Jesus’ Mandate

By Terry Weber

Those of us in The WordPlayers like words. We play with words. Sometimes, in cases when we dramatize parts of the Bible, we even play the Word. During our recent Word-a-thon, we read the Word, the entire Bible, straight through from Genesis to Revelation. It took us about 73 hours.

With all due respect to object theatre, movement-based theatre, and other forms, the theatre we love begins with the words. Maybe that’s part of the reason why John 1:1 is such an important verse to us: “In the beginning was the Word.” It isn’t difficult to figure out where our name came from!

Well, this week features one of the great weird words in the English language: Maundy. It is only used in reference to the Thursday before Easter: Maundy Thursday. Most scholars agree that it comes from the Latin word “mandatum” which is also the origin of the word “mandate.” In Middle English and Old French, there is the word “mandé,” which has roughly the same meaning as “mandate.” As English evolved, with its first known usage being in the 1400s, it became “Maundy,” an adjective reserved to describe only the Thursday before Easter. Why?

In the 13th chapter of the Gospel of John, after Jesus has washed the feet of His disciples, He gives His “mandate:” “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34 – NIV)

Of course, there are some who think the word derives from the French verb, “mendier,” meaning “to beg.” Indeed, there is a tradition in England whereby the monarch, on Maundy Thursday, distributes alms to certain poor subjects, who receive the coins in “maundy purses.”

Either origin of the word makes sense to me. Jesus modeled and spoke a mandate for me to love others. I come to Him, begging forgiveness for my sins. He reaches down to me in love, willing to wash this beggar’s feet.

Amazing love. Amazing Maundy Thursday.