Maundy Thursday, April 2, 2015
Sermon Text: Mark 14:12-26
In the Name of Jesus. AMEN!
Beloved in the Lord,
It is the eve of our Lord’s betrayal and the night of His arrest. Soon they will strike the Shepherd and scatter the flock. The disciples are on edge. Their fellowship cannot bear the events that are about to unfold. Though each of them vehemently confess otherwise, they do not have the strength, determination, nor the moral integrity to follow their Lord into death, not yet, not tonight.
Tonight, fear and uncertainty grip their hearts. Tonight one will betray their master and another will deny Him. Tonight they will all fall away because of what they see and what they feel and what they experience.
And so tonight Jesus gathers with His disciples. The place has been prepared. The lamb has been sacrificed. The fellowship gathers around the table. Our night tonight is not much different than theirs. They recline in peace as their Lord joins them for a meal which He has long desired to share. He is with them and they are with Him, the fellowship is gathered around their Lord and their Lord is sharing with them a meal. Jesus delights in His beloved, even in Peter, even in Judas. His love knows no bounds.
But this meal is more than just a time of remembrance, more than just a reason to get together, more than just a time for communal warm fuzzies. And we would do well to take notice. Jesus shares His Word. His Word reveals their hearts. “One of you will betray me.” Their hearts are not right and they know it. “Is it I?” they ask. They know the truth. We know the truth. Jesus words to them could be His Words to us as well. No one points fingers, not even Jesus. Jesus knows the truth. Jesus the knows the one. Betrayal is in the heart of every one of them. It’s in the heart of every one of us. For we share the same the nature, we bear the same condition, we live in the same world. We are no better and they are no worse. Sin is our first love and it is a difficult thing to surrender your first love.
The Loneliness of Egypt
Like Israel in the wilderness there’s always something about the pleasures of Egypt that pulls on our hearts. Though we have been wooed by another Love, one which has become flesh and dwelt among, one which has drawn near to us and brought health and healing through Word and deed, we often find ourselves peering back, reminiscing about days gone by. We remember the fun we had before we “settled down.” We remember our indecent indulgences before we got “hitched” and even afterwards we think back about life “before the kids.” But we forget. We forget the loneliness brought on by our vanity, the friends we hurt, the people we manipulated, the souls we neglected. We forget the rivalries, the envies and the dissensions. We forget the emptiness we felt when we thought we were making “memories”, memories which only yearbooks and throwback Thursdays seem to recall. We forget all the hangovers, the guilt, and the shame of sins gone by. We forget that we were not happy with our sin, that we were oppressed, that we longed for something more, something meaningful, something deeper than the shallow pleasures Egypt and this world have to offer.
Yes, though we’ve changed over time, we haven’t changed completely. The good we want to do we don’t do and the evil don’t want to do we still do it, some in deeds and others in their hearts. We remember with fondness the wrong things and we forget . . . what we should regret. And so we have need of preparation for the meal. Such preparation isn’t about who sits where or who sets the table or what sort of meal is to be provided. For us Christians, preparation comes by examination. The Lord has spoken His Word. He has taken note of betrayal in the heart. We are called to repent, to wash before we eat.
The Promise in a Meal
And rather than chase away the betrayer and send away the denier, rather than scold his disciples and wag the finger, Jesus gives us a good word. He draws our attention away from ourselves, our sins, our life, our old life and directs us to Himself. In the midst of the meal Jesus take the bread and breaks it. He blesses it with His Word and He take the cup and does the same. Bread is now His body and the wine is now His blood. These are given for us Christians to eat and to drink for the forgiveness of our sins. Through these Jesus draws nearer than before. Through these Jesus does more than just give us something to “remember.” He gives us Himself. He loves us with Himself. He covenants with us, makes a promise to us, pledges within us the resurrection of our bodies and the life everlasting. The Word enters the ear and the mouth and the heart and the soul. The promises of God are given us to eat and to drink. The sacrifice of God is delivered to us for the delivering of our souls from the bondage of sin, death, devil and hell.
All is given freely from the heart of God for us to receive by faith. Faith clings to the word and promises of God. Faith remembers the words, the cost; the cross and the empty tomb. Faith remembers the night He was betrayed and faith takes note of His Words at the table. Faith remembers as faith eats real bread with His real resurrected body, and drinks real wine with His real, resurrected, life-giving, enemy destroying, devil chasing, heart cleansing blood. Real food for real sinners recieving real gifts through a real promise from a real savior. Nothing in this meal is symbolic, not the giver, nor the food. It is as real as Jesus’ death and resurrection – and it is for you.
The Fellowship of Believers
What is the fruit of such a meal! Nothing less than eternal life and salvation. But, where sin divided us and brought about dissensions, jealousies, envy and loneliness, the Holy Supper not only undoes sin’s work but works healing in the heart of the individual and in our communion – our tiny fellowship. For this meal is a Holy Communion. Not only are we united to Christ’s death and resurrection for us but we are also united to each other in Him. For we, though many are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread.
We are reconciled to one another – which is why we ought not come with a grudge in our hearts.
We are forgiven of our sins, which is why we ought not approach in unrepentance, clinging to our sin as Israel clung to Egypt’s pleasures.
And we are joined together in a holy koinonia, a fellowship united in doctrine. Which is why those of another confession, those who do not believe Jesus’ Words in the sacrament, or believe differently than this fellowship gathered around this altar, are unable to eat and drink with us at this time. They have a different doctrine and are not united with us.
And we, being united together by such a gracious and merciful testament, find in our communion a family in the midst of a world full of broken families. We find a remedy for the loneliness which sin often brings. We find comfort in the brethren, the holy company of believers, who share the burden of our nature and rejoice in the one and same salvation. We are not alone but travel through this wilderness with others who have been given us to love and encourage even as we have been given to them for the same.
The Time of Repentance
Beloved in the Lord, this evening as you approach the altar of our Lord, forsake the pleasures of this world and remember not the call of your first love but consider Him who humbly loves you and gives Himself to you in this supper. Do not be like ancient Israel, who loathed the bread came down from heaven and coveted the leeks and onions of Egypt. But doing this in remembrance of Him, recall the wondrous salvation He has purchased for you through His death and resurrection. Repent of your sins and receive His covenant of blood on your lips. And then empowered by His gifts of grace . . . love one another. Eating and drinking His eternal gifts will bear fruit in your heart, strengthen your faith, and in so doing you will proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. And Christ will be with you and you will be with Christ. Such is His delight to be with the ones He loves. I pray it is also yours. AMEN!