Thursday, April 2, 2015

Sermon -- Maundy Thursday (April 2, 2015)

JOHN 13:21-35
One Of You Will Betray Me.

In the name + of Jesus.

     Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night he was betrayed, took bread; and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body, which is given for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.”  Then he took the cup, gave thanks, and said, “Drink from it, all of you; this is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins.  Do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” (Words of Institution)
     We hear these words every Divine Service when the bread and wine are consecrated for the Lord’s Supper.  The Words of Institution proclaim the sufferings and death of our Lord.  They remind us that we are not merely reenacting Jesus’ Last Supper.  They tell us that what we receive in the sacrament is precisely what Jesus Christ says, “This is my body.  This is my blood.”  They remind us why we eat and drink: “For the forgiveness of sins.”  The Words of Institution proclaim that these are the most holy things—for this is Christ given to you in tangible form.  This is the heavenly meal already here on earth.  These are the holy things reserved for and given to the holy ones.
     There is much to ponder here—both for our meditation and for our comfort and salvation.  For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (1 Corinthians 11:26)  If you proclaim the Lord’s death, then you are also proclaiming God’s mercy, forgiveness, and salvation.  If you partake in the holy communion, then Jesus is mingling his body and blood with yours.  If you feast on this sacred meal, you are physically receiving and ingesting the Lord’s mercy, forgiveness, and salvation.  This is awesome and amazing stuff.  We do not take it lightly, and we dare not take it lightly.
     As amazing and as awesome as this is, it is all prefaced with these words: “The Lord Jesus Christ, on the night he was betrayed….” (1 Corinthians 11:23)  It sounds out of place.  Before we ever get to the words of promise and comfort, we hear words of an ominous tone: Our Lord Jesus Christ was betrayed. 
    On the very night he was betrayed, Jesus told the apostles in blunt terms: “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” (John 13:21)  Each one wondered and asked, “Is it I, Lord?” (Matthew 26:22)  Partly spoken in fear, partly in disbelief.  Jesus was clear.  One of you will betray me.  One of you is a traitor.  I had told you that my enemies would seize me, beat me, and crucify me.  One of you will make it happen.  One of you. 
    These disciples had willingly submitted to Jesus as their teacher.  They had confessed him as the long-awaited Messiah.  They saw him as the one who would bring in the kingdom of God.  One of them would betray him?!  Surely, that disciple would be the lowest of the low.  Earlier that evening, these disciples had debated which of them was the greatest.  Nevertheless, they did not use Jesus’ words as an opportunity to cast suspicions on the others.  No one said, “Lord, I bet it’s that guy.”  Each one rightly feared for himself.  Each disciple pleaded, “Is it I, Lord?” (Matthew 26:22) 
     The Lord Jesus Christ knows what it is to be sinned against, even by those who are nearest and dearest to him.  Perhaps you know the feeling as well.  People whom you have trusted have turned on you.  One whom you thought would have your back stuck a knife into it.  One who was supposed to be your confidant blabbed.  One who vowed marital faithfulness cheated.  You may well know the pain of betrayal. 
     You don’t forget such sins against you.  You probably never will.  But you may forget how you, too, have sinned against others.  And none of us truly appreciates how greatly and how frequently we sin against the Lord.  The Lord could have easily told you, “Truly, truly, I say to you, all of you will betray me.  Rather than be guided by God’s word, you will defy it.  Instead of recoiling from sin, you will run into it and revel in it.  You will cherish the friends who encourage you to sin and bask in the cheers when they celebrate your wickedness.  You call yourself my disciple, but you have defied me.  And you will do it again.” 
     The Lord Jesus Christ still is betrayed by his disciples.  You and I betray him with every sin we commit.  We may boast like the apostles that we would not turn from Jesus and that we would suffer everything for him, only to flee later—ashamed to be caught as his disciples because we do not want people to think we are different.  Despite our Lord’s warnings, we still fail him and sin against him.  The Lord Jesus Christ still knows what it is to be betrayed.
     “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” (John 13:21)  And even though he knew it was Judas Iscariot, Jesus did not strike him down.  Later in the Garden, when Judas showed up with the mob to arrest Jesus, Jesus spoke one word and knocked them all to the ground.  But then they all stood up again and collected themselves.  Judas was not struck dead; for the Lord still longed for his repentance.  Jesus, on the other hand, would be struck dead.  The Lord Jesus Christ willingly went into the hands of his enemies.  The Lord Jesus Christ willingly went to shed his blood for you.  He would be pierced to the cross for the sins of all, even for those who betray him. 
    Jesus took your sins upon his body to pay for them.  Jesus shed his blood to be the sin offering which atones for you.  Though he was betrayed, Jesus faithfully served you to save you from your sins.  Jesus is never unfaithful to you.  He is your faithful Savior, which means that his body and blood continually stand as the payment for your sins.  Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night he was betrayed, blessed the bread and the wine and summoned his Church: This is my body, which was given for you.  This is my blood which was shed for you.  Take and eat, for this feast is given to you for the forgiveness of sins.
     You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that his love for you is always faithful, and that his blood for you always marks you as forgiven.  Even when you have not been faithful to him, he remains faithful to you.  He still calls you his own.  He still intercedes for you.  He is not ashamed to call you his brothers and sisters.
     Like Jesus did, you live in a world of sinners.  Even those who call you their loved ones will still sin against you.  On the night he was betrayed, Jesus gave not only a new testament, but also a new command: Love one another.  Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34-35)  This love demonstrates itself this way—that you have mercy on those who sin and forgive them.  You pray for them and relinquish any rights to revenge.  Remember that Judas, who had betrayed Jesus, was overwhelmed with guilt.  His own efforts to fix things failed.  You cannot fix broken commandments.  His guilt drove him to kill himself; for he had given up on Christ’s mercy.  Therefore, even those who have wounded you need your mercy so that they will not be driven into despair.  This is how Jesus loves you.  He is pleased to have mercy upon you.  Jesus does not merely tolerate you as long as you keep your distance.  Rather he desires that you dwell with him forever.  In the same way, you get to live with each other not in revenge, but in bestowing forgiveness and favor.
     Our Lord Jesus Christ on the night he was betrayed went forth to cover even the sins of betrayal.  He has mercy even on the lowest of the low.  He exalts you, declaring you to be holy and making you partakers of the most holy things.  By these, he administers his forgiveness to you and marks you as heirs of the holy kingdom.

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

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