Maundy Thursday is the day we commemorate the Last Supper of Jesus with his disciples. Although only the 12 were mentioned in the Bible, there is evidence that Jesus’ female followers were also present during this final gathering. Basically, Jesus wanted one last intimate dinner with His closest friends before His death. It is no coincidence that the Last Supper coincided with the Passover, the Jewish holiday commemorating the freeing of God’s people from enslavement, because Jesus came with a New Covenant and a New Passover to free His people from sin, fear, and death.
The Passover narrative can be found in Exodus, and it recounts the events leading up to the Israelites’ freedom from their enslavement in Egypt. The story tells of ten plagues that God sent upon Egypt in an attempt to force Pharoah to free God’s people, and Pharaoh's stubbornness in refusing to let them go. For the final plague, God sent the Angel of Death to kill every firstborn male in the Egyptian region; but God promised to spare the Israelites as long as they followed specific instructions that are eerily echoed in Jesus’ Passion.
Each Israelite family was to select a year-old male “unblemished animal”, either a lamb or a goat (Jesus was a male, in the prime of his life, unblemished by sin). They were to bring the animal into their home 4 days before the arrival of the Angel (Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey 4 days before His crucifixion). The night the Angel passed over, the family was to slaughter the animal at twilight, making sure not to break any of the bones of the animal (Jesus was crucified with no bones broken; the soldiers broke the legs of the criminals around him but did not break Jesus’ because He was already dead). The family was to consume the animal in its entirety (Jesus was taken from the cross the same evening of his crucifixion, which was not customary at the time as the Romans liked to have their dead criminals on display as a warning to its people). The family must take some of the blood of the animal and mark their door, so the Angel of Death knew to “pass over” that home and not cause the eldest male child to die (Jesus, the “firstborn of many brethren” according to Romans 8, is the redemptive lamb that ensures our salvation from the Angel of Death, and his blood marking the wood of the cross also marks us who are saved).
On the night of Jesus’ last supper, He and His disciples are celebrating the victory over Pharoah, over enslavement, over death. But Jesus isn’t quite in a joyful mood. He knows that everyone’s lives are about to be turned upside down, that soon His disciples’ joy would be replaced by confusion and fear. So, during this Passover feast commemorating the slain lamb, Jesus makes one final gesture of love. He humbles Himself before His disciples, and He washes their feet. In this gesture, Jesus tells them “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34). Jesus knows that the only antidote to fear is Love. In this final gesture, He commands the disciples to keep on loving, especially when things get hard, especially when fear threatens to overcome them and everything they thought they knew. In this command, Jesus promises that the Angel of Death and Fear will pass over God’s people when they show love to one another because Love will always conquer death.