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Holy Week: Looking at traditional readings — Maundy Thursday

This week is Holy Week for Christians, the days that stretch between Palm Sunday and Easter, or Resurrection Sunday. This week we offer a look at the biblical passages dealing with traditional readings for Holy Week. Each day has up to four readings.

Today is Maundy (commandment) Thursday, or Holy Thursday.

Exodus 12:1-4 (5-10), 11-14

The Lord told Moses that he was about to strike down the firstborn of people and animals throughout Egypt and bring judgment on their gods. The only people safe from this judgment would be the Israelites who offered the instructed sacrifice and followed God’s instruction.

“It is the Lord’s Passover” [verse 11b].

“This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord — a lasting ordinance” [verse 14].

Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19

The psalmist said he knew he could depend on God to keep his word because God listened to him. For this reason he also loved God, and would make sure he kept his word to God.

“I will sacrifice a thank offering to you and call on the name of the Lord. I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people” [verses 17-18].

1 Corinthians 11:23-26

As Israelites, Jesus and his disciples observed the Passover on the night Judas betrayed him. But Jesus gave it new meaning. This is what Paul stressed — plus the new command to observe the Passover not just for how God delivered the Israelites from Egypt, but for how Jesus was about to deliver everyone who trusts in him for salvation, by being the sacrificial Lamb himself. The observance was to be done in remembrance of what had been done and in anticipation of Jesus’ second coming.

“This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me” [verse 24].

“This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me” [verse 25].

“For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” [verse 26].

John 13:1-17, 31b-35

“Maundy” is understood to mean “commandment.” Maundy Thursday is a reminder of how Jesus humbled himself at the Passover meal and as a servant washed his disciples’ feet. It was a call to humble service. At this time Jesus also told his disciples that one thing would identify them as his true disciples — love for one another.

“Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you” [verses 14-15].

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” [verses 34-35].

All passages have been reprinted from the New International Version of the Bible.