The week leading up to Easter is sometimes called Passion Week, and no wonder: the fervor of God is on full display.
His fervor against evil and for good.
His fervor against sin and for righteousness.
His fervor against hate and for love.
Three days before Easter, we come to Maundy Thursday. “Maundy” comes from the Latin word “mandatum,” meaning command, order, or commission. (And do you see our English word “mandate” as well?)
What is being commissioned here is the “new commandment” Jesus gave His disciples after He washed their feet:
“Just before the Passover Feast, Jesus knew that the time had come to leave this world to go to the Father. Having loved his dear companions, he continued to love them right to the end. So he got up from the supper table, set aside his robe, and put on an apron. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the feet of the disciples, drying them with his apron. ‘You address me as ‘Teacher’ and ‘Master,’ and rightly so. That is what I am. So if I, the Master and Teacher, washed your feet, you must now wash each other’s feet. I’ve laid down a pattern for you. What I’ve done, you do. I’m only pointing out the obvious. A servant is not ranked above his master; an employee doesn’t give orders to the employer. Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other'” (from John 13 MSG).
The Latin word “mandatum” that gives us “Maundy Thursday” reminds me of another Latin word: “manus,” meaning “hand.” (Think of our English words manipulate, manual, and manicure.) “Mandatum” and “manus” are not related, but I’m fascinated by the connection I see between them as it pertains to Jesus the Servant: His command (His “mandatum”) was to love as He loved, to do as He did, to serve as He served—and so often, Jesus loved and did and served with His hands.
With His hands, He healed: “Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly” (Mark 8:25 NIV).
With His hands, He blessed: “And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them” (Mark 10:16 NIV).
With His hands, He confirmed: “He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.’ When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet” (Luke 24:38-40 NIV).
And with His hands, He holds: “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28 NIV).
Today, on this Maundy Thursday, we see the Servant’s hands, washing His disciples’ feet. May we also hear His voice, giving us a new command:
“Be my feet, and go. Be my hands, and serve.”