First, as is always helpful, the mere definition and origin of the term:
“Middle English: from Old French mande, from Latin mandatum ‘mandate, commandment’, from mandatum novum ‘new commandment’” Oxford
In John chapter 13 we see this very, very important mandate:
“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.”
Now this, as much as tradition can tell us, is the mandate, the command, the rule, the law, which lays the ground for the tradition of “Maundy” (Mandate) Thursday.
The way the day was recognized in the past was by the giving of gifts to the poor, charity, acts of kindness and mercy, all in response to the teaching of Jesus, the new command, given as a kind of a culmination of all of the teaching given (and there was a lot) given on that Thursday.
But, Jesus taught a lot of things on that Thursday. He washed the disciples feet and commanded them to act the same way to others, he established the transition from the old covenant sacrament of the Passover to the new covenant sacrament of the Lord’s Supper (communion with bread and wine), he commanded Judas, filled with the spirit of Satan, to go and do quickly the betrayal of Jesus that he had in his heart; he commanded the Apostles that the greatest among them must be the servant of all of them, he commanded them to not sleep, but to watch a pray…
So many things, and with such depth and utter clarity, not as in many of the previous teachings that were became clear only through time. Here we have Jesus teaching the significance of his life death and resurrection, just one day shy of Good Friday.
And on Good Friday, he dies for all those he came to save, fulfilling a very important part of his intended plan for the salvation of his church.
Here are a few sections of the Bible to read and consider:
Jesus said, Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him.
If God be glorified in him, God shall also glorify him in himself, and shall straightway glorify him.
Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you.
A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
26 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.
27 And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it;
28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
29 But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.
A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. You are those who have stood by me in my trials. And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.