Thursday, April 9, 2020

Holy (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.
Perhaps you have forgotten, but the Passover was the final of ten plagues the LORD visited upon Pharaoh and the Egyptians before Moses lead the Israelites in Exodus across the Red Sea in pilgrimage to the Promised Land. First there was the plague of blood, as the Nile River was turned to blood and everything that lived in it died. Then there were the plagues of frogs, gnats, and flies, a plague upon livestock, and a plague of boils. Next there was the plague of hail, then locusts, and then the plague of darkness. The tenth and final plague was the plague upon the firstborn which figures central in the Passover and its subsequent feasts of remembrance. The LORD told Moses that He would strike the firstborn of both man and beast in all of Egypt, but He gave Moses a sign by which the LORD would pass over the homes of the children of Israel if He saw that their doorposts and lintels were marked by the blood of a sacrificial lamb.
The LORD promised Moses and the Israelites, “The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.” There are two key phrases in this promise that I wish to emphasize for you: First, the blood was a sign for the people. Second, when the LORD saw the blood, He promised that His wrath against their sin would pass over them and they would be spared. The blood was a sign for the people – a physical, visible sign of the promise the LORD had made to them. The sign of the blood was meant to give them confidence and peace that the LORD looked upon them, not in wrath, but in mercy and love. Moreover, the blood was a sign that the LORD Himself gave to them. Apart from His Word of promise, the blood would mean nothing and do nothing at all, but because of the Word and Promise of the LORD it was a powerful, meaningful, and effective sign doing precisely what the LORD in His Word and Promise promised. Though it is tempting to see the blood as a work of the people, who had to smear the blood on their doors and lintels, you must remember that doing so was only efficacious because of the LORD’s Word and Promise which He attached to the blood. It was a work of the LORD, and a blessed sign and sacrament for the people that the people could trust in and have confidence that the LORD would look away from their sins and spare them.
Our Lord Jesus Christ celebrated His last Passover meal with His disciples on the night in which He was betrayed by Judas into the hands of sinful men. It was this night, commemorating and bringing into living remembrance the final plague of deliverance from slavery in Egypt and the sign the LORD gave that He would pass over the sins of His people. Jesus did what fathers of Jewish households and rabbis of synagogues and temples have done ever since the first Passover, He taught His disciples, His family, remembering God’s mighty acts of deliverance, His faithfulness, and His promise to His children still. Only, this time, Jesus as the father and rabbi of His people, reinterpreted the Passover and Exodus in terms of Himself. Jesus was the New Moses leading His people in exodus, not out of slavery and bondage to Pharaoh in Egypt, but in exodus out of slavery to sin, death, and the devil. By the power of His creative and life-giving Word, the bread they ate was His body, and the wine they drank was His blood. They ate no lamb that night, but the Lamb that God Himself provided, His only-begotten Son Jesus Christ. As they drank His blood in, with, and under the wine He blessed, His blood marked the doorways and lintels of their bodies and souls and the wrath of God against their sin passed over them, even as the fullness of His wrath fell upon Jesus and consumed Him in the fire of His wrath until it was finished and there was nothing left to fall on them, and there is nothing left to fall upon you.
You see, the Lord’s Supper, is still a sign for you. The Lord’s Supper is a sign that it is finished, that all that was necessary to redeem you from sin, death, and the devil has been accomplished, fulfilled, and completed by Jesus in His suffering, death, and resurrection. It is a sign that you may have confidence and peace that the LORD looks upon you, not in wrath, but in mercy and love. The Lord’s Supper is not your work, but it is the Lord’s work and gift to you; and because it is His work and gift it cannot fail, but you can trust in it with confidence for forgiveness, life, and salvation. Your Lord Jesus says that you should receive it often. How often? Well, how often do you eat and drink and breathe? Do not think that the Supper will not be special if you receive it too often. That is a sophism of the devil. The Supper is not like fine China to be used a few times each year, but it is the Daily Bread for which your Lord has taught you to pray, it is the holy manna in the wilderness of this world that you may persevere and not faint as you make your pilgrimage to the Promised Land of Heaven with God.
Interestingly, this meal, which was first instituted by the LORD for the comfort and perseverance of His people following a series of plagues that the LORD inflicted upon Egypt, is a meal that we have not been able to eat and drink together since the outbreak of the current plague beset upon our nation and world. We have discussed at length ways in which we might offer the Supper to those desiring that are safe and responsible and are in accord with the authorities, without compromising the integrity of the institution and proper administration of the Sacrament in accord with Jesus’ words, but at this time we agree that is best that we continue our fast from the Supper and be sustained by the Word of the LORD and prayer. We must avoid, however, the rationalization that would suggest that the Lord’s Supper is somehow of secondary importance and that the Word is all that we truly need. We must not set God’s Word against, or in opposition to, His Sacraments any more than we would set Jesus’ divine nature against, or in opposition to, His human nature. Additionally, we must resist rationalizations that would, for the sake of receiving the Supper, bend, change, or deviate from Jesus’ clear words of institution and administration of the Lord’s Supper. Remember, the Lord’s Supper is a sign the LORD has given us that we should have confidence and peace that, because of Jesus’ sacrificial death and blood, the LORD passes over our sin and gives us instead Jesus’ righteousness and life. We must never introduce or eliminate elements of the Lord’s Supper that might cause us to doubt or to lose confidence in that promise.
There were many times when the LORD’s people were unable to pray their prayers and make their sacrifices because of famine, pestilence, war, and exile. The LORD provided for His people through those times by His life-giving Word. Nonetheless, the people longed and hungered for the fulness of the LORD’s gifts and rejoiced when they were restored to them and could receive them again together. This is a time of fasting for the Lord’s Church once again, a time for repentance and fasting in the sure and certain hope that He will, in His time, restore us once again. Last night Jewish families around the world commemorated the Passover deliverance of the LORD mostly in their homes, just like you, the final words of their service being, “Next year in Jerusalem,” proclaiming their hope that they will one day worship again at a restored temple in Jerusalem. As each Sunday passes in which we must fast from the Lord’s Supper, let our cry be, “Next Sunday in this sanctuary,” in the sure and certain hope that the Lord will restore us and that we will, in His time, eat the Lord’s body and drink His blood together once again, a sign for us that we should have confidence and peace that the LORD passes over our sins because of Jesus’ sacrificial death on our behalf.
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

No comments: