by The Revd Marc Dale | Rector | Parish of Highgate
Maundy Thursday: On the night he was betrayed . . .
The Revd Marc Dale | Rector | Parish of Highgate
‘Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end’ (John 13:1). Maundy Thursday gets its name from the Latin word for mandate or command. Christ’s mandate spoken and acted out in the upper room, in Gethsemane, in Caiaphas’ house, under the Roman lash and on the cross was that his followers must love one another with the same love with which he loved them.
Jesus raised the definition of love to the highest possible standard. He sacrificially met His followers' deepest need for new life, forgiveness of sins and reconciliation to God. He loved his enemies, forgiving them from the cross. It is that quality of love which he commands us to show to those who don't seem to deserve it.
In the same way as our Lord loved sinners ‘to the end’ – to the uttermost - when he owed them nothing and had nothing to gain from them, our mandate from him is to do the same. Jesus does not love human beings because of anything attractive or loveable in us. St Paul says that ‘God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us’ (Romans 5:8). The salvation Jesus won in his passion and death is not only a spectacular gift that rescues us from the penalty that we deserve (Romans 6:23), it also gives us new life, and transforms us into his likeness:
‘For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good’ (Titus 2:11-14).
St John gives us the mandate in these words: ‘This is how God showed his love among us: he sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another’ (1 John 4:9-11).
The Maundy message is clear. Jesus loved us to the uttermost. He held nothing back even from his enemies and his betrayers. That is the standard, the mandate and the new command.