While different denominations observe Maundy Thursday in their own distinct ways, two important biblical events are the primary focus of Maundy Thursday solemnizations:
Before the Passover meal, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. By performing this lowly act of service, the Bible says in John 13:1 that Jesus “showed them the full extent of his love.” By his example, Jesus demonstrated how Christians are to love one another through humble service. For this reason, many churches practice foot-washing ceremonies as a part of their Maundy Thursday services.
During the Passover meal, Jesus took bread and wine and asked his Father to bless it. He broke the bread into pieces, giving it to his disciples and said, “This is my body, given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” Then he took the cup of wine, shared it with his disciples and said, “This wine is the token of God’s new covenant to save you–an agreement sealed with the blood I will pour out for you.” These events recorded in Luke 22:19-20 describe the Last Supper and form the biblical basis for the practice of Communion. For this reason, many churches hold special Communion services as a part of their Maundy Thursday celebrations. Likewise, many congregations observe a traditional Passover Seder meal.
Passover meal and events are found in John 13-17.
It’s common to hear from the pulpit that no one can fully appreciate the joy of Easter Sunday without experiencing the darkness of Good Friday. But the disciples would have been bewildered by both without the lesson of Holy Thursday. The day they received the command to love, had their feet washed by a king, and first understood the link between the Passover sacrifice, Christ, and the bread of life, shouldn’t be missed by any of us, even if the calendar shows a blank square.