This Maundy Thursday service at Peace Church (CRC), Cedar Rapids, Iowa, came about after studying Nancy Guthrie’s The Lamb of God: Seeing Jesus in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, in which Guthrie notes the similarities of the Passover lamb with the Paschal Lamb, Jesus Christ. About an hour in length, the service needs a narrator, an Old Testament reader, a New Testament reader, a painter, musicians, and pastors and elders to serve communion. The props include a Christ candle, a wooden doorframe constructed in a way that it could be transformed into a cross (see illustrations), red paint in a small bowl, and “brushes” made with weeds tied together with a ribbon (have two “brushes” ready in case one falls apart).
Maundy comes from the Latin word mandatum, meaning “command.” On the night before his crucifixion, Jesus shared the Last Supper with his disciples and gave them a new commandment to “love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34).
On this Maundy Thursday, we will look at the Old and New Testament requirements of the Paschal Lamb. In the experience of darkness and silence, Christ’s eventual death is represented by the Christ candle being temporarily removed from the sanctuary. After a few minutes, the Christ candle will be brought back as a foretaste of the resurrection we will celebrate on Easter.
We bring ourselves to the table to accept the gift of Christ’s sacrifice through the sacrament of communion. You are invited to take for yourself a sufficient portion of bread and grape juice. All who profess that the sacrifice of Christ has paid for all their sins are invited to accept this sacrament with humble and hopeful hearts.
You may remain as long as you wish to reflect in the quiet of the sanctuary. When you choose to leave, please do so silently, remembering Jesus’ death and anticipating the joy of his resurrection. Your offering may be left in the baskets at the doors.
Call to Worship and God’s Greeting
Who has believed what we have heard?
And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
. . . Surely he has borne our infirmities
and carried our diseases;
yet we accounted him stricken,
struck down by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions,
crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
and by his bruises we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have all turned to our own way,
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
—Isaiah 53:1, 4–7, NRSV
Lord of life,
your Son, our Lord Jesus, is the light of the world.
As we remember how your people gathered on this night
to celebrate the Passover feast of deliverance,
kindle our hearts with the fires of your Spirit.
—LUYH 178. Faith Alive Christian Resources, 2013, © Creative Commons Attribution—NonCommercial-ShareAlike
“Man of Sorrows—What a Name” Bliss, LUYH 170, PsH 482
Jesus Is the Passover Lamb
Narrator: For our Jewish ancestors, Passover was the time to remember that mysterious, wonderful night when God freed the Hebrew people from bondage in the land of Egypt. Passover’s central figure is the lamb, whose blood was painted on the doorframes of Hebrew homes, causing the angel of death to “pass over” the homes of the faithful.
Old Testament Reader: Exodus 12:51
Narrator: For Christians, the celebration of Passover became a celebration of Jesus’ death—strange as that may sound. We celebrate with somber joy that Jesus was put to death instead of a lamb, shedding his blood to protect us from eternal death. This evening, we focus on Jesus, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
New Testament Reader: Hebrews 2:14–15
[Paint across top left of doorframe]
“When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” Watts, LUYH 175, GtG 223, SSS 163
The Lamb Without Blemish
Narrator: The lambs that were killed on that first Passover night in Egypt had to be perfect if their blood was to cause the angel of death to pass over the Israelites. So each time Passover was celebrated, the lambs that were killed needed to be without blemish.
Old Testament Reader: Exodus 12:1–5
Narrator: In the same way, Jesus needed to be perfect for his blood to save us from death. If he wasn’t perfect, his death would pay only for his own sins. But Jesus, our Passover Lamb, was without blemish—he was sinless, so his death becomes the payment for our sins.
New Testament Reader: 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 1:18–20
[Paint across top right of door frame]
“Ah, Holy Jesus, How Have You Offended” Heermann, LUYH 172, GtG 218
No Broken Bones
Narrator: For the Passover sacrifice to be effective, the lamb had to be perfect. Even his bones needed to be whole. Jesus, too, even through the crucifixion, remains the perfect, unblemished Lamb, qualified to save his people.
Old Testament Reader: Exodus 12:43–46
New Testament Reader: John 19:31–37
[Paint down top half of the doorframe’s right side]
“How Deep the Father’s Love for Us” Townend, arr. Allen
The Blood of the Paschal Lamb
Narrator: To save God’s people, blood needed to be shed; there needed to be a sacrifice. Because the wages of sin is death, someone needed to die. Back in Egypt, for the first Passover, it was a lamb who died to save God’s people. This lamb pointed to the true Lamb, the Lamb of God, whose blood was shed to save God’s people.
Old Testament Reader: Exodus 12:7–13, 21–27
[Paint down top half of of the doorframe’s left side]
“O Sacred Head, Now Wounded” Latin, LUYH 168, GtG 221, SSS 168
New Testament Reader: Hebrews 9:11–28
[Paint down the bottom half of the doorframe’s right side]
“Beneath the Cross of Jesus” Clephane, LUYH 167, GtG 216, SSS 166
Atonement through the Blood
Narrator: When Adam and Eve rebelled against God, humanity was trapped in bondage to sin. There was nothing we could do to save ourselves. The only way out of slavery was death, because death was the consequence of our sin. Blood needed to be shed if we were going to become free. But God didn’t want his people to die, so he provided a Lamb who would die in our place. Just as the Israelites were rescued through the blood of a lamb on the night the angel of death passed over their homes, the blood of Jesus was shed in place of ours to make us free from sin and death.
