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Maundy Thursday – “Betrayal and Forgiveness” (Matthew 26:17-30)

A-45 Holy ThursdayGrace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Gospel, which was read earlier.

As we gather this evening, the stench of betrayal is wafting in the air. Just before our text, Matthew records for us Judas’ betrayal: “Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.”

An act such as this can be expected from the chief priests, the scribes, and the Pharisees, but to see it come from someone within Jesus’ circle of twelve is inconceivable. These were the men whom Jesus had hand-picked to be His disciples, to go with Him and spread His Gospel of what He was going to do in order to save creation. To be fair to the disciples, they had no theological training except that which they learned on the job for three years. However, they knew enough to know that you don’t betray your Master. Peter goes beyond calling Jesus Master and says that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. That’s an even bolder confession of who Jesus is and yet tonight the stench of betrayal is overwhelming.

Tonight, we reflect on the Passover celebration that our Lord and His disciples engaged in, just as they had done in previous years. Everything about this meal was like any other Passover meal. The Passover was done yearly in remembrance of what God had done for His people Israel all those years ago when the angel of death passed over the house of Israel. In order to celebrate the Passover feast, Jesus needs a room to do so and the disciples ask Jesus, “Where will You have us prepare for You to eat the Passover?”

On this night, our Lord has come to accomplish something. He’s in complete control. He had already arranged for the Upper Room to be ready. As He said, it was His time. Plans were already set in motion for the Passover meal to be celebrated. He celebrates the Passover as in years past, except this time, it’s different. “When it was evening, he reclined at table with the twelve. And as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”” As simple as that, the Passover meal has been turned to betrayal. The stench of betrayal is overwhelming. Immediately, they all start asking, “Is it I, Lord?”

Lest we forget, this is Jesus’ time. While Judas sets out to betray, our Lord sets out to redeem. Judas is reclining at table with Jesus and the other disciples. Jesus could have easily had Judas removed from the Passover guestlist, but instead He has His betrayer at table with Him, and for a reason: in order to redeem.

I can’t imagine that you or I would willingly permit our betrayer to dine with us as did Jesus. We would more than likely do what we could to repay evil with evil, do what we could to exact vengeance for such an act. But thanks be to God that Jesus is not like us sinners. He doesn’t choose to seek vengeance but rather extends mercy and forgiveness beyond our wildest measures.

“Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when had given he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.””

God doesn’t go after sinners like Judas or you or me. In a plot twist that man could have never thought up, God the Father goes after His own Son, the Messiah, God’s Anointed, the King. He goes after Him until He has the blood that makes payment for your sin. Jesus is not only a good guy, but the perfect guy. He was nothing like evil Pharaoh. His heart was never calloused against God’s Word. He loved the Father’s will and cherished it. But the Father’s will was to save sinners through the blood of His Son. That is what our Lord gave to His disciples that night He was betrayed. He didn’t enact vengeance but gave forgiveness. He gave what Judas didn’t deserve. He gave what none of the disciples deserved. And tonight, our Lord gives to you that which you do not deserve. You do not deserve to be forgiven of your sins for you smell of betrayal, as did Judas and as do I. It is man’s betrayal of God that caused all of this to be necessary. Had Adam and Eve kept a single, simple rule that God gave them, we would all be enjoying life in the Garden. But because of man’s betrayal, the great act of Judas’ betrayal occurs, and Jesus responds in a way that is shock to all who hear it.

For our betrayal, He grants forgiveness. For your sake, God the Father imputed your sin and the sin of the world to this King and plunged Him into a sea of wrath. For your sake, He went after the blood of His innocent Son that you might be spared and that the story of your life might have a happy ending. Take great comfort in this story. For that is what God’s King is all about. That is why He came into the world. That after instituting the royal feast of His Holy Supper, He might shed the blood that causes death to pass over you.

Our Lord leaves that final Passover to offer His body to be struck down, that you might receive His very body and in this Sacrament and be exalted. The words from His lips were never deceitful, never self-serving, but always in the best interest of sinners. Yet those lips are the ones that drink from the cup of God’s wrath, that your lips might sip the cup of blessing, the blood of the covenant, which gives you forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.

The power of death passes over you because it didn’t pass over Jesus. Death passes over you because the gift of Baptism has marked your bodies with His blood. Damnation passes over you because Jesus is your Crucified King, whose blood makes this meal a royal feast of feasts.

Betrayal was on the lips of Judas that Passover evening. Tonight, betrayal is no longer the only thing on your lips. Tonight, as you feast upon the very body and blood of our Lord, there is something new on your lips and that is the forgiveness that comes through the shed blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In Jesus’ name amen.

 
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Posted by on April 18, 2014 in Lent, Lord's Supper, Maundy Thursday, Sermons

 

Maundy Thursday–Hands That Consecrate (Matthew 26:26-30)

A-45 Holy ThursdayGrace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon this evening comes from Matthew 26:26-30.

Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Here ends our text.

If there was one thing in this world that you could not live without, what would it be? Would it be something material, say your cell phone or your car? Would it be your family, say a spouse or a child? Would it be something more physical, say a limb of your body?

Throughout this Lenten season, our focus has been on the hands of the Savior. We have seen hands that invite, hands that heal, hands that provide, hands that pray, hands that resurrect, and hands that protect. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ used His hands all throughout His ministry, to teach, to restore, and to heal. This evening, we see that the hands of the Savior are hands that consecrate.

