What to Expect at the Maundy Thursday Service (And Why It’s My Favorite Church Service of the Year)

When I was in high school, I babysat for one of our pastor’s children. I always enjoyed the conversation with him and his wife because neither of them talked down to me about truth but spoke about theological truths, difficulties of the life, and our Christian faith as if I was an equal, not someone to talked down to in simple terms. 

On particular conversation during Holy Week led to them asking if I was going to attend the Maundy Thursday service. I may have attended in the past with my family but typically, Good Friday and Easter Sunday took front and center of our celebrations and I had put very little thought into Maundy Thursday (The pastor and his wife graciously corrected my mispronunciation of “Monday” Thursday by simply repeating the name and telling me of its origin instead of calling me our directly.) 

Despite my reservations, their insistence that Maundy Thursday was their favorite service of the year led me to walk into the Church on that Thursday evening and see what all the fuss was about and why this service had impacted them both so much.

Despite my reservations, their insistence that Maundy Thursday was their favorite service of the year led me to walk into the Church on that Thursday evening and see what all the fuss was about and why this service had impacted them both so much.

I had no idea what to expect at my first Maundy Thursday service but it's rich symbolism quickly led to it becoming my favorite serice of the year. #holyweek #maundythursday Click To Tweet

I had no idea what to expect at a Maundy Thursday service. I was still in my Easter and Christmas phase of celebrating the Church Calendar. I may have given something up for Lent a handful of times but it was more of an excuse to commit myself to a new diet idea than to discipline myself through fasting. But walking into Maundy Thursday was a turning point, a reminder that there deep Biblical truths that we have forgotten to remind ourselves of through celebration and commemoration. 

Good Friday is a somber service, but it is expected to be so. Maundy Thursday is startling, it draws us into the night of Christ’s betrayal, an evening that began with dinner around a table with close friends and ended with sweating blood in extreme anxiety, experiencing deep betrayal by a friend, and walking forward willingly to enduring a torturous death. 

The Maundy Thursday services I’ve been to have always followed a similar pattern. It begins in an upbeat, if not joyous manner, much like Jesus and His disciples would have had as they sat down to celebrate God’s provision in delivering their ancestors from the bondage of slavery. 

Setting the stage, remembering the context in which Jesus offered up His life was the celebration of the people of God sacrificing a pure lamb and watching as His enemies were swallowed up and His people walked safely into freedom and victory. 

As Christ walked into that place, to sacrifice for us and free us from the bondage of sin, we are reminded of its foreshadowing in the book of Exodus. 

That Thursday evening service reminded me of the great context of God’s provision in which led into Good Friday and in which Christ offered up the bread and the wine, telling of the body and blood that would be broken and shed for us. 

That Thursday evening service reminded me of the great context of God’s provision in which led into Good Friday and in which Christ offered up the bread and the wine, telling of the body and blood that would be broken and shed for us.

I’ve been in services that start with singing and services in which we all share a Passover meal. The beginning of the services I’ve been to have varied. Typically, the Lord’s Support is celebrated at some point in commemoration of its institution that night. Some services (although I have yet to experience one myself) include the priest or pastor washing the feet of the congregation as Jesus washed the feet of His disciples that night. But no matter how the services begin, Maundy Thursday services always end the same way, with a sudden turn to solitude, silence, and sorrow. 

Because while Jesus began the night surrounded by friends, it turned suddenly. 

It started with one, leaving the meal suddenly to betray Him. Then, they went to the garden of Gethsemane to pray and prepare Him for what was to come. Jesus asked His friends to keep vigil, praying with Him, but they couldn’t even last the house and fell asleep when He needed their friendship the most. Ultimately, he was betrayed, arrested, and tortured alone. 

And to mark that, the services have all gotten darker, and darker, literally and figuratively. Often, the lighting is dimmed progressively and anything decorative at the front of the church is removed as a physical reminder of the cold, unwelcoming world Jesus faced as He prayed in the Garden. 

Then, we abruptly leave in silence.

Then, we abruptly leave in silence.

There is no friendly chatter outside the sanctuary, no discussions of plans or well-wishes. Instead, leave with a palpable tension of what is to come the next day. 

Maundy Thursday, remembering the Last Supper and Christ’s final hours on Earth #HolyWeek #Easter #ResurrectionSunday #GoodFriday #MaundyThursday

Maundy Thursday, remembering the Last Supper and Christ’s final hours on Earth #HolyWeek #Easter #ResurrectionSunday #GoodFriday #MaundyThursday Why Maundy Thursday is my favorite service of the year #Christian #Devotional #HolyWeek #GoodFriday #Easter #Resurrection Why Maundy Thursday is my favorite service of the year #Christian #Devotional #HolyWeek #GoodFriday #Easter #Resurrection Maundy Thursday, remembering the Last Supper and Christ’s final hours on Earth #HolyWeek #Easter #ResurrectionSunday #GoodFriday #MaundyThursday Why Maundy Thursday is my favorite service of the year #Christian #Devotional #HolyWeek #GoodFriday #Easter #Resurrection Maundy Thursday, remembering the Last Supper and Christ’s final hours on Earth #HolyWeek #Easter #ResurrectionSunday #GoodFriday #MaundyThursday Why Maundy Thursday is my favorite service of the year #Christian #Devotional #HolyWeek #GoodFriday #Easter #Resurrection Maundy Thursday, remembering the Last Supper and Christ’s final hours on Earth #HolyWeek #Easter #ResurrectionSunday #GoodFriday #MaundyThursday Why Maundy Thursday is my favorite service of the year #Christian #Devotional #HolyWeek #GoodFriday #Easter #Resurrection Maundy Thursday, remembering the Last Supper and Christ’s final hours on Earth #HolyWeek #Easter #ResurrectionSunday #GoodFriday #MaundyThursday Why Maundy Thursday is my favorite service of the year #Christian #Devotional #HolyWeek #GoodFriday #Easter #Resurrection Maundy Thursday, remembering the Last Supper and Christ’s final hours on Earth #HolyWeek #Easter #ResurrectionSunday #GoodFriday #MaundyThursday Why Maundy Thursday is my favorite service of the year #Christian #Devotional #HolyWeek #GoodFriday #Easter #Resurrection

Unlike other services, the encouragement on Maundy Thursday to go forth in silence means that there’s no moment where we try to pass the tension of the evening through small talk. The weight of all that is to come, of the excruciating night of abandonment and torture that preceded Christ’s death, sits heavily upon us. It was the first service where the weight of Christ’s sacrifice no longer seemed “out there” but truly hit home in my heart. 

Unlike other services, the encouragement on Maundy Thursday to go forth in silence means that there’s no moment where we try to pass the tension of the evening through small talk. #MaundyThursday #HolyWeek Click To Tweet

Like the pastor and his wife who had shared the impact that Maundy Thursday had on them, I walked out feeling a newfound appreciation for the Last Supper. Walking through all that Christ endured before His death on Calvary, taking the time to walk through the sudden descent from a joyous dinner with friends to betrayal and abandonment moved my heart deeply. 

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