Todd A. Peperkorn, STM
Messiah Lutheran Church
Maundy Thursday (April 9, 2009)
John 13:1-15, 1 Cor. 11:23-32, Ex. 24:3-11
TITLE: “The Holiest of Nights”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is the Gospel from St. John chapter thirteen.
On this most holiest of nights we remember our Lord’s Passion and death for our salvation. It was the Feast of the Passover, the night when every pious Jew celebrated with word, teaching and meal what God had done for them in delivering them from the hand of the Egyptians. That first covenant had been sealed in blood, the blood of the Lamb for the sacrifice. Then in Exodus 24 they offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord. Moses read from the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. He then took the blood of the sacrifice, and the text says he threw it on the people and said, ““Behold the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.”” (Exodus 24:8 ESV) The blood was on the people, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up the mountain to commune with God. The vision was beautiful, with a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. They entered into the presence of God, they beheld God, and ate and drank.
But it wasn’t enough. Again and again they made the sacrifices. They remembered the Passover. The blood of the sacrifices had to be made again and again, year after year. They remembered the covenant, but the sacrifices had to be repeated. It was never enough. The author of Hebrews puts it this way:
“But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” (Hebrews 9:11-14 ESV)
So on the night when our Lord is betrayed, the night when He makes the one, great sacrifice for all people and all time, He meets with His disciples. He serves them, washing their feet as a sign of humility. He acts as their slave. He then delivers the greatest of all gifts to them. He delivers them Himself. He gives them His body and His blood to eat and to drink. The Israelites of old ate of the passover lamb to remind them of God’s deliverance from the Egyptians. But now, all of God’s people eat and drink of the one, great passover Lamb without spot or blemish. He is the true and perfect sacrifice not made with hands.
So what does this mean for you, dearly beloved? What this means for you is simple, profound and beautiful. It means that this night we remember that Jesus’ sacrifice is once and for all. But when we remember, it isn’t something really that we do. We remember because Jesus gives Himself to us. It is His work, this holy remembering. He sacrifices Himself on the cross, and now delivers that one, great sacrifice to you in His Body and Blood. This is, quite literally, how we remember His death. We remember His death by participating in it. By eating His body and His blood, we show the world that Jesus died, that He rose again from the dead, and that He now rights at the right hand of God, where He gives Himself for the life of the world.
So come, eat and drink the sacrifice that He made for you once and for all. Eat and drink, rejoice, and live. In His holy name, Amen.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith, unto life everlasting. Amen.