As Jesus and his disciples celebrate Passover, and nothing about the table was out of the ordinary. The disciples recognized the very symbolic meal that reviewed God’s rescue mission when the Jews were slaves of Egypt. Scripture says that “[Jesus] took his place at the table.” (Luke 22:14)
What place was it? He acted as the host, the one who broke the bread and shared the cup. Jesus used the meal to prepare his disciples for what was coming. He talked about poured out blood and new covenant and betrayal.
Betrayal. That’s when the disciples did what they did best; they missed the point. They began to argue about some unwritten pecking order perhaps to prove their innocence of any betrayal. Luke called it a dispute. Jesus interrupted and taught the foundational commandment for his New Kingdom. The greatest must serve and never act as greater than anyone else.
This is where we get the name for Maundy Thursday. Maundy comes from the Lain word mandatum, very similar to our word mandate or commandment.
So today is “Mandate Thursday.” It is the day when Jesus made very clear the mandate of his kingdom. It wasn’t about status, control, or popularity. It was about servanthood, and he demonstrated this mandate. Jesus removed his outer tunic, something completely inappropriate at a public gathering. He wrapped a towel around his waist and picked up the water basin. There was no question what he looked like. He looked like a servant.
The disciples sat stunned, confused and maybe a little annoyed that the house servant where they were eating was playing hooky. Before they could complain, Jesus was on his knees washing dirty, calloused, smelly feet, one of the most menial tasks a servant had to perform.
No teaching impacts like personal demonstration. Show don’t tell.
That’s what Jesus did. He made sure that the disciples knew what his place at the table was; it was the role of servant. He had no place for anyone who wasn’t willing to fill that role.
Do you know your place at the table? Do you know who Christ invites you to serve? Usually, the ones Christ calls you to serve aren’t far away. We can’t ignore the fact that the ones Jesus served first, ate with him, traveled with him, and shared life with him daily.
On this Mandate Thursday, we should do the same.
Scripture to guide your way to the cross . . .
In this world the kings and great men lord it over their people . . . But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant. Luke 22:25-26