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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!

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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 29, 2018

Justification in the Lord’s Supper - March 29, 2018 - Maundy Thursday - Text: Apology to Augsburg Article IV


This year during the season of Lent through to Easter Sunrise and Easter morning we are continuing our celebration of the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation as we did at Advent through Christmas. During Lent through Easter we are covering what is considered the most important doctrine of the Church and the Lutheran Church, Article IV of the Augsburg Confession and the Apology of the Augsburg Confession. Article IV is the article on Justification and how we are made just and right in God’s eyes. Indeed, this article is the article on which the Church stands or falls, because we are saved either by ourselves, our good deeds, our obedience, and so forth or our salvation comes from outside of us, namely it comes from Jesus, who has earned and paid for our sins by His suffering and death and the cross and which He gives freely to us with out any merit or worthiness within us.
 
This evening we will fittingly address the Lord’s Supper, however, before we get to the Lord’s Supper it is most expedient that we look at the event that pointed to the Lord’s Supper and the feast that Jesus was celebrating when He gave us His Holy Supper that is that we look at the Passover celebration. The first Passover was celebrated in Egypt. The children of Israel had been slaves in Egypt for some 500 years. The Lord heard their cry for deliverance and God sent Moses to bring His people out of slavery. God’s instructions were quite clear as to how He would deliver them and even following their deliverance the Lord gave specific instructions as to how to celebrate and commemorate this great event each and every year. This celebration, this commemoration continued on even to the time of Jesus and even continues in the Jewish community of today.
 
The children of Israel were given instructions to select a lamb that would be slaughtered, sacrificed and eaten. The lamb was to be a spotless lamb, one without spot or blemish. The lamb was to be as close to a perfect specimen of a lamb as possible. The lamb was then to be sacrificed for the people. Its blood was to be shed. Throughout the time of Israel, as prescribed by God in Leviticus the ceremonial laws prescribed the sacrifices which truly did nothing as far as earning or paying for sin, rather the blood sacrifices merely pointed to the one ultimate sacrifice which would be Jesus on the cross. However, that would be a future event.
 
The lamb was sacrificed, slaughtered and the blood was caught in a basin. The blood was then painted on the door post and the lintel of the house with a branch from the hyssop tree. This blood was used to mark the house, to identify the house as one in which there were the people of God, the children of Israel so that when the Lord sent the angel of death he would pass over these houses and not kill the first born child, as he would do in the land of Egypt where the houses would not be so marked.
 
The family, either one family or if it was a small family, two families were to eat the lamb. They were to completely consume the lamb so that none was left until morning. If any was to be left until the morning it was to be burned in the fire. They were to eat standing up, not reclining at the table, that is not laying down. They were to be standing ready to leave in a moments notice. This was not your regular evening meal.
 
God, through Moses is giving these instructions to His people, the children of Israel. They were to obediently follow His instructions because this was how He would deliver them from the slavery and bring them out of Egypt and ultimately guide them to the land that He would give them. They followed the Lord’s instructions and were delivered from slavery and Egypt, yet as we know their history, they continually messed up, disobeyed God, were chastened, delivered, forgiven and so on and on in their history.
 
Fast forward to the time of Jesus. The children of Israel were still celebrating this Passover celebration at the time of Jesus. Jesus began celebrating the Passover when He was yet a young boy as well. Yet, on the night in which He was betrayed, as He celebrated the Passover with His disciples, with the twelve apostles, from this very Passover meal, which pointed to Him and to this very moment in history, He takes and gives us something new, a fulfilled celebration and meal.
 
In the Passover a spotless lamb was selected, pointing to Jesus, the spotless Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Indeed, the disciples had selected and slaughtered the lamb for the Passover celebration with Jesus and they had enjoyed the Passover meal. As the Passover meal continued at one point in the celebration Jesus took bread. The bread He took was the middle matzah of three that were set aside in what is called a burse, a covering with three pockets. This middle matzah had earlier been broken and half hidden. It was this hidden part that was now brought out that Jesus took blessed broke and gave to His disciples to eat.
 
In the Jewish community there is still the question of what this three sleeved burse and matzah mean. Some suggest it symbolizes Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but no one is sure. Certainly we understand the three sleeved burse to mean the trinity of God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We acknowledge God the Son as the middle matzah and if you have ever seen matzah bread it is pierced and has cooking stripes on it as in He was pierced for our transgressions and by His stripes we are healed. He died, was buried, hidden and rose again. It is this bread that Jesus blessed, broke and gave to His disciples with the words, “Take and eat, this is my body.” The sacrifices of the Old Testament were consumed so they became a part of the one offering the sacrifice. Jesus body is consumed so He becomes a part of His disciples and today a part of us. This is no mere symbolic or spiritual act, but this is an eating of His body as He says.
 
Jesus then took the third of four cups of wine in the Passover celebration, the cup known as the cup of Redemption. He blessed this cup and gave it to His disciples to drink with the word, “Take and drink this is my blood.” Just as the blood of the lamb marked the doorpost and lintel of the houses of the children of Israel, so the blood of Jesus became a part of Jesus’ disciples and becomes a part of us through the drinking of His blood, not as a symbol, not in a spiritual way, but in a very real way.
 
Jesus takes what He, as God had given in the very first Passover and what pointed through history to Him and He gives us what is now His Holy Supper, the Lord’s Supper. In His Supper Jesus gives us His Word and His instruction. We are to take bread and eat His body, in, with and under the bread. We are take and drink His blood, in, with and under the wine, so that He physically becomes a part of us.
 
What does this mean? The Lord’s Supper is a means of grace, a way in which God imparts and gives to us the good gifts and blessings He desires to give. Yes, these earthly things of bread and wine give to us the heavenly things of body and blood and forgiveness of sins.
    Notice Jesus words. He does not say that the bread and wine are changed into His body and blood, He does not say that the bread and wine symbolize His body and blood. He says the bread and wine are His body and blood, as He says this is my body, this is my blood. As the bread and wine are still present so is His body and blood. As one cannot eat and drink spiritually so we can not partake of Jesus spiritually. Although we may not fully comprehend what Jesus is giving so we simply believe His word and the gifts that He gives. We may try to use fancy words as an explanation, but the bottom line is that Jesus said what He said and gives what He gives and that settles it.
 
Finally, in the Lord’s Supper as well as through all God’s means of grace God gives and we are given to. God gives faith, forgiveness and life. And we are given to. As we partake of the bread and body of Christ, as we partake of the wine and blood of Christ they become a part of us. His life, His perfect life becomes our perfect life. His suffering and death becomes our suffering and death. His resurrection and life become our resurrection and life. His eternal life becomes our eternal life. This is no mere symbolic or spiritual act, this is God’s true and living gifts.
 
As we come to the Lord’s table this evening and whenever we come to His table we come with repentant hearts ready to be given the gifts the Lord has to give. The Lord is the Host and the gift. The Lord gives and does and we are given to and done to. Indeed, the Lord makes us just and right in His sight through this salutary means. We have no part except to be given to in repentance. We rejoice in this great gift from God, His Son, His body and blood, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. Our response is a loud Amen and to God be the glory for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

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