Todd A. Peperkorn, STM
Messiah Lutheran Church
Maundy Thursday – 2008
John 13:1-15; Exodus 24:3-11; I Corinthians 11:23-32
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TITLE: “The Living God”
In the name of the Father and of the † Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Our text is from St. John chapter 13 as well as the following words from Exodus twenty four (our Old Testament reading):
Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, and they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. And he did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank (Exodus 24:9-11).
God had saved the children of Israel from slavery under cruel Pharaoh in Egypt. He had wiped out Eygpt’s mighty army in the waters of the Red Sea. He had given them the exact expression of His will for them in His Holy Law. He had done all of these things for them, and now they were going to receive even more.
Moses made a sacrifice for the people, and according to the custom of the Law, sprinkled the blood upon them. This blood of the covenant was put upon them the cleanse them of their sin, and to show them that God the Lord was for them, and that He would take care of them.
Then an amazing thing happened. Moses took the priests and seventy elders up the mountain with him, and there they saw God Himself. The text says that they say God and ate and drank.
This may not seem like much to you. In our day and age we presume that God is at our beck and call. He is the divine butler who does what we want and picks up our messes after us. God is not worshipped; He is called like a dog or some other pet.
But for the children of Israel, to behold God Himself was the greatest of all possible gifts. By beholding God, you were made holy. When you beheld God, you were made righteous in His sight. But in order to behold God, you first must be cleansed of all your sin. You could not simply stroll into the presence of God. As Moses said sometime later:
For who is there of all flesh, that has heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of fire as we have, and has still lived? (Deuteronomy 5:6)
This view of the holiness of God was still there in our Lord’s day. Just a few years after our Lord’s resurrection from the dead, the author to Hebrews writes, It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:31). We could do with a much greater sense of how unholy we really are in God’s sight. We are dust, and to dust we shall return (Genesis 3:19b)
But God, who is rich in mercy, will not have it so. On the night when He was betrayed, our Lord met with His disciples in the upper room. They were just beginning to understand that He is the Son of God. They had glimpses of understanding, moments of great confession and truth, but it was not all clear for them. It would not be revealed fully to them until His death and resurrection. So that night, the night of the Passover, our Lord girds His loins, gets on His hands and knees, and washes the disciples’ feet. He teaches them by living and by dying that the way of God is the way of service and love. God does not need your works, although your neighbor needs them. God wants your heart, and so He comes down to get it as only He can.
Jesus then does something for them and for us that is even more astonishing. He not only washes their feet, but He feeds them Himself. Moses and the elders saw God and ate and drank. The disciples not only saw God, they ate and drank Him!
Our Lord does the same for you. You were once unholy, unclean and unrighteous. Now you are holy, clean and righteous in His sight. Once you were dead, but now you are alive. Once you were in slavery, but now you are free in Him. Free to live. Free to serve your neighbor in love.
The children of Israel were freed from a mighty oppressor, but you have been freed from death itself. Come then, eat and drink of God, and live forever.
In the name of Jesus. Amen.