Thursday, March 28, 2013

Sermon -- Maundy Thursday (March 28, 2013)

LUKE 22:15-16

In the name + of Jesus.

     Jesus said to his disciples, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” (Luke 22:15)  This was not mere excitement from Jesus, as if he were saying, “I can’t wait for Passover this year!”  At this time, Jesus was 33 years old.  He had celebrated many Passovers prior to this one.  Jesus had a great desire for this particular Passover.  This one was different.  “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.  For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 22:15-16) 
     Jesus knew that his hour had come.  The kingdom of God was at hand.  The Passover Lamb would be slain for the last time.  And Jesus, our true Passover Lamb, would fulfill the Passover for Israel, for the world, and for all time.
     The Passover was celebrated to recall God’s gracious deliverance from Egypt.  When each family had gathered in their homes for the feast, fathers were to teach their children what the feast was for.  The Lord had instructed them: “When your children shall say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ you shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the LORD’s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.’” (Exodus 12:26-27)
     Annually, the Israelites commemorated the Lord’s deliverance.  Annually, the Israelites slaughtered lambs and feasted.  Annually, they sang the Psalms, the great Hillel, and praised God for his mercy and his goodness.  But each celebration was only a remembrance of a past deliverance.  The angel did not return to strike down anyone.  There were no great deliverances from the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks, or the Romans.  The Passover, while great history and salvation history, was ancient history.
     But the Passover did point to future salvation and deliverance.  It pointed ahead to the Christ, to the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.  An unblemished Lamb would again be slaughtered.  Blood would again flow, providing deliverance from death and salvation for those shackled to sin and guilt.  A Lamb would again be put on a spit and roasted.  In this case, the spit was the cross.  The fires were hell, and the burning was God’s wrath.  But God’s people would be delivered by this Lamb, by his death, and through his blood.
     The first Passover was a great deliverance.  Subsequent Passover celebrations looked back at God’s deliverance and looked ahead to a greater deliverance.  “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Luke 22:15), he said.  The hour had come.  Jesus would suffer.  He would die.  He would fulfill the Passover.
     Now, consider the love and mercy of our Savior as he reclines and dines with his apostles.  We often put these men up on a pedestal, presuming that their place at the Lord’s table was well-deserved.  But Jesus did not gather around him the brightest and the best.  Jesus was pleased to share his table with sinners.  He summoned to himself brash and uneducated fishermen.  He called to his side a revolutionary political zealot and a state-employed tax collector—both ends of the political spectrum there.  And while you may think, “Well, sure, that’s what they were before he called them,” they demonstrated their faults and flaws throughout their lives.  Jesus dined with men who in one hour boasted of their allegiance and in the next hour deserted him.  All fled when he was arrested.  One betrayed him.  One denied him.  And none of them believed that on the third day he would rise again.  Yet, Jesus brought them to his table.  He loved them, and they needed his deliverance and salvation.
    Dear Christians, there is no difference today.  Once again, the Lord’s table is set.  Once again, the Lord prepares a feast.  Once again, you are invited to eat and drink the sacred meal.  But it is not because you have proved yourselves greater or better than any one else.  Like the apostles, you have proven yourselves disobedient, fickle, and weak.  When you had a chance to confess your faith by your words or actions, you wilted under the pressure.  You gave in because you feared the hatred of men more than the wrath of God.  Life is easier when no one is asking you, “Are you one of his?  Surely you are, for your words and actions give you away.”  When you had a chance to stand firm in the faith, you found it easier to flee and slink away.  You call yourself a Christian, but you are not worthy of the title.
     And yet, Jesus loves you.  And yet, Jesus has put his name on you.  And yet, Jesus has taken up your sin for you.  And yet, Jesus has secured deliverance for you.  And yet, Jesus poured out his blood for you, and covers you in his blood so that you are not slain.  Because you have been baptized into the blood of Christ, the curse, the wrath, and the punishment of God pass over you.  For, the Lamb of God has been slain on your behalf.  Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, has taken away the sin of the world.  He has mercy upon us.  He grants us peace. 
     Jesus Christ has fulfilled the Passover.  A great deliverance has been provided for you.  That great deliverance is again celebrated with a feast.  But this feast is no mere reenactment or recollection of events past.  In this feast, Jesus Christ brings you the benefits he has won for you.  For here is the Lamb of God.  Here is the blood of Christ.  It is exactly as he said: “This is my body.  This is my blood.  For you.  For the forgiveness of sins.”
     Jesus Christ fulfills the Passover.  That is why he was eager to celebrate this particular Passover with his apostles.  It is the whole reason he came.  It is where he pours out his salvation for sinners.  It is where he bestows his love and mercy upon you.  He said, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.  For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 22:15-16) 
     Dear Christians—and he is pleased to call you by that name, for he loves you—the kingdom of God has come to you.  For the kingdom of God comes through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  That is where he has secured your forgiveness, and here is where he delivers that forgiveness to you.  Once again, we will feast on the sacred meal.  Once again, we will commune with Jesus Christ.  Once again, we will eat the Bread of Life and drink the fruit of the Vine, which is Jesus Christ.  Once again, our Lord will say: “For you, for the forgiveness of sins.” 
     Dear Christians, the kingdom of God has come to you.  While you are not yet in the heavenly kingdom, your Lord Jesus Christ delivers his heavenly kingdom to you.  Here, heaven comes to earth and we feast, if just for a moment, with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven.  For, heaven continually celebrates.  The holy Church always rejoices in the victory.  There is no fasting in heaven; the feast goes on.  And when we meet, the feast is here.  The Lamb has been slain.  The blood has been poured.  Salvation is here.  Death passes over.  Life is yours.  And Jesus earnestly desires to have you at his table.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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