The dictionary has several definitions of the word consecrate. One is to make or declare sacred; to set apart or dedicate to the service of a deity. Another definition is to change bread and wine into the Eucharist or the Lord’s Supper. That is precisely what our Lord does this night, on the night He was betrayed. In just a short amount of time, Judas Iscariot will betray Jesus. He has already met with the chief priests, he has already received the thirty pieces of silver. All he needed now was the opportunity.

Knowing that He was going to be betrayed from one of His disciples, from one who was a part of the inner circle, Jesus does something that we wouldn’t expect. Instead of turning tail and running away, instead of removing Judas Iscariot from the disciples, Jesus continues with business as usual. It was the first day of the feast of Unleavened Bread and it was time to celebrate the Passover.

It’s just another evening, Jesus at table with His disciples, but yet tonight is different. Tonight is the Passover, a meal to remember what happened to their ancestors when God spared them from death. The Twelve are around the table, eating and drinking like always. They were finishing their meal and Jesus took bread. I’m sure the disciples were curious as to what He was doing. The meal was over, it was time to relax and talk amongst themselves. But Jesus had a different agenda. Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.”

What just happened here? What did the disciples just see and hear? “Is Jesus leaving us? Did we do something wrong? Is Jesus going to die?And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. Is Jesus leaving the disciples? Yes. Did they do something wrong? Yes. Is Jesus going to die? Yes.

Imagine how the attitude of the disciples changed after Jesus passed the bread around the table. Conversation stopped, the disciples hanging on every word that Jesus is about to speak. And when He passed the cup around, imagine how their hearts broke. They had been with Him for three years, watching Him, worshipping with Him, being taught by Him, teaching others about Him; and now He was leaving them.

With His hands, our Lord consecrates and sets apart for sacred service Himself. Christ was both victim and priest. He was the sacrifice and the sacrificer. He gave to His disciples the greatest gift that He could give: Himself. Jesus gave His disciples bread and wine to eat and to drink. As He gave them the bread, He didn’t have to say to them, “Here is some bread for you to eat.” They knew what was placed before them. What they did not know and could not know that together with that bread they were receiving the true body of Christ, the same body born of the Virgin Mary, the same body that would be put to death on Calvary the next day.

Then He took the cup and passed it around to the disciples. He did not have to tell them, “Here is some wine for you to drink.” They knew that very well. But they did not know and could not know that He was also giving them His true blood to drink, the very blood which would be shed the next day. So Jesus told them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

But what good does it do to eat and drink Christ’s body and blood? Jesus says, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. When we hear these words, a number of related passages are all brought into focus here. Before Jesus was born, the angel told Joseph, “You are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. But the angel did not specify how Jesus would do that. Now Jesus finally explains that His blood will be poured to atone for sin. That was certainly the point of the Passover lamb and all of the other bloody sacrifices of the Old Testament. And now, on this night, Jesus becomes the Passover Lamb who gives Himself to you, for He has come to save you from your sins.

Here, in this Sacrament, Jesus gives you to eat and drink His true body and blood, the very purchase price of your redemption. He says to you individually and personally, “Take and eat, this is my body which is given for you. Take and drink, this is my blood, which is poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins.” In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, amen.

 
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Posted by on April 21, 2011 in Lent, Lord's Supper, Sermons

 

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Lord’s Supper: Open or Closed

Open or closed?I was recently chatting with another brother in the ministry. He is an older gentleman and serving his second parish. He told me something that was bothersome: he doesn’t think that he will be able to remain in The LCMS. Upon hearing this, I asked him why. He proceeded to tell me that he has some personal issues he’s been struggling with. The doctrine of The LCMS is not the issue. It’s the practice; namely, the practice of the Lord’s Supper.

With regards to the Lord’s Supper, we practice close(d) communion. That means that if you are not a member of a congregation of The LCMS or another Lutheran church body that we are in altar/pulpit fellowship with, then we do not permit you to come to the Lord’s Table. Why do we take such a stance like this? “The Lutheran church believes, teaches and confesses that the Lord’s Supper is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, under the bread and wine, given to us Christians to eat and to drink. We hold that the bread and the wine in the Supper are the true body and blood of Christ and that these are given and received into the mouths of all who commune.”1 This is the official policy and doctrine of The LCMS. We look at what Holy Scripture says with regards to the Lord’s Supper. St. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 11:26-29, “Whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Therefore,whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.”

Unfortunately, not every LCMS congregation abides by that. That is where this pastor’s troubles lie: doctrine and practice do not match. As far as he sees it, no one is doing anything about the issue of open communion. Open communion is the practice of allowing members of another church-body (or sometimes even faith) to commune. In short, it’s a “Y’all come” mentality, regardless of a person’s beliefs.

Including his current circuit, he has served in three different circuits (1 as a vicar, 2 as a pastor). Unfortunately, this is the “best” circuit he has served in. In this circuit, open communion is rampant. He has even had discussions with his district president with regards to open communion. Unfortunately, those discussions did not go well. Serving in the Wyoming District, open communion is not an issue. I do not have to worry about the kind of church a member of mine will visit while on vacation in Wyoming. However, that cannot be said for all of the districts, including the district in which this fellow brother serves.

Last time I checked, the congregations of The LCMS all had to abide by the synodical constitution. That also meant abiding by our policy of the Lord’s Supper. I must have missed the memo that said pastors and/or congregations were free to choose which parts of our doctrine they wanted to follow and those parts they want to throw out.

 
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Posted by on October 23, 2010 in Lord's Supper, Lutheran

 
 
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