Thursday, April 21, 2011

Homily for Holy Thursday (Maundy Thursday)


John 13:1-15, 34-35; 1 Corinthians 11:23-32; Exodus 12:1-14

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

As we began this Holy Week on Palm Sunday, you heard again how your Lord comes to you, in humility, in lowliness, and in service. On this Holy Thursday, you will remember and commemorate and hear once again why He came. He came to you because you could not, and would not, come to Him. He came to you to wash you clean of your sins in His holy and precious blood. He came to restore you to His Father, and more than that, He came to have fellowship with you as a brother, to commune with you as His Bride, to become what you are, man, that you might become what He is, God, partakers of His Divine Nature.

He came as your Passover Lamb that you may eat of His flesh and live, that you may be marked by His blood and the Angel of Death pass over you. And so He took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, “Take, eat, this is my body which is given for you.” He had always been the Bread of Life, for He is the Word of God incarnate, of which a man may eat and truly live. He sustained Israel in the desert. He satisfied the multitude in the wilderness. Now, He gives His incarnate Word-body-bread for you to eat that you may be sustained and satisfied and more, that He may dwell in you and you in Him, as one flesh, and truly live. You truly live because He is True Life.

In the same way also He took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the New Covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” The covenant is new because Jesus is the fulfillment of the old. Everything that God had promised to Adam (and to the devil!), to Noah, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and to you, has been fulfilled in the incarnation of His only-begotten Son, His baptism, His passion, death, and resurrection. And so, the holy and precious blood of our Passover Lamb is given to you now to drink. Previously you were forbidden to drink blood, for the life of living things is in the blood. But now, that you may know whence True Life comes, you are given His blood to drink that you may have His Life and truly live. That His blood is given you to drink means that it is much more for you than a sign, it is a seal, it is your life itself. The Angel of Death does not only pass over you, but He has no claim on you whatsoever. Jesus freely gave His life unto death in your place so that His blood not only marks you as His own but it seals you in Him, in His death, in His resurrection, and in His life. The sign of this sealing for you is the water and the Word of Holy Baptism.

And so, He rose from supper and 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. Peter was offended by his Master’s servant posture, His lowliness and humility. We share this typical human sentiment. We are scandalized and offended by the seeming weak and lowly ways in which our LORD’s kingdom comes amongst us. How can water, word, bread and wine do such great things? How can a man forgive sins? And, because we do not understand, we justify ourselves, believing that we do not need such common and foolish things. We rebuke our Lord with Peter saying, “You shall never wash my feet.”

But Jesus answered Peter, with no hint of rebuke, but He simply spoke the Truth, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” It is with humility and lowliness that our Lord comes to us. If we refuse to receive Him in the ways in which He comes then we cannot receive Him at all. Then we will miss out sharing with Him, communing with Him, and we will miss out on all His blessings and benefits including the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.

“Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” zealous Peter replied. This side of Peter, too, we can relate to. Dissatisfied with the humble and lowly means in which our Lord comes to us we want to supersize them and make them more glorious. And so, we add to them our own ideas and inventions, feigning piety, and, like the Pharisees, we make the LORD’s free gifts into requirements of the law.

“The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean,” Jesus replied. You have been washed, and you are clean, and that is the Truth. You did not wash yourself; you had nothing that could remove the stain and the guilt of sin. The LORD has washed you in the blood of His Son, the True Passover Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. This washing is yours by baptism and faith. In Christ, you are clean, and one who is clean need only wash his feet in repentance and be cleansed, renewed, forgiven, and restored.

“Do you understand what I have done to you?” Jesus asked. No, they did not. They could not, not until Jesus’ resurrection from the dead; and only then did they fully understand when they received the promised Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. In the washing of His disciples’ feet, Jesus had given them an example of how they should live. They were to be extensions of Him, members of His own body. They were to serve others as He had served them. They were to forgive others as He forgave them. And the service and the forgiveness that they would give to others would not be their own, but it would be Christ’s service and forgiveness working through them. Thus, by their humble and merciful service and forgiveness, people would see in them Jesus Christ, for they would see Love.

“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.” It is a new commandment because the old one has been fulfilled by Jesus Christ. Therefore, it is a not a commandment of the Law, but it is a promise of the Gospel. Jesus gives the new commandment with the promise that His disciples will do as He has done to them. They will serve with His service. They will forgive with His forgiveness. They will love with His love. And the LORD will be glorified as men see in the words and the deeds of His disciples the love of God for all men in Jesus Christ.

And so, we gather this night in remembrance of Him that we might be washed and cleansed anew, forgiven and restored partakers of His Divine Nature, that we might be love as He is love. We do this in remembrance of Him, but this is not a mere memorial, but this is heaven on earth. The Lord said that He would not drink again of the fruit of the vine until He would drink it anew with you in His Father’s kingdom. Our Lord, who is raised from the dead and ascended to the right hand of His Father in heaven is present for you now in this Holy Sacrament with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven. Our remembrance this evening, and every Lord’s Day, is where True forgiveness, life, and salvation are found that these may continually be manifest in us to the glory of God the Father, through Jesus Christ, in His most Holy Spirit.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

No comments: