On this page you will find prayers, songs, scripture readings, and questions for personal reflection to help you commemorate and celebrate Maundy Thursday.
Maundy Thursday gets its name from the Latin word for commandment and has been given that name because on the Thursday night before Jesus died he gave his followers what he called a “new commandment,” that they should love one another as he loved them (John 13:34).
Maundy Thursday commemorates the last evening that Jesus spent with his followers before his crucifixion and death. In it we are invited to experience the profound closeness that Jesus’ first followers shared with Jesus as he served them their last meal together before this death and washed their feet as a sign of his humility love. But we are also invited to bear witness to the profound loneliness of Jesus on this night as he alone could see how the night and next day would unfold. In seeing Jesus battle with loneliness we can know his presence with us in our own solitude.
If you are in a group, choose someone to lead the prayers and readings (unbolded parts) and the rest will respond in unison (bolded parts). You may want to divide up responsibilities for the prayers, readings and spiritual exercises. If you are on your own, feel free to simply read through the liturgy at prayerful pace that is comfortable for you.
Call to Worship
Jesus said, “I am the light of the world; whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8.12)
Stay with us, Lord, for evening draws on,
and the day is almost over. (Luke 24.29)
O Lord, I call to you; come to me quickly;
Hear my voice when I cry to you.
Let my prayer be set forth in your sight as incense,
The lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.
The Lord is our light and our life:
O come, let us worship.
Song – ‘Love Divine All Loves Excelling’
Let us pray…
Blessed are you, gracious God,
creator of heaven and earth;
we give you thanks and praise
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who for our salvation
became obedient unto death.
The tree of defeat
has become the tree of victory:
where life was lost,
life has been restored.
Give us grace and courage
to follow the way of Jesus
and to find in him the source
of all our hope and joy.
Help us to walk with him to Calvary
that we may be raised to life with him in glory
and bring your love to all who suffer,
that with us they may praise you
for all your goodness and your love.
We ask this in the name of Jesus
our Saviour and our Lord.
The Proclamation of the Word
In our first reading God has been trying to convince Pharaoh to let the Israelites leave Egypt and slavery behind, but Pharaoh has refused. In response to the Egyptian king’s hardness of heart, God has assailed the land of Egypt with nine plagues and still Pharaoh remains unmoved. He refuses to let God’s people go and refuses to acknowledge the supremacy of Israel’s God. And so, the Lord announces to his servants Moses and Aaron that he will send a final plague from which his people shall be protected and through which they shall be set free.
A reading from EXODUS 12:1-4,11-14
The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: 2 This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you. 3 Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household. 4 If a household is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join its closest neighbour in obtaining one; the lamb shall be divided in proportion to the number of people who eat of it.
11 This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the passover of the Lord. 12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals; on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgements: I am the Lord. 13 The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.
14 This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.
Want some more background on what you’ve just read and how it fits into the bigger story of God and his people? Check out the video below from Bible Project.
Psalm 116:1, 10-17
This psalm is a song of thanksgiving which praises God for hearing the prayers of his servants in distress.
I love the Lord, because he has heard the voice of my supplication, because he has inclined his ear to me whenever I called upon him.
How shall I repay the Lord for all the good things he has done for me?
I will lift up the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord.
I will fulfil my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people.
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his servants.
O Lord, I am your servant; I am your servant and the child of your handmaid; you have freed me from my bonds.
I will offer you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call upon the name of the Lord.
will fulfil my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people,
In the courts of the Lord’s house, in the midst of you, O Jerusalem. Hallelujah!
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever.
Song – ‘Be Still for the Presence of the Lord’
In our gospel reading Jesus is in Jerusalem for Passover, the annual celebration of the day God saved the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt. Jesus is there with his disciples and gathers with them to share the Passover meal. And yet, even in the midst of his friends and followers, Jesus is profoundly alone. He alone knows how the night and next day will unfold and that those who are closest to him will betray and abandon him.
The Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Matthew, chapter 26, verses 17-56.
Glory to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
On the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, ‘Where do you want us to make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?’ 18 He said, ‘Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, “The Teacher says, My time is near; I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.”’ 19 So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover meal.
20 When it was evening, he took his place with the twelve; 21 and while they were eating, he said, ‘Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.’ 22 And they became greatly distressed and began to say to him one after another, ‘Surely not I, Lord?’ 23 He answered, ‘The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.’ 25 Judas, who betrayed him, said, ‘Surely not I, Rabbi?’ He replied, ‘You have said so.’
26 While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’ 27 Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you; 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.’
30 When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
31 Then Jesus said to them, ‘You will all become deserters because of me this night; for it is written,
“I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.”
32 But after I am raised up, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.’ 33 Peter said to him, ‘Though all become deserters because of you, I will never desert you.’ 34 Jesus said to him, ‘Truly I tell you, this very night, before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.’ 35 Peter said to him, ‘Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.’ And so said all the disciples.
36 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 He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and agitated. 38 Then he said to them, ‘I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me.’ 39 And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.’
40 Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, ‘So, could you not stay awake with me one hour? 41 Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.’ 42 Again he went away for the second time and prayed, ‘My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.’ 43 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.
45 Then he came to the disciples and said to them, ‘Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.’
47 While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; with him was a large crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. 48 Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, ‘The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him.’ 49 At once he came up to Jesus and said, ‘Greetings, Rabbi!’ and kissed him. 50 Jesus said to him, ‘Friend, do what you are here to do.’ Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and arrested him.
51 Suddenly, one of those with Jesus put his hand on his sword, drew it, and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear. 52 Then Jesus said to him, ‘Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53 Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then would the scriptures be fulfilled, which say it must happen in this way?’
55 At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, ‘Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me. 56 But all this has taken place, so that the scriptures of the prophets may be fulfilled.’ Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.
The Gospel of Christ.
Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
Scripture Reflection Questions
Even while sharing the Passover meal with his disciples, Jesus is alone in a number of profound ways. He alone knows what is going to unfold later that night and into the next day. He knows that his followers and friends will leave him even more alone when they betray and abandon him.
Does Jesus’ experience of being along reveal anything to us about why our experience of being alone can be so difficult?
In the gospels we see that Jesus made being alone an important part of his spiritual rhythm. He would regularly withdraw to “lonely places” and “the wilderness” to be alone in prayer. We also know that his public ministry was preceded by an extended period of solitude and fasting in the wilderness. How does Jesus’ time praying alone in the garden of Gethsemane reflect this pattern of being alone in the rest of Jesus’ life?
What might Jesus’ time alone accomplish?
How might Jesus’ willingness and readiness to be alone help us in our times of being alone?
Consider this, However alone we may feel Jesus knows what it means to be alone. Jesus know what it is to be betrayed and abandoned by those who are closest to him, and as we see when Jesus’ cries out to God from the cross, Jesus even knows what it is to feel abandoned by God, perhaps even to a degree that we could hardly even imagine. If we’re searching for someone who understands our struggle with solitude, it can be a source of comfort to know that Jesus knows, perhaps better than anyone, what it means to be alone.
Jesus is also a model for how to win the battle of being alone. He shows us how to overcome the evil thoughts and temptations that we inevitably encounter when we are alone. He shows us how to wrestle honestly in prayer with the negative emotions that emerge when we are alone. And he models for us the surprising reality that we can encounter the presence of God in the battle of being alone.
That’s why Jesus made a habit of being alone. It was in the struggle of being alone that Jesus consistently encountered the loving presence of his Father ministering to him and cultivating in him a deeper intimacy with the ultimate source of his peace and grace and love.
But Jesus isn’t just a role model. Because of Jesus’ victory over death and the gift of the Holy Spirit, which he’s promised to everyone that places their trust in him, Jesus is able to be present to us and minister to us in our solitude and lead us through the battle of being alone in to an ever greater awareness of God’s presence and a deeper intimacy with the Father.
Affirmation of Faith
I believe in God,
the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
and born of the Virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again.
He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again
to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
An Offering of Prayer
With confidence and trust let us pray to the Lord, saying,
“Lord, hear us. Lord, graciously hear us.”
For all who are affected by the coronavirus pandemic,
through illness or isolation or anxiety,
that they may encounter your healing presence
and in you find relief and recovery:
Lord, hear us,
Lord, graciously hear us.
For those who are guiding our nation
and the nations of the world,
that they may make wise decisions
and be led by Your Spirit of compassion and truth:
Lord, hear us,
Lord, graciously hear us.
For doctors, nurses, medical researchers, and all health care workers
that through their skill and insights
many will be restored to health:
Lord, hear us,
Lord, graciously hear us.
For the vulnerable and the fearful,
for the gravely ill and the dying,
that they may know your comfort and peace:
Lord, hear us,
Lord, graciously hear us.
We commend ourselves, and all for whom we pray,
to the mercy and protection of God.
accept these prayers
for the sake of your Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
The Lord’s Prayer
Gathering our prayers and praises into one, let us pray as our Saviour taught us,
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name,
thy kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
Song – ‘He Will Hold Me Fast’
Blessed are you, O Lord our God, ruler of the universe!
You led your people Israel by a pillar of cloud by day
and a pillar of fire by night.
Enlighten our darkness by the light of your Christ.
May his word be a lamp to our feet
and a light to our path;
for you are full of loving kindness for your whole creation,
and we, your creatures, glorify you,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and for ever.
Let us bless the Lord.
Thanks be to God.
The Lord almighty grant us a quiet night and peace at the last.