Maundy Thursday and the Last Supper

A stained glass image of the last supper.

Maundy Thursday, also known as Holy Thursday, Great Thursday, or Sheer Thursday, is celebrated on the Thursday during Holy Week before Easter in March or April. Maundy Thursday commemorates the Last Supper and Jesus Christ’s washing of his disciples’ feet before giving the new commandment and is followed by Good Friday

The English Word Maundy

The definition of Maundy is: a ceremony of washing the feet of the poor on Maundy Thursday.

The English word Maundy comes from the Latin word ‘mandatum’ meaning ‘commandment’ and likely refers to the instructions of the Lord on the night of his betrayal.

Holy Week

  • Palm Sunday, commemorates Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. 
  • Maundy Thursday remembers the Passover feast known as the Last Supper and Jesus’ institution of the Eucharist (also known as the Holy Communion, or the Lord’s Supper). 
  • Good Friday is a day of mourning and reflection on Jesus’ crucifixion.
  • Holy Saturday is a day of waiting and anticipation, as Christians reflect on Jesus’ death and prepare for His resurrection. 
  • Easter Sunday is the joyful celebration of Jesus’ Resurrection from the dead on the third day. This event is the foundation of The New Testament and the Christian faith, and we rejoice and give thanks to God for His great love and mercy.
A list describing Holy Week that reads, from top-to-bottom, "He enters Jerusalem - Palm Sunday." Then "The Last Supper - Maundy Thursday." Then "The Crucifixion - Good Friday." Then "He Lies in the Tomb - Holy Saturday." And finally "He has risen - Easter Sunday."

Maundy Thursday is observed in many different ways around the world, but one common practice includes eating a simple meal of bread and wine as an act of remembrance. Some may also partake of the Passover Seder. 

What is the Passover Seder

The Passover Seder is an important ritual that is observed annually by Jews. The Seder is celebrated on the first night of Passover, which is a festival that celebrates the Jewish people’s liberation from slavery in Egypt. The name “Seder” means “order” and refers to the specific order of events that are followed during the ritual.

This relates to the Last Supper as it is widely believed the Last Supper was a Passover meal.

A man washing someone's foot.

The Foot Washing Ceremony

Did you know that the act of washing someone’s feet is a sign of humility and service? It’s something that the Lord did for his disciples during the Last Supper, and it’s a tradition that is still observed today. 

Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

John 13:3-5, ESV

Jesus washed the feet of his disciples as a display of His humility and servanthood, this stunned his disciples as they believed they should have been the ones washing his feet. However, this is also a symbolic representation, by washing the feet of his disciples, he is also washing away their sins. A reminder that even if we achieve salvation through justification by faith, our journey is not over and we must still allow ourselves to be purged of sin.

An image emphasizing the crown of thorns sitting on a wooden table.

What is the significance of the Last Supper for Christians?

The Last Supper is significant for Christians because it was the last meal that Jesus had with his disciples before he was crucified. In the Bible, Jesus says that the bread and wine are his body and blood, and that they will be eaten in memory of him. This sacrament, known as Communion, the Eucharist, or the Lord’s Supper, is a symbol of the Christian faith. For Christians, the Last Supper is a reminder that Jesus Christ died for their sins and that they can have eternal life through him.

Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

Matthew 26:26-29, ESV

The New Commandment

After washing feet, the Gospel tells us Jesus Christ gave his disciples the new commandment to “love one another.” This is the second greatest commandment after “loving God.” The new commandment to love one another is significant because it shows us how we are to live our lives as Christians. We are called to love others, even our enemies. This is not always easy, but it is what Jesus commands us to do.

Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

John 13:33-35, ESV

Maundy Thursday Celebrations around the world

Around the world, we observe Maundy Thursday in many different ways. In some countries, it is a day of fasting and prayer. In others, it is a day of celebration and remembrance. Many churches and Christians have special Maundy Thursday services, including: 

  • Taking part in traditional processions or foot-washing ceremonies 
  • Spending time in private reflection and contemplation 
  • Choosing to give up certain foods or habits for the day as a form of self-denial
  • Making a point of performing acts of service, such as helping those who are less fortunate

For example, in Spain, there is a traditional procession through the streets in which people carry statues of Jesus and the Virgin Mary. In Italy, special bread known as “pane di Pasqua” is baked for the occasion. And in the Philippines, people often visit many Christian churches while praying.

When is Maundy Thursday 2024

Maundy Thursday falls on Thursday, March 28th, 2024.

Final Thoughts

Maundy Thursday is a significant day in the Christian calendar, commemorating Jesus’ Passover meal with his disciples. It is a time for Christians to reflect on Jesus’ sacrifice and teachings. There are several traditions associated with Maundy Thursday, such as attending special church services, giving up certain foods or habits for the day, or performing acts of service. Regardless of how it is observed, Maundy Thursday is a day of significance for Christians all over the world.

Maundy Thursday is an opportunity for Christians to remember Jesus’ washing of his Disciples feet, and the sacrifice he made shortly after. To recommit themselves to following Christ’s example.

And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!”

Luke 22:19-22, ESV


For the sake of clarity, Catholicism is the largest denomination of Christianity. While we generally try to speak of the Christian experience in our articles from a non-denominational perspective, Holy Week is celebrated by both Catholics and Christians, but predominately by Catholics. A non-denominational church may not celebrate Holy Week the same way a Catholic church might, but the themes and purpose of Holy Week are core beliefs of the Christian faith and important to recognize.