This day before Good Friday is known among liturgical churches as Maundy Thursday and commemorates our Lord’s institution of the Eucharist or Holy Communion at the Last Supper with his 12 closest disciples. This meal is referenced in all four Gospels (Matt. 26; Mk. 14; Lu. 22, and Jn. 13.) and later, in Paul’s first Epistle to the Corinthians (chapter 11).
With all of the holy celebrations associated with the remembrance of these days, I suggest that we unknowingly overlook a principle of discipleship, which can be observed in the way Jesus dressed for this holy event with his disciples. I acknowledge that it is a personal observation—a private conviction and not a command of Christ. However, perhaps it can speak to you, as it has to me and affected how and why I dress as I do for worship services—especially where Holy Communion is observed. Will you, at least, consider it with me?
How did Jesus dress, with his disciples, for this first communion service? This unusual consideration can be answered in just one word: “UP.” Jesus “dressed up” for this special instruction and symbolic institution, with His disciples.
How do we know how Jesus dressed, for this occasion? Well, 12 hours later we find the soldiers at the cross deciding not to rip apart the Lord’s coat-like, outer “tunic” (Greek, chiton), for it was uncommonly woven and uniquely worn. It was made with skill and special labor and it was clearly valuable.
While crucifixion victim’s clothing was spoil for the soldiers, this special coat-tunic, which Jesus wore to supper with His disciples, on the night he was betrayed, was considered too valuable to be ripped apart by his executioners. This choice piece of clothing was to be selected for a single soldier. (See John 19:23-24.)
So, this unique scriptural principle is drawn from this example of our Lord, with his disciples, at the inauguration of this special Church-age ritual, Holy Communion: Jesus dressed up and wore his best clothing.
Some modern disciples (and I am one) may find, in that simple revelation, a reason to seek to honor the Lord’s death, by “dressing up” for public worship—especially for Holy Communion. It is where we are to examine ourselves, respectfully reflecting on and proclaiming “the Lord’s death, till He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:23-32).
For me, that would usually include wearing a coat and tie to public worship services—especially when Holy Communion is to be observed. I believe this is not a reflection of “religious habit” or “righteous reserve” (as Pastor Jack Hayford describes bases for spiritual pride). Rather, it is a private decision and a personal desire to follow scriptural principles and the example of Jesus, at the first communion service.
In recent years, I have noticed many men (including pastors) dressing “down” for church. Now, I realize that not wearing coats and ties can be a contemporary fashion statement. Or, if you wear them, don’t fully tighten the tie around your neck. It looks more casual and “knot” formal. I understand.
At the same time, I’ve observed that many of these men, who shun ties on Sunday morning, are in professional positions where they will wear ties to work on Monday morning. And, if not, they will likely follow societal norms and at least wear a coat and tie to church for a wedding or funeral—even if it is their own! Yet, they choose not to wear them to worship in a house of God? Interesting!
I’m not saying God loves tie-wearers more than those who prefer to worship “tie-less.” The scripture says God looks on the attitude of the heart and not the outward “appearance” (1 Samuel 16:7). But, why do you dress as you do, for public worship and communion? Is it a default to contemporary culture, personal preference, or a decision of discipleship?
Eugene Peterson, in his modern paraphrase of Scripture, The Message, explains it simply, in interpreting Psalm 29:2: “In awe before God’s visible power, stand at attention. Dress your best to honor Him.” [Emphasis added.] When we assemble to worship, our purpose should be to show honor, respect, and reverence to our great God and not to focus on our own casual convenience.
The Apostle Paul urges that “nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself (Philippians 2:3).” If my personal conviction, from the example of Christ on the first Holy Thursday, for worshippers to dress “up” and not “down” for church, does not register in your spirit as being God’s will for your life and discipleship, so be it. Let God be your guide and we will still be brothers and sisters “in the Lord.”
In the meanwhile, please be patient with me, as I adjust my knot and hum the old Gospel song, “Blest Be the Tie That Binds”!
Let me know what you think? Share your comments below.