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Maundy Thursday–“Best Meal Ever” (Luke 22:7-20)

C-49 Holy Thursday (Lu 22.7-20)Grace, 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.

What is the best meal that you have ever had? I can think of several meals that were great, but I can’t remember what the best meal I’ve ever had was. What criteria goes into deciding what makes a meal “the best” you’ve ever had? Is it the food, the fellowship, the price? Whatever your best meal might have been, it pales in comparison to the Meal that is offered to you this night.

As we focus on the theme of the Lord’s Supper this evening, the evening begins as does any other meal with Jesus and His disciples. They are enjoying the Passover meal, something that has been done before. The Passover was the significant family meal in the covenant between God and His people. The Israelites were initially slaves in Egypt, living under the harsh treatment of the Pharaoh. Their cries went to the Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who sent Moses to deliver them. Pharaoh refused to let God’s people go free. Pharaoh depended on Egypt’s gods to lead the country. By sending plagues that overpowered Egypt’s so-called gods, the true God convinced Pharaoh to let God’s people go. The final plague brought judgment on Egypt’s god of life, as the almighty God sent the destroying angel throughout the land, killing the firstborn in each home. God directed His people to hold a special meal centered on a lamb, whose blood was smeared on the door frame. When the destroyer saw the blood, he passed over the house. The people were protected by the blood of the lamb as a substitute for their lives. As a result of this catastrophic judgment on Egypt, Pharaoh let God’s people go. The Israelites celebrated the Passover meal thereafter.

In our text Jesus gathers with His disciples in the Upper Room to celebrate the Passover meal. Jesus was ready for His exodus. During the meal, “He took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is My body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.’ And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.’” Matthew adds “for the forgiveness of sins.”

Jesus instituted a new Passover based on His self-sacrifice as the Passover Lamb. He ends the first covenant and establishes the new covenant promised for the new era. Just as the lamb’s blood served as a substitution for the death of the firstborn, so now Jesus’ blood substitutes for our death. We are set free from our bondage to sin, to malice, and to evil through the forgiveness He earned by taking judgment into His own body. Sin “lets us go,” that is, releases its stranglehold on us. We are free. We are rescued from death and given the certain hope of heaven.

What Jesus does tonight is amazing, in and of itself. But we have to remember when our Lord does this: on the night when He was betrayed. One of His very own disciples is going to betray Him and yet He still does this for them. In fact, He does this for the entire Christian Church. He gives to you His body and His blood for the forgiveness of sin. He does this knowing full well that we will betray Him by our thoughts, words, and deeds. He does this knowing full well that we are enemies of God and yet gives Himself to us freely.

In this new Passover meal God forgives and forgets our past, as far as the east is from the west. Your sins are forgiven in this Meal.

Sadly, and to their detriment, many Christians neglect this Meal. But for those hungering and thirsting for righteousness, this is a Meal of great benefit. Those who struggle with the old sinful nature, who need strength to handle broken relationships, and who seek the wisdom to make decisions are united with Christ through this Meal.

When a person receives the bread and wine in Holy Communion, that person receives Jesus. As He said, “This is My body.” The heart of faith grasps the Word, which puts in the benefit, and then takes out the benefit, namely, all that Christ is according to His Word. The mouth eats physically for the heart and the heart eats spiritually what the body eats physically, and thus both are saved and satisfied by one and the same food.

This Meal—a life-giving, life-renewing, life-changing Meal—is the best meal we will ever have because we are united with Christ Jesus in this Sacrament. God changes us through the power of the Word, but also in this Meal He gives us His compassion, joy, peace, patience, kindness, moral goodness, sense of responsibility, humility, and self-control—all of which are life-giving, life-renewing, and life-changing.

That is what this Supper is about. It is not some institution that God gives only so that we remember, and it is certainly not an ordinance by which He tests our obedience to Him. It is the Father calling His children to dinner so that they might be fed. It is the Passover fulfilled: it is Christ present with us, leading us through the wilderness and feeding us with the forgiveness that keeps us alive in Him.

Christ, your Passover Lamb, gives you the remission of sins in this Supper, for He is present with you in, with and under bread and wine. Where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation. And so life and salvation are yours: because you are forgiven for all of your sins.

For you tonight, the best meal has been served: a meal that feeds your soul, strengthens your faith, and forgives you all of your sins. The Table has been prepared and our Lord Jesus invites us to be His guests, to give to us the best meal ever. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2013 in Lent, Maundy Thursday, Sermons

 

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Maundy Thursday–”Betrayed” (Mark 14:12-26)

B-48 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.

