Like millions of Christians around the world, we will have a Maundy Thursday service tonight. If you’ve never heard the term, it’s not Monday-Thursday (which always confused me as a kid), but Maundy Thursday, as in Mandatum Thursday. Mandatum is the Latin word for “command” or “mandate”, and the day is called Maundy Thursday because on the night before his death Jesus gave his disciples a new command. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34).

At first it seems strange that Christ would call this a new command. After all, the Old Testament instructed God’s people to love their neighbors and Christ himself summarized the law as love for God and love for others. So what’s new about love? What makes the command new is that because of Jesus’ passion there is a new standard, a new example of love.

There was never any love like the dying love of Jesus. It is tender and sweet (13:33). It serves (13:2-17). It loves even unto death (13:1). Jesus had nothing to gain from us by loving us. There was nothing in us to draw us to him. But he loved us still, while we were yet sinners. At the Last Supper, in the garden, at his betrayal, facing the Jewish leaders, before Pontius Pilate, being scourged, carrying his cross, being nailed to the wood, breathing his dying breath, forsaken by God-he loved us.

To the end.

To death.

Love shone best and brightest at Calvary.

Christ was all anguish that I might be all joy, cast off that I might be brought in, trodden down as an enemy that I might be welcomed as a friend, surrendered to hell’s worst that I might attain heaven’s best, stripped that I might be clothed, wounded that I might be healed, athirst that I might drink, tormented that I might be comforted, made a shame that I might inherit glory, entered darkness that I might have eternal life.My Saviour wept that all tears might be wiped from my eyes, groaned that I might have endless song, endured all pain that I might have unfading health, bore a thorned crown that I might have a glory-diadem, bowed his head that I might uplift mine, experienced reproach that I might receive welcome, closed his eyes in death that I might gaze on unclouded brightness, expired that I might for ever live. (The Valley of Vision, “Love Lustres at Calvary”)

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5 thoughts on “Commandment Thursday”

  1. Dean says:

    Nice explanation.

    We know it already in many respects but when I sat in church last night I was reminded anew of my undeservedness & Christ’s great love at great cost.

    The reminder & command to go and do likewise with the blessing & work of the spirit is a challenge to my self centredness in order that I may grow up in grace in God’s family.

  2. neville briggs says:

    KDY writes. ” Jesus had nothing to gain from us by loving us. There was nothing in us to draw us to him.”

    How could anyone have the knowledge about God’s thoughts and intentions in order to make such a statement ?
    In the parable of The Prodigal Son, that is exactly the challenge that the elder son puts up to the father, that there is nothing to gain by receiving the wayward son. The father’s answer is ” My son was dead but is alive again he was lost and is found ” A celebration follows.
    The parable of The Lost Sheep ends with the angels in heaven celebrating the return of the sinner who repents.

    Twice in Mr De Young’s words , he uses the term “nothing”. ” God has nothing to gain “, ” There was nothing in us ” Where does the Bible teach that people are nothings. Does the Lord and the angels celebrate over nothings.

    It is a wonderful message on Easter to take notice of Jesus’ command to love one another as He loved us, but we cannot possible know what God gains or doesn’t gain from loving us. The Bible says somewhere ; who can know the mind of the Lord, who can fathom God’s infinite and transcendent love. If God gains nothing from loving us, why does the bible tell us about God’s grief and Jesus weeping over the lost.

    It is Jesus surpassing love at the cross that draws us ( Jesus said it would ). Surely the cross was not there for nothingness.

    I hope Mr KDY has all the blessings of the Easter festival.

  3. Dean says:

    The prodigal son supports KDY’s post I would say, also the good samaritin. Humanity is spiritually dead & pretty ugly as far as our hearts go.But getting off track with various texts & jumping around the Bible distorts the context of the article on John 13.

    It is out of sheer undeserving Grace that He bestows the cloak, ring & sandals upon us then celebrates with a fattened calf. Apart from Him we truly are lost or nothing. Empty, groaning & never satisfied. The angels celebrate because of a rescue, what was nothing becomes something beautiful, something good. Beauty for ashes.

  4. neville briggs says:

    I hoped that looking at the parables of the “prodigal son” and “the lost sheep” would illustrate undeserved grace and God’s relationship to those He has created in His image.
    If we are to obey Jesus’ command to love as He loves then these parables show clearly how He loves.

    We notice that in the story of the prodigal son, the son starts to make his rehearsed speech about being undeserving and the father brushes that aside and goes straight to the celebration.

    I stand with Mr KDY in receiving and celebrating God’s unmerited grace.

    The Bible tells us that we are created in God’s image. As distorted as that image can become in sin and rebellion, I cannot find in the Bible any words that makes the image of God into a nothing. John the Baptist said that if it was only a matter of God creating children, He could create children out of stones. No, God seeks and saves people made in His image, not nothings, like stones.

    Can’t we just remind ourselves at Easter to take hold of the gracious relationship with God, in thanksgiving and joyfulness. Is there any need to ” beat ourselves up ” over our supposed nothingness or unworthiness. I think there is a danger in that attitude ; of throwing God’s grace back in His face as if we know better than God what is of worth and what is not of worth in His eyes.
    The writer of the letter to the Hebrews tells us to approach the Throne of Grace boldly.
    And does not the Bible enjoin us not to look backwards but to go forward.
    The apostle Paul emphatically tells us to rejoice.

    Sorry if I am disjointed and unsystematic in my comments. I am not a professional theologian.

  5. Dean says:

    Hi Neville,
    I dont think it has anything to do with being a pro theologian or about beating ourselves up. Yes we are made in the image of God (Pre fall). But that isnt what the article is about. Yes Paul calls us to rejoice because although wretched sinners deserving judgement because of our rebellious hearts Christ comes in & smashes the curse.

    Yes the Bible calls us to look forward but also to remember what Christ has done by having the supper & studying the Scriptures to marvel & take heed of redemption history, In revelation Jesus doesnt address the churches like, dudes(sorry) it doesnt matter, just keep looking forward, dont worry be happy…thats just as dangerous

    Its why we rejoice, not rejoicing for the sake of rejoicing…but because we were lost but now am found, we were nothing but now in Christ we are objects of God’s love(new creations). I dont want to seem to be picky but mixing topics & contexts can create confusion.Its good to disect things to see how they all fit together, it can bring greater clarity in the long run.

    Its good to hear an honest prognosis I would say regarding our spiritual condition. Sin would prefer flattery but we really are in a miserable position as a human race, totally lost in our sin with no way out & no way back to fellow ship with God. Only because Christ stepped into our nothingness taking on flesh & bone so we can be fully redeemed & begin anew to walk in holiness with God & one another.

    I appreciate what you are saying(even though it frustrates me a little), the Bible is a big book with many concepts that change & merge depending on the historical unfolding of God’s plan of salvation. I think the Baptists follow five dispensations while the Reformers understand a covenant of Grace that spans the entire timeline. Things can get blurry in our minds so frame works & systems can be a good way of moving our understanding forwards instead of going round in circles. Some people lift up a bonnet & go whats all that, others see the different mechanisms of design & purpose & how it all fits together & many of us are in the middle I spose. Thanks for sharing, Happy Easter

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Kevin DeYoung

Kevin DeYoung is senior pastor of University Reformed Church (PCA) in East Lansing, Michigan, near Michigan State University. He and his wife Trisha have six young children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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