Old Testament Reader: Leviticus 17:11; Exodus 12:12–13
New Testament Reader: Romans 5:6–10
[Paint down the bottom half of the doorframe’s left side]
“Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed” Watts, LUYH 173, GtG 212, SSS 173
The Lamb Was Slain
Narrator: That Friday, Good Friday, was a day of celebration for the Jews—not because Jesus died, but because they remembered what God had done for them, how God rescued them from slavery in Egypt. Friday was the highlight of Passover week. Friday was the day that the lamb was slain. At 3 p.m. on Passover Day, the high priest would blow his ram’s horn, the shofar. At that moment a lamb would be killed, and the Jews, the Israelites, would pause a moment to remember God’s powerful act of salvation through the blood of the lamb.
On the day of Passover, after the shofar sounded, a family representative would take their own lamb, a special lamb designated for sacrifice, to the temple, where the family member would kill the lamb, catching its blood in a bowl. The blood was then splattered at the base of the altar, commemorating the blood by which God kept the Hebrews alive in Egypt and freed them from slavery. Afterward, the family member carried the lamb home, where it was roasted over an open fire until it was ready to eat.
The timing of the meal was important. All the preparations needed to be done by 6 p.m., when the family would gather at the table and begin the meal. Each part of the meal had meaning. Bitter herbs were used in cooking to help them remember how bitter their slavery was in Egypt. Bread without yeast was served, helping them to remember how they left Egypt so quickly they didn’t have time to wait for the bread to rise. A paste of nuts and fruits was used to symbolize the clay their enslaved ancestors used to make bricks. The most powerful reminder was the lamb itself, who gave its life so that God’s people could survive the angel of death and be freed from a life of slavery.
This was the Passover celebration, which for the Jews occurred in the first month of the year. Each celebration, every year, helped them to relive the rescue and to remember God’s faithful love and God’s power, seen in God’s actions by which they were saved from slavery.
On one particular Passover Day, the day we now celebrate as Good Friday, God performed a miracle even more powerful than freeing an entire nation from slavery. God, in Jesus, became the true Lamb, the Lamb of God who frees God’s people from slavery to sin. On this particular Passover, Jesus was killed, his blood providing a shelter for God’s people from the wages of sin, which is death.
At 3 p.m. on Good Friday, as the sound of the shofar is heard throughout the city, Jesus’ voice joins the sound as he cries out, “It is finished,” and he gives up his spirit.
In that moment, with his death, the people of God become free—free from the power of sin, free to enter the presence of God. At that moment, the moment of his death, the veil that separated God from his people was torn in two, from top to bottom. Because of what God in Jesus did, because of the blood of the Lamb, nothing stands between us and God any longer. We’re free to be with God.
Now we are free to no longer sin. Sin is no longer our master. We are slaves to righteousness, and righteousness is gentle. The Lamb of God was slain. He poured out his blood so we would no longer be slaves to sin.
Finally, we no longer have to die. As the angel of death passed over the homes with the blood of lambs on the doorposts, death—the punishment for sin—now passes over us. Jesus says, “The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die” (John 11:25–26). We live. We live forever because of the blood of the Lamb.
This is now our celebration. While we remember the power of God in our rescue from Egypt, we now celebrate our greatest rescue. While we no longer eat the Passover meal, now we eat a meal where we remember the death and the resurrection of Jesus. While we no longer eat the meat of a sacrificial lamb, spiritually we eat and drink the body and blood of Jesus, the Lamb of God who has taken away the sin of the world.
[Three helpers move the doorframe into the shape of a cross; the congregation is encouraged to stand as able.]
“Oh, to See the Dawn (The Power of the Cross)” Getty and Townend, LUYH 177
[The Christ candle is removed briefly (not extinguished) while the congregation reflects on the gift of God’s life and death. Lower the sanctuary lights as the Christ candle is removed, leaving only the lights on the cross. The Christ candle will return for our participation in the Lord’s Supper and a foretaste of the Light of Easter.]
Eating the Lamb / The Lord’s Supper
Luke 22:7–8, 13–20; 1 Corinthians 11:23–26
“Behold the Lamb” Getty and Townend, LUYH 840, SSS 675
[People come forward to the communion table. The officiating pastor holds a loaf of bread and says, “[NAME], the body of Christ, broken for you.” [PERSON] takes a portion from the bread. Elder holds juice and says, “[NAME], the blood of Christ, shed for you.” [PERSON] takes a cup of juice.]
[The following is projected on a slide during communion or printed in the worship materials:]
Reflect upon Christ’s love for you. In prayer, bring before the Lord your fears, sins, struggles, temptations, and weaknesses in the faith, and ask your Savior to conquer them through his great work on the cross.
After you have received the sacraments, you may remain and quietly meditate on Jesus’ sacrificial love for you.
Your offering may be left in the baskets at the doors. All are asked to exit silently. We will meet again on Easter morning for a joyous celebration that Jesus Christ is alive.
Doorway/Cross Building Instructions
The doorway is made of two vertical 2x4s and a horizontal 1x6.
The 2x4s are attached to base pieces with metal L brackets.
To attach the 1x6, screw four small blocks of wood to the back of the board. Drill a large hole through each woodblock and into the side of the 2x4. Slide a large bolt through the woodblock and into the 2x4 to hold up the 1x6. Position blocks to be on the inside of the 2x4s when positioned as a doorway, and on the outside of the 2x4s when positioned as a cross.
To change the doorway into a cross, remove the bolts, move the vertical pieces together, and slide the bolts back in at the lower position.