The Passover is now upon Jesus and the disciples and the time to celebrate with the Passover meal has now come. For one reason or another, they have not selected a place to celebrate the evening meal. Jesus sends two of the disciples into the city to procure a large room for the thirteen of them.

As they were sitting there eating their meal in remembrance of the Passover, it seemed to be like any other meal. The food they ate was the same food they had eaten before when celebrating the Passover. Jesus and the disciples had eaten numerous meals before and this meal was no different. Suddenly, the mood at the table changes. St. Mark records, And as they were reclining at table and eating, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” They began to be sorrowful and to say to him one after another, “Is it I?””

All of a sudden, the atmosphere of the room changed, and it was not for the better. Jesus had dropped a bomb on the laps of the disciples that riveted them to the core: He would be betrayed, but what was worse was that He would be betrayed by one of His own disciples. There could be no more a devastating statement made than that just made by Jesus. It is unfathomable that one of Jesus’ own disciples would betray Him. When Jesus says “betray” here, He doesn’t mean that someone will go against Jesus or wrong Him in a way like we would think. What Jesus means is that one of the disciples will turn Jesus over to be killed, the ultimate act of betrayal that could ever be committed. How is it that one of Jesus’ own disciples could do this? They were the ones who had the most intimate contact with Jesus, being with Him constantly for three years. Now, one of them would betray not only Jesus but also all of the disciples as well, for they were the ones who looked to Jesus to be their Savior.

The traitor was not an attendant, not a servant eavesdropping on the conversation, not one of the larger group who followed Jesus, but one of their own. This was a meal that was meant to call together as one Jews from all over and focus Israel together on what God had done for them, but is now spoiled by the presence of a traitor! Not one who would deny Christ out of weakness. Not one who would be so panicked by the threat of death that he would wriggle free from his clothes and run off naked. But a premeditative traitor. And one whose fate will be so horrible for this betrayal that Christ says it would have been better for this man not to have been born. With those words, Jesus interjected into this joyous celebration a touch of darkness. The band of brothers is not so solid after all.

Following this startling news, something that would think to bring great division among the disciples, Jesus does something that no one expected: “And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.””

A deeper sadness intrudes as Jesus announces His own impending death once more. It seems that His death is coming ever so quickly, that it could happen any time now. Instead of worrying about what will happen to Him, He gives Himself for the disciples and for all people. By what follows during the next few days, it’s clear that the disciples do not pick up on the phrases “of the covenant” or “for many.” The significance of His death, that His blood will be the means by which God and His people will be joined in a new covenant of forgiveness, this they don’t yet understand. That His death will be redemptive, signified by the phrase “for many,” they cannot yet see, for their minds have not yet been opened. All they hear are words that interject a note of death into what was meant to be a celebration of life and thanksgiving to God.

Tonight, as we come together celebrating this meal which Christ feeds us with His very body and blood, know one thing: Jesus is given and shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins. That’s what tonight is all about – Jesus giving Himself for you. Taking the bread and the wine of the Passover, Jesus now instituted the New Testament sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. This wonderful gift of His body and blood was meant not only for the disciples. Note what Jesus says: “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.” You and I can be very grateful that our Lord did not restrict the Sacrament to just the disciples. We share one thing in common with the disciples: we are not able to save ourselves. The Sacrament, however, reassures us of this truth: “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.” You and I need that assurance repeatedly until Jesus comes again to take us to the marriage supper of the Lamb. That assurance He brings us through Word and Sacrament. Even as we were born into the kingdom by the rebirth of Baptism, so we are assured of forgiveness and strengthened to live in the kingdom through this Blessed Sacrament of His body and blood.

Also hear Him when He says His broken body and shed blood were for the many. Jesus, our mediator, is present in this meal tonight. The truth is what we sing: “Not all the blood of beasts On Jewish altars slain Could give the guilty conscience peace Or wash away the stain.” But this body and blood can. This body and blood were offered up as payment for sin, as an atoning sacrifice to wash away sin – yours and mine. This body and blood were accepted by the Father as an atoning sacrifice for the many. Jesus taught, “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” That includes you and me.

Finally, hear our Lord’s promise that He will drink the fruit of the vine with you in the kingdom of God. In this meal, Christ promises a future for you that extends beyond your boldest hopes. He holds before your eyes the promise of sitting with Him at the banquet table with all the faithful who have been gathered from east and west. He holds before you the riches that He will share with the faithful in eternity. All of this is yours and He bids you to come and receive what He has to offer you: Himself. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

 
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Posted by on April 6, 2012 in Maundy Thursday

 

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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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