Maundy Thursday 2023
Title: A Change of Focus
In preparation for Good Friday, we have gathered here tonight to remember that night when Jesus used two-letter words that permanently changed the meaning of the Passover feast. From that time on, the Passover meal is no longer to be done in remembrance of God’s delivery from Egypt, as much as we should remember that deliverance, but in remembrance of Jesus’ death as he rescued us from slavery to sin. It is now a new covenant God made with his people, which surpasses the old covenant.
Just a few days earlier, Jesus had entered the city of Jerusalem. The people had adored him, for he would free them from the Romans. It was going to be a new beginning, and it was, but not the beginning they thought they needed. That first day that Jesus entered the city was beautiful, but it did not take long for them to realize that this Jesus was not who they thought he was.
Most of the religious community turned against him because he was upsetting how things worked. It was not what they had been doing, and they did not like it. They could see that if the people followed Jesus, their power would be lost, and when that was lost, they would also lose their prestige and wealth. They had to get rid of him permanently. But they were not the only ones turning against him, for the people were fast deserting him, even his disciples that night would deny him and flee, all because a dead Jesus could not be the king that would free them from the Romans.
Amid this, Jesus, knowing what would happen to him that night, wanted some time with his disciples. He wanted to be in communion with them. As he stated elsewhere in God’s Holy Word, he would not celebrate the Supper until he came back on the last day when he would call all people out of their graves, those who trusted in him to everlasting life with him, those who rejected his love to everlasting life without him.
So that night, he spoke new words at the Passover. He spoke of his body being the sacrifice instead of the lamb. There is no doubt that the disciples were confused that night, for they, too, did not understand Jesus’ mission. Even though his death had not yet taken place, Jesus was giving them a way to remember his death, for instead of remembering the blood of the lamb that was spread across the top of the door saving those inside from the avenging angel that took the lives of all firstborn creatures both animal and human, They are to remember Jesus’ blood that was going to be spilled upon the cross to protect those who believe in him from the wrath of God.
It was a confusing couple of days for the disciples. Things were not turning out as they had planned. Jesus was not celebrating the Passover, the same way as the rest of the Jewish people. It was different, and I am sure that they were troubled by some parts of it, mainly when he said, as he held up the bread, “This is my body.” And when he held up the cup, “This is my blood.”
In saying those words, Jesus is saying that no longer are people to look forward to the forgiveness of their sins yet to be secured. No longer are people to look forward to a Savior to come, for he has come. His death is the final sacrifice that all the sacrifices for thousands of years pointed toward. In these simple yet life-giving words he said, “This is my body” and “This is my blood,” and in doing so, he attaches his forgiveness to the Supper.
Tonight he invites you to that same table where he says to us, “This is my body, which is given for you and this is my blood which is the new covenant in my blood.” We don’t understand how it can be, but those words come from the same one who spoke at creation, “Let there be,” and there was. We don’t understand how his words accomplished it, but it happened, and it was good. He is the same one who stood at the wedding in Cana and changed water into wine. He is the same one who spoke words, and people were healed, forgiven, and brought back to life. When God speaks, things happen.
It is this same God who, at the Passover, said, “This is my body, and this is my blood.” He is here now in the sip of wine and wafer that we receive in his Supper . We don’t know how it is. We don’t understand it. We believe it because he has said it is so. What God says he does, he does, and we rejoice in the beautiful gift he has given us.
So when you partake of his Supper in just a few minutes, remember that the blood he shed is the blood of forgiveness that we so desperately need, for without the shedding of his blood, there is no forgiveness, salvation, or eternal life. Amen.