Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday Devotion

Matthew 26:17-75; Mark 14:12-72; Luke 22:7-62; John 13:1-38

​The events of Maundy Thursday take place in a Jerusalem Upper Room. Jesus and his disciples would share one final meal together. Luke’s gospel gives a more extensive description of the Last Supper than any other writer, including Matthew and Mark. Luke’s account is even more lengthy than Paul’s description in 1 Corinthians 11. Notice what Luke says in 22:17 and pay attention to the frequency of the word “cup”.

17Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks, he said, “Take this and share it among yourselves. 18For I tell you, from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19And he took bread, gave thanks, broke it, gave it to them, and said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20In the same way he also took the cup after supper and said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you” (Luke 22:17-20, CSB)

It is important to note that Luke gives us details that other writers of Scripture do not. Luke speaks not just of one cup, but two cups (22:17; 22:20). The customary Passover meal required one cup before the breaking of bread (v.17) and another cup after the breaking of bread (v.20). Why is that? The answer is beautiful when you know the customs, traditions, and order of the Passover meal. The cup mentioned in verse 17 was the first of the traditional four cups taken during the Passover Meal.

Each year Jewish families celebrated Passover together. The Passover commemorated that special time in Israel’s history when God spared the people from judgement due to a blood substitute placed over the doorway of each home. We find this in Exodus 12. Now, back to that whole Passover meal custom. Each Passover, there were at least nine rituals that families performed as part of the official Passover meal.

1. First, there was a blessing over the meal, followed by families drinking the first cup (cf. Luke 22:17).

2. Next, as food was placed on the table, the youngest son would ask a question to his father: “Why is this night different from other nights?” The father would answer the son by retelling the story of the Exodus in order to remind his family how God delivered the Israelites out of Egypt.

3. Then, the family would praise God for his faithfulness by singing Psalm 113-114.

4. Subsequently, the unleavened bread was blessed, broken, and distributed. Bread was viewed as a special gift from God. Jews pulled bread apart with their hands because they thought it was not reverent to cut the bread with a knife. The bread had to be unleavened, as leaven was associated with sin.

5. Later, the family would drink the second cup (cf. Luke 22:20).

6. Thereafter, the Passover meal would be eaten by the family.

7. Afterwards the family would drink a third cup (cf. Matthew 26:29).

8. Next, the family would offer praises to God by singing Psalm 116-118.

9. Finally, at the very end of the meal, the family would drink a fourth cup and read Exodus 6.

Jesus and his disciples would have followed this Passover custom in the Upper Room. Interestingly, we do not find this fourth and final cup in the Lord’s Supper on Maundy Thursday. The disciples did not drink the “fourth cup” as was the Passover custom. That is significant. Why? The answer is found in Matthew 26:29.

Jesus says, “I will not drink of the fruit of the vine new until God’s kingdom” (Mt. 26:29).

The good news is that one day, we will gather around his table, in his kingdom, and he will drink the fourth cup with us. The disciples partook of the first three cups in the Upper Room, but Jesus saved the final cup for us. His promise is that one day he will fully and finally take us as his people. Isn’t that what he promised in John 14:2-4?

“In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? 3If I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself, so that where I am you may be also. 4You know the way to where I am going” (John 14:2-4, CSB).

Our Savior’s soon awaited deliverance is symbolized in the Last Supper. Read Exodus 6:6-8 that spells out the four promises related to the four cups.