Holy Week, Maundy Thursday
The Institution – Matthew 26:26-28
If you go to a birthday party, it’s almost a given that at some point there will be a special song. Probably when the cake is being brought out with candles lit on it. Everyone knows the song and every joins in singing it. Now, imagine going to a birthday party and when the cake is being brought out everyone begins singing a totally different song. How would you react? I’m guessing you would be surprised, shocked, and you would probably remember that strange birthday party.
Well, Jesus and His disciples were celebrating the Passover. The Passover was something celebrated by Jews every year since the exodus from Egypt some 1500 years previous. So, for 1500 years the Jews had been following a set way of celebrating the Passover feast. But on this day Jesus did things really different. The disciples would likely have had rapt attention to what Jesus was doing.
Jesus took the bread, broke it, and gave it to them saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” And it’s important to note that the Greek language typically doesn’t use the word “is.” Often it’s simply understood; somewhat like if I were to say what’s it like outside? You could say, “Dark.” Or, you could say, “It is dark.” Adding the word “is” adds emphasis to what is said. Then Jesus took a cup of wine and said, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant.”
So, in the Lord’s Supper Jesus really truly gives us His own body and blood under the bread and the wine. We really truly eat bread and drink wine and, yet, in a miraculous way, in a marvelous way we really, truly receive Jesus’ true body and blood in way that surpasses our human mind and reasoning.
And think about what this means. Each one of us knows how to play tapes over and over inside our heads. Especially after we say or do something embarrassing, silly, dumb, foolish. “How could I be so foolish!” “How dumb can I be.” “I’m pathetic.” “I must be worthless.” We know how to play those tapes over and over in our heads. I’m guessing the disciples knew too.
But then here’s the Lord’s Supper. Jesus comes to you and He says to you, “My son, my daughter, take and eat, this is my body, take and drink, this is my blood of the covenant.” And Jesus gives you… Himself. How much is Jesus’ body and Jesus’ blood worth? Can you put a price tag on it? No. It’s priceless. And…Jesus gives it to you in His Supper saying to you, “You’re worth it to me. You’re priceless to me. I give you me.” And can anyone’s opinion of you matter more than His? Amen.
Apparently several power stations in N.D. generate the electricity that Beltrami Electric Coop uses. There’s a lot of power generated at that power station. However, that power would do me no good unless a system of power lines connected my house to the power plant.
What Jesus did on the cross is somewhat like that power plant. Jesus won enough