Maundy Thursday

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This page is part of the Lectionary series within the Living with Jesus Now project.


  • Exodus 12:1-4, (5-10), 11-14 & Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19
  • 1 Corinthians 11:23-26
  • John 13:1-17, 31b-35


The readings for Thursday in Holy Week focus on the character of the Lord's Supper:

  • a Christian ritual with paschal overtones
  • a commemoration of the Last Supper
  • a sacrament that celebrates our calling as disciples of the Master

First Reading: Exodus 12:1-4, (5-10), 11-14

The first reading draws on that portion of the exodus tradition that prescribes the rules for the future observance of Passover. While clearly a later projection back into the exodus narrative, the association of each and every Passover meal with the mythic events of great escape from Egypt is an essential element of the ritual. The participants think of themselves as having been present on the night of salvation, and as having been the direct recipients of divine grace.

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

Paul's account of the institution of the Lord's Supper in 1 Corinthians 11 is our earliest extant reference to the Eucharist. Having been composed by Paul in the mid-50s—and seemingly drawing on even older traditions—this version of the Last Supper story predates the Gospel accounts by at least two decades (in the case of Mark) and perhaps by 60 years or more (in the case of Luke-Acts). As we celebrate Eucharist in our contemporary Christian communities we are participating in a defining Christian ritual that can be traced back to within 20 years of Jesus' death in 30 CE.

In this ritual—which seems only to be known to the Pauline tradition within the New Testament writings—we can see the "Jesus movement" undergoing a profound transition to become the "Christ cult." Within the emerging Christian communities associated with Paul, Jesus has already become a divine figure whose devotees gather as a distinctive community (a collegium, or voluntary religious association). The "supper of the Lord" was at the centre of their religious identity, and in those ancient meals we see the beginnings of the Christian Eucharist.

Gospel: John 13:1-17, 31b-35

The gospel portions have been carefully selected to focus on the theme of loving service to one another:

  • The initial set of verses presents the story of Jesus washing his disciples' feet in an act of "servant leadership" intended to inspire a change within the group dynamics of Jesus' followers. In a totally different cultural setting, where feet rarely get soiled, the practical relevance of this gesture passes us by. In our culture, we might imagine Jesus stacking the dishwasher at the end of a pleasant evening, or even washing the dishes by hand over the protests of his embarrassed hosts.
  • The second set of verses presents us with the "great commandment"—seemingly the signature of Christianity identity within the Johannine community, as it seems also to be attested in the Johannine letters.

Jesus Database

Liturgies and Prayers

For liturgies and sermons each week, shaped by a progressive theology, check Rex Hunt's web site

Other recommended sites include:

Music Suggestions

See the following sites for recommendations from a variety of contemporary genre: