Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Thursday, March 24, 2016
Lord’s Supper - Maundy Thursday - March 24, 2016 - Text: Matthew 26:26-28
This year during the season of Lent and all the way through Easter morning we have been looking at the various parts of our Divine Worship Service and seeing how the various parts reflect God’s working in our lives; God’s giving His gifts to us, our being given to and our response of faith. So far we have moved steadily through the Divine Service as we have it in the hymnal having skipped Confession and Absolution which we will take up tomorrow and the Lord’s Supper which we will fittingly take up today.
Last week we moved on in the divine service to the offertory and the preface for the service of the Sacrament. The offertory is that word of God that is spoken, sung or chanted as the offerings of God’s people are presented and as the Lord’s Table is prepared for the people of God. The preface are those words which prepare us for the words of institution and our reception of our Lord’s Holy Supper. Last week we began looking at the words of this Holy Meal and connecting it to the Passover which is what Jesus was celebrating with His disciples. This evening we want to continue with that connection and as we do we will come to understand that this meal, this supper is not simply an act of obedience, an acting out of what Jesus did, but indeed this is a most sacred act, even a sacramental act that is an act which is filled with the mysteries of God, the mystery of how He uses the common ordinary means of bread and wine and through these means gives to us the gifts and blessings He has to give.
In the divine service, the Words of Our Lord as they are called are what we call a conflation of the four readings in which we are told of Jesus giving us His Holy Supper, that is they are a “combining,” if you will, of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and the words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians. What we hear as the words of institution is this: “Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night when He was betrayed, took bread and when He had given thanks He broke it and gave it to disciples and said: “Take, eat; this is my body,” which is given for you. This do in remembrance of me. In the same way also He took the cup after supper, and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them, saying: “Drink of it, all of you, cup is new testament in My blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
So, what is this thing the Lord Jesus is giving to us? Again let me remind you that Jesus was celebrating the Passover Seder with His disciples, for the last time. The Passover Seder was that meal, that celebration that God gave to Israel to celebrate the passing over of the angel of death as they were freed from their bondage of slavery in Egypt. As you might recall, they were to select a lamb, a spotless lamb; slaughter the lamb, catching some of the blood; put the blood on the door post and the lintel of the door, in essence making the sign of the cross, so that when the angel of death would pass over the land of Egypt all those in the houses marked by the blood of the lamb would be passed over and the first born would live. The lamb was to be cooked and eaten with the people dressed and ready to exit Egypt. After their exit the Lord gave Israel this celebration as a yearly celebration so they might be reminded of God’s rescue of His people, except that now they could celebrate in a more relaxed manner.
During the meal several important things happened, including the children asking questions which were answered by the father or the head of the family. At the beginning of the celebration three pieces of matzah bread are placed in a burse that is a bag with three compartments, however the middle piece of matzah was broken in half so that only half was placed in the burse while the other half was tucked away, hidden so to speak. Now, if you have never seen matzah bread or do not know what it is let me describe it for you. Matzah bread is very much like a large unsalted cracker. It is unleavened bread, that is bread without yeast. It has holes in it so that it does not expand and burst. It also has char marks on it from being cooked on a grill or griddle. During the Passover Seder celebration different foods are eaten as a reminder of what the Israelites went through as slaves in Egypt. Bitter herbs are eaten, parsley dipped in salt water is eaten as a reminder of the tears of labor, as well as the lamb is eaten. Also there are four cups of wine that are consumed during the meal. All parts of the meal are intended to be instructive and a reminder to the children of Israel of God’s grace and favor. It was while Jesus was celebrating this meal for the very last time with His disciples that He took from the meal and gave them and us something new, something better, something which gives us the fullness and the fulfillment of that first Passover.
Now, before I speak of Jesus’ meal, let me remind you of the ceremonial laws and sacrifices of the Old Testament. You may remember that a person would bring a lamb, a spotless lamb for sacrifice. They would lay their hands on the lamb, in essence transferring their sins to the lamb. The lamb would be slaughtered, cooked and then eaten by the one who brought the lamb, thus in the eating of the lamb they were participating in its sacrifice for their sins. In essence the lambs death became a part of them. We also remember that these sacrifices really did nothing for earning or paying for forgiveness of sins, they only pointed to the one ultimate sacrifice of the promised Savior and His work of earning and paying for our forgiveness. Now we fast forward to Jesus giving us the new sacrament from the one that pointed to it.
At one point in the meal, Jesus took bread, the middle matzah, blessed it, broke it and gave it to His disciples with the words, “Take and eat, this IS my body.” Jesus did not say that the bread symbolized His body, nor did He say the bread was changed into His body. Jesus took the bread so that He had bread in His hand and He gave it to His disciples and told them they were to eat the bread that He was holding because the bread was, is, His body.
Jesus then took the cup of wine, the third cup of wine, the cup of redemption, blessed it and gave it with the words, “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.” Jesus did not say that the cup of wine symbolized His blood, nor did He say the cup of wine was changed into His blood. Jesus took the cup of wine so that He had the cup of wine in His hand and He gave it to His disciples and told them they were to drink the wine from the cup that He was holding because the cup of wine was, is, His blood.
In his account Luke tells us that Jesus says, “Do this in remembrance of me.” In the conflation we hear these words, “This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” This word remembrance is not what we think of when we think of remembering something today. Today to remember something might infer that this act is something that should be acted out as a way of being mindful of an important event, yet, still this would not evoke any kind of thought that it is our obedience to act out this event that would bring anything to us. No, rather this remembrance is a participation in what is happening. Just as in the Old Testament, one would eat the lamb to participate in the lambs sacrifice, so that is what is happening in this mystery, this sacred act, this sacrament that the Lord is giving us. When we eat the bread/body of Jesus and drink the wine/blood of Jesus we are participating in His sacrifice for us, so that His perfect life becomes our perfect life; His perfect death becomes our perfect death; His perfect resurrection becomes our perfect resurrection and His perfect eternal life becomes our perfect eternal life. Just as the blood of the Passover lamb was put on the door post and lintel of the door, making the sign of the cross and marking the house so the angel of death would pass over that house, so Jesus’ blood is on us marking us so that the angel of eternal spiritual death will pass over us.
At the Lord’s Supper Jesus was present, a spotless lamb. Jesus was perfect having been born in perfection and having never sinned, living a perfect life. Then Jesus took our sins, all our sins, and the sins of all people, of all places of all times and He was slaughtered, sacrificed for us on the cross, once and for all. And now He comes to us to offer us to eat of His true body and blood so that we are able to participate in His life giving sacrifice. We do this, that is we eat His body and drink His blood, not as an act of obedience, but as a response to His desire to give to us the gifts and blessings He has to give, thus this is a means of grace, a way in which our Lord gives to us the gifts and blessings He has to give, forgiveness of sins, faith and strengthening of faith, life and salvation. And so this sacred act, this mystery, this sacrament is just that a sacrament, a way in which God comes to us through the simply earthly things of bread and wine to give us all the gifts and blessings He has to give and so in faith we come to be given to and to rejoice and say, thanks be to God and to Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.