Among other names, the Thursday before Easter Sunday is called, Holy Thursday, Maunday Thursday, Great and Holy Thursday and Covenant Thursday.
There are four main events that are commemorated on this day:
The Last Supper or the Lord’s Supper/The Institution of the Eucharist
The last supper is the final Passover meal that Jesus celebrated with His disciples in Jerusalem before His crucifixion.
Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” Matt 26:26
Jesus was the once and for all time fulfillment of the Passover Lamb sacrifice, atoning for the sins of man. This is where the churches’ tradition of the Eucharist or communion comes from.
And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. Matt 26:27-28
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” Jeremiah 31:31–34
The cup foreshadows the blood sacrifice of Christ, which opens the door for the redemption of all people through the new covenant relationship with God.
The Washing of the Feet
During the supper, Jesus washed the feet of His disciples, even Judas, to show His love for them and to set an example of the humility and service to others that they were to imitate. It also signified a washing away of our sins through His death.
After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing? 13 You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. 14 And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. 15 I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. 16 I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. 17 Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them. John 13:12-17
…just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ 34 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. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:33-35
Christ’s agony in the garden of Gethsemane
Jesus experiences overwhelming sorrow and anguish as He faces His crucifixion and death, and He relates this in three agonizing prayers.
Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” 37 And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” 39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” 40 And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? 41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”42 Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” 43 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44 So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. 45 Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.” Matt 26:36-46
The betrayal of Christ by Judas
While he was still speaking, there came a crowd, and the man called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He drew near to Jesus to kiss him, 48 but Jesus said to him, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” 49 And when those who were around him saw what would follow, they said, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” 50 And one of them struck the servant[a] of the high priest and cut off his right ear. 51 But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him. 52 Then Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders, who had come out against him, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? 53 When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.” Luke 22:47-53
Judas betrayed Christ with a kiss – the sign of friendship and love. The betrayal and crucifixion of Christ carried original sin to its defining moment. In these two acts the rebellion against God had reached its peak. The power of darkness, Satan, would have his hour, but darkness would give way to the Prince of light and, our Lord, omnipotent and sovereign over all creation, would be glorified.
The wicked plot against the righteous and gnash their teeth at them;
but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he knows their day is coming. Ps. 37:12-13