Maundy Thursday Sermon 2014/ Vicar James Preus/ Jesus is Our Passover Lamb!
17 Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?” 18 He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’”19 And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover.
20 When it was evening, he reclined at table with the twelve. 21 And as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” 22 And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” 23 He answered, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” 25 Judas, who would betray him, answered, “Is it I, Rabbi?” He said to him, “You have said so.”
26 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.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 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.”
30 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
It’s that time of year again. The disciples go up to Jesus and ask: “Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?” They don’t ask: “Do you want to eat the Passover this year?” They ask: “Where will you have us prepare the Passover?” There’s no question that Jesus is going to eat the Passover. It’s a given. Every Jew, who can call himself a Jew, eats the Passover.
What is the Passover? God instituted the Passover. Meaning: God told the people of Israel how to eat the Passover and he commanded them to eat it. God told every household that on the first month of the year on the tenth day of the month every household should take a lamb. And not just any lamb. This lamb had to be a male lamb one year-old. Without blemish. God would not accept a blind lamb. They couldn’t grab the runt lamb, no three-legged gimpy lamb. No over-the-hill, toothless, two inches from the grave lamb. Every household had to pick their best one year-old male lamb, selected according to God’s instruction. And on the 14th day of the month, God told them exactly how to kill, prepare, and eat the lamb.
God commanded them to pour the blood of the lamb into a basin and spread the blood on the doorposts of their house. God used the blood of this lamb as an act of salvation for the Israelites. At the time of the first Passover, the Israelites were slaves in Egypt. God planned to save the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and bring them to their own land. So God passed through Egypt and killed the firstborn of every family. He killed Pharaohs firstborn, every slave’s firstborn, even the firstborn of the cattle. Yet, when God saw the blood on the doorposts he passed over that house. That household was saved by the blood of the lamb on the doorposts.
God told the Israelites to continue to observe this Passover meal in remembrance of this. 1,500 years after this first Passover, Jesus’ disciples asked him where he will have them prepare the Passover.
The disciples didn’t know it yet, but this Passover meal would be different. Jesus would change the Passover forever!
After they finished this divinely instituted meal Jesus took bread, blessed it and he gave it to his disciples and said something truly profound: “Take eat; this is my body.” Jesus then took a cup of wine and when he had given thanks he gave this cup to his disciples and said, “Drink of it all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant. Poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins”
This is an extraordinary statement! Under ordinary conditions, if someone tells you to eat his body and drink his blood you would consider this person crazy. But Jesus is no ordinary man. Jesus is true God! When Jesus speaks, things happen! He spoke the world into existence. Jesus spoke and the blind saw, the mute spoke, the lame walked, even the dead rose from the grave!
So when we hear the words: “this is my body” and “this is my blood” we believe that it is Jesus’ true body and blood. Not because some guy said it. Not because the pastor who says it is a really good guy. We believe it because Jesus, who is the true God, says it. Jesus attaches his promise to these words. So when the pastor says these words, it is Jesus who is really saying these words. Just as when the pastor baptizes, it is God who works. God has attached his promise to his Word and the Water. God makes a sinner a sinless child of God through his Word! Also, when the pastor says: “I forgive you your sins” it is not the pastor who forgives your sins, but God who forgives your sins. Jesus attached the promise of God to this forgiveness when he said: “if you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them.”
So we trust Jesus’ word, because his word is God’s word. Jesus is God and he has all the power of God.
There are many who refuse to believe that the bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper is Jesus’ real body and blood. They say Jesus meant the bread signifies his body or his body is spiritually present, or that Jesus’ divine nature is there, but his human nature is far away. Martin Luther spent decades of his life defending Jesus’ words. Jesus said: “This is my body” and “This is my blood.” Martin Luther believed Jesus. Luther encourages all who hold close to Jesus’ words, “It is the Word, I say, that makes this a sacrament and distinguishes it from ordinary bread and wine, so it is called and truly is Christ’s body and blood…With this Word you can strengthen your conscience and declare: ‘Let a hundred thousand devils, with all the fanatics, come forward and say, ‘How can bread and wine be Christ’s body and blood?’ Still I know that all the spirits and scholars put together have less wisdom than the divine Majesty has in his littlest finger. Here is Christ’s word: ‘Take, eat, this is my body.’”
So we trust the divine Majesty when he says: “This is my body; this is my blood.” We believe that when we eat the bread and drink the wine we truly do eat and drink Jesus’ body and blood that was given and shed for us on the cross.
The way Jesus speaks of his body and blood seems disturbing to many. That is why many deny the clear meaning of Jesus’ words. Yet when we focus on Jesus’ words, we see something quite significant.
Jesus says: “this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.” Jesus speaks of his body and blood as if he is a sacrifice. The Passover lamb, the lamb chosen without blemish, is killed. Its blood is poured out for the sake of the household. Jesus speaks of himself in the same way. Jesus is a human being, without blemish, meaning without sin. His blood is poured out, yet not just for a household, but for the whole world. Jesus is saying: “This Passover lamb can never take away your sins. Although you slaughter a million lambs for a million years your sins will still remain. So here I offer myself, I pour out my own blood, for everyone.” With these words Jesus tells his disciples: “I am the final and only Passover Lamb for the whole world.” As God instituted the first Passover meal for the Israelites to eat, Jesus institutes a new Passover Meal, with himself as the Passover Lamb!
The writer to the Hebrews writes: “[Christ] entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls…sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.”
Jesus offered himself as the final Passover Lamb for us on the cross. He poured out his blood for us. And Jesus blood did what no amount of sheep or cattle, no matter how pure they are, could ever do. Jesus’ blood secures our eternal redemption.
The Lord’s Supper that we eat is Jesus’ ‘final will and testament’. That is what the word ‘covenant’ means. Jesus gives us this holy meal, which he inaugurated with his own blood, as his final will for us. A will comes into effect when the benefactor of the will dies. Jesus is our benefactor; we are the beneficiaries of his will. We receive the benefits of Jesus’ will through Jesus’ death.
What is the benefit of Jesus’ will? Jesus said: “This is my blood of my final will and testament poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. The benefit of Jesus’ will is the forgiveness of sins!
We hear these words all the time. What do they mean: forgiveness of sins? Forgiveness means release, pardon, cancellation. Sin is disobedience from God. Sin is the opposite of what God wants; it is unrighteous, unholy, not good. Sin is the thing that separates us from God and eternal life. Sin is spiritual dirt. Walking around with your sin is like trying to walk for miles with your clothes caked in wet, heavy clay. Sin is spiritual debt. Every action you commit is more coinage added to your already insurmountable debt. Debt is crushing, debilitating, smothering. Racked with spiritual debt is like being bound with thick chains attached to heavy iron weights. Forgiveness of sins is the release of these weights and chains. Forgiveness of sins is removal of this heavy clay that bogs us down. Forgiveness of sins is the cancellation of this crushing, debilitating, smothering debt. Forgiveness of sins is having an unbelievable weight lifted off your chest.
But don’t we already have the forgiveness of sins? Aren’t our sins forgiven in Baptism? Doesn’t God forgive our sins through the pastor when he declares our sins forgiven? Why do I need this meal?
Yes, God grants you the wonderful gift of the forgiveness of sins through Baptism and the pastor’s Absolution, yet there is good reason to receive this meal from Jesus.
First, Jesus your Lord commands: “Take eat, drink of it all of you!” This alone would suffice, yet there is much more.
Second, Jesus is not stingy with his forgiveness! Jesus loves to forgive us. He loves to remove the debilitating weight from your conscience. He loves to wash your soul clean from everything that separates you from God. Jesus gives you this meal so that you may see, feel, and taste this gift. You have something tangible that assures you that your sins are forgiven! And with this forgiveness of sins, this Supper also gives you life and salvation!
An additional problem with sin is that it is a habit. This means we keep on doing it! Although we strive in the Spirit of our Baptism to live lives pleasing to God, our sinful flesh drives us back into the mud of our sin, wraps us back up in its chains, and throws a heavy load on our back! The proverb says: “The dog returns to its vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.” This is the curse of the Fall. Although we are forgiven of our sins in the Sacrament, the sin builds up again and grieves our conscience and soul. When your heart feels sorely pressed with your sins, let this comfort of the Lord’s Supper bring you new strength and refreshment. Jesus generously grants forgiveness in his Supper to all who believe his words and want to be rescued from their sins.
What then must you do to prepare yourself for this meal? First, repent of your sins. This meal is for those who are sorry for their sins and want to do better. Second, believe Jesus’ words: “This is my body; this is my blood” and believe that it is given and shed for you for your forgiveness. If someone doesn’t believe Jesus’ words: “This is my body; this is my blood” it does not mean that that person does not receive Jesus’ body and blood. Jesus shed his blood on the cross for the whole world whether you believe it or not. The bread and wine in the Sacrament is Jesus’ true body and blood whether you believe it or not, because Jesus says it is. He cannot lie or deceive. If you do not believe, however, you do not receive the benefits, but rather judgment. Yet Jesus invites you to believe in this gift. Jesus invites you to come and be released from the load of your sins, to eat and drink his body and blood given and shed for you.
Jesus is our Passover Lamb. He was sacrificed for our sins. His blood was poured out for the whole world. In this Supper we receive the benefit of Jesus’ sacrifice for us on the cross when we eat his true body and drink his true blood and trust in the rich benefits Jesus promises to us.
Let us pray:
Lord Jesus Christ, You have prepared
This feast for our salvation;
It is Your body and Your blood,
And at Your invitation
As weary souls, with sin oppressed,
We come to You for needed rest,
For comfort, and for pardon.
2 Peter 2:22
LSB 622 Lord Jesus Christ, You Have Prepared