the command to love one another. Now this command was not a new one for the disciples. They had heard this command their entire lives. After all, the original command is found in the Law (Leviticus 19:18). The difference this time was that Jesus modeled how to love others by his act of servanthood of washing the disciples feet. He made the connection of loving others with serving others.
Preparations for the Passover were made Thursday afternoon. Jesus and his disciples ate the Passover meal after sundown on Thursday, with Jesus instituting the Lord's Supper later that evening.
There are significant events that occurred in the Upper Room as they gathered for Passover:
- Jesus and his disciples celebrated Passover. This annual feast was very significant to the Jewish people as they remembered their deliverance out of Egypt. (Mark 14:12-16)
- Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper (Matt 26:26-29)
- Jesus washed his disciples feet (John 13:1-20)
- Jesus revealed his betrayer (Matt 26:20-25)
Following the events in the Upper Room, Jesus and his disciples crossed the Kidron Valley and entered a garden called Gethsemane to pray. Gethsemane was familiar to them as they often spent time there while visiting Jerusalem (cf. Luke 22:39).
Jesus spends time in the garden praying - asking God if there is any other way, other than the cross (Mark 14:35-36). He also gives an account of his earthly mission to the Father who sent him (Jn 17:1-5); he prays for his disciples (Jn 17:6-19); and he prays for you and me, concerned for our unity and love (Jn 17:20-26).
As Jesus prays, his disciples sleep. It is hard for them to stay awake. When I think about this situation, it could be easy for me to judge the disciples for falling asleep at such a critical time. But it is hard for us to stay awake, too, isn't it? I'm not talking about a physical awake - I'm talking a spiritual awake. Jesus' prayers were so intense that he needed an angel to come and strengthen him (Luke 22:43). And yet the disciples slept. The powers of this world continue to battle against Jesus and his Truth, and yet many of us sleep. We easily get drawn into the culture and temptations of our world. Our spirits want to do what is right, but our flesh is weak (Mark 14:38). We can easily fail to fulfill our calling as Christ followers merely by giving into various physical needs or desires. And so Jesus must awaken his disciples and lovingly rebuke them...and he does the same for us.
Oh Lord, may we be ever watchful. May we keep our eyes focused on you, Jesus. And when you return, may you find us "awake." May we live our lives in such a way that at the end of our time, we hear, "Well done!"
(Illustration: The Last Supper: Judas Dipping his Hand in the Dish, James Jacques Tissot (1836-1902),