Commanded to Love

In Awe of Grace

Maundy Thursday, Year A

Maundy Thursday. Or perhaps you prefer Holy Thursday. Either fits this day. But the title you choose might depend on the emphasis you wish to provide during this act of worship.

Note to the Teacher

The keywords in this lesson are “love,” “humble,” and “Passover.” One icebreaker invites youth to follow the loving actions of our chief cornerstone, Jesus, just like they follow the leader in a guided calypso dance. Another icebreaker gives students a human knot to untangle themselves from. One option reminds us to follow the leader, Jesus. The second option kicks off our lesson on Exodus through a familiar game with a similar sounding name, “Exit-Us.” The discussion invites students to think about Jesus’ display of love through humbly washing the feet of his disciples. Jesus showed his love through actively serving others, and he commands us to do the same in a variety of ways. The activity allows youth to actively learn by putting themselves in the place of items on the Passover Seder plate. Learning about the Jewish observance of Passover from Jesus’ faith allows us to show humble love by growing in understanding of another faith connected to ours through Jesus. Students can grow in awe of the grace of God’s presence and active love that brings people who have differences together. We can follow Jesus’ humble acts of love through the stories of Easter in the next few weeks. Times are based on a fifty-minute lesson period but may be adjusted.

1. Icebreaker (5 minutes):

“Follow the Leader” or “Exit-Us”

If your group likes to move, choose the high-tech option 1. If they are more of a seated group, choose the low-tech option 2. Either way, have some fun!

Option 1: High-Tech: “Follow the Leader”

Since this lesson is about following the loving actions of our leader, Jesus, let’s follow this Soul of Calypso (SoCa) dance called “Follow the Leader.” If some don’t want to dance, they can encourage those who are dancing by clapping along to the rhythm. Encourage students by joining in yourself. For those who cannot dance, let them know that they can encourage those who are dancing. See the “Follow the Leader Dance.”

Make sure that you let everyone know they did a great job after the dance is over. Praise those brave enough to get up and dance in front of others, but also note that it is also great to clap along, offering additional rhythm for the dance! Remind youth that we follow our leader, Jesus, like we followed the leader in this dance! Way to go, everyone!

Option 2: Low Tech: “Exit-Us”

Since we’re talking about the Exodus today and some close encounters between Jesus and his disciples, this game, usually called the human knot, puts students in a close, human knot that they try to unravel themselves from. Have students stand in a circle with their shoulders touching. Then tell them to put their hands toward the middle. Students then get even closer in order to grab the hand of one person with one hand and the hand of another person with the other hand. Students should not grab the hand of the person next to them. They should not grab the same person’s hands twice (this would create a two-person loop). Students' hands should be tangled up, and everyone should be holding two people’s hands with each of their hands. Without letting go of one another’s hands, students are to untangle themselves and thus “exit” the tangled “us” that they are in. Let students participate in this human knot without adults, but adults can help verbally.

2. Read Scripture (10 minutes):

John 13:1-17, 31b-35

In our scripture reading today, Jesus bows down and washes the feet of his disciples. This was considered a humbling act where Jesus made himself lower than his friends or disciples. While you read, focus on these three things: (1) What are Jesus' actions in this story? (2) How do those around Jesus respond? (3) What characters do you relate to in this story? Write down a list, keeping track of Jesus’ actions, the reactions from those around him, and the characters you relate to as this story is read. Share what you wrote down or noticed after reading, using the discussion questions below.

3. Discussion (15 minutes)

  • What actions does Jesus take in this story?
  • The disciples were those who followed Jesus and wanted to be like him. How do they react to Jesus’ actions in this story? Do you think their reactions demonstrated they were ready to be like Jesus or not?
  • What characters do you relate to in this story and why?
  • What does the word “humble” mean to you?
  • Have you ever noticed someone doing something humble like Jesus did in this story? Is it easy to overlook people doing humble or simple things? Why do you think that is?
  • Have you ever served someone else in this way or in a way that made the other person feel powerful? How did it go?
  • Jesus commands that we love one another as he loves us. If we are trying to follow Jesus, are we required to serve one another humbly? Can you think of specific examples of what that humble service could look like?

Search “Passover” using your favorite online search engine. Share what you find. Then, read Exodus 12:1-4 (5-10) 11-14. The Passover meal, in memory of God’s rescue of the people of Israel (Jewish people) from slavery in Egypt, is connected to Easter for Christians because Jesus both observes this Passover meal from his faith and sacrifices his body for others, connecting to the “Passover lamb” symbol in the Passover meal. In Exodus, the Passover lamb is sacrificed to save the Israelites from a harmful system of slavery and a deadly plague in Egypt. During the Easter story, we could read the scriptures as Jesus’ body was sacrificed for all to be freed from deadly systems and harmful sins. Exodus 12 gives directions for the Passover meal that was (and still is) a traditional holiday meal for the Jewish faith, in which Jesus grew up and lived his life.

  • With whom do you think Jesus celebrated his holiday meal of Passover?
  • What did Jesus remember about the history of his people, the Israelites (Jewish people), during the Passover meal?
  • What do you know about the Christian faith being connected to the Jewish faith through Jesus? What questions do you have about those connections?
  • Jesus commands us to love one another in chapter 13 of the Book of John that we read earlier. Do you think that Jesus would think that Christians and Jews are supposed to love one another as Jesus loves us?
  • Jesus tells his disciples in John 13 to treat one another as he did, humbling himself and serving one another just as Jesus washed his disciples’ feet. How can people of different religions love and serve one another humbly?
  • What do you think the Spirit of God is speaking into your life and heart as you observe the way that Jesus treated others in his life?

4. Activity and Discussion (20 minutes)

Which Passover Seder Item Are You?

Take this lesson to the next level by finding ways to humbly learn about and relate to another faith. When we learn about others, we get to know them better. When we know others better, we can love and serve them better through better understanding. So, let’s learn about the Jewish Passover meal through this activity in order to grow in love through understanding another faith’s holiday meal. Here is a link to educate us about the items on the Seder Plate for Passover. You will use the description in this link in the activity described below: “The Symbolic Foods at a Passover Seder.”

The word “seder” means “order,” as this ritual meal, which Jesus would have observed in memory of his people’s deliverance from slavery and death in Egypt, is ordered in a certain way. So, let’s “order” ourselves in the same way that the seder plate is ordered. As you read (out loud) through the descriptions of each item in the link above, have students construct the Passover Seder Plate by posing their bodies as a statue of each item. Make sure they are listening to the symbolism of each item as they choose the items.. Items on the plate should include the following items in the image from the article, “The Symbolic Foods at a Passover Seder.” Have them stand in the same formation that’s depicted on the plate in the article. Multiple students can choose the same item.

Items on the Passover Seder plate and brief symbolism from “The Symbolic Foods at a Passover Seder”:

the lamb shank bone (symbolizing the outstretched arm of God and the sacrificial lamb of Passover)

karpas (green vegetable representing the freshness of Spring)

chazeret (second bitter herb with the same representation as maror)

charoset (salad of apples, nuts, wine, and cinnamon representing the ingredients used to make bricks in Egypt)

maror (bitter herb representing the bitterness of slavery)

roasted egg (symbolizing springtime and renewal as well as becoming stronger through adversity).

Discuss the Activity: Ask everyone to stay in the position as their chosen Passover seder plate item as they discuss these questions based on the above reading:

  • What does the word “seder” mean?
  • Why is the seder meal observed?
  • When would someone have the seder meal?
  • What item on the seder plate are you? What does your item symbolize?
  • Would anyone like to share why they chose the item that he/she chose?
  • Do you think everyone practices their traditions in the same way all the time?
  • Are there any unique ways that your family celebrates various holidays? How about Easter?
  • What other traditions or faith practices are you curious about?
  • What are some good ways to learn more about other people’s traditions?

Close in the manner that is typical for you. Consider taking joys/concerns or highs/lows from the students, then asking for a volunteer to close in prayer.

Total time: 50 minutes


  • YouTube clip of the “Follow the Leader” dance (high-tech icebreaker, option 1, requiring a computer with speakers or TV and space to try this dance)
  • Bibles or smartphones to look up verses of scripture
  • Scrap paper and pens for students who like to take notes or doodle

In This Series...

Palm/Passion Sunday, Year A - Lectionary Planning Notes Maundy Thursday, Year A - Lectionary Planning Notes Good Friday, Year A - Lectionary Planning Notes Holy Saturday, Year A - Lectionary Planning Notes Easter Sunday, Year A - Lectionary Planning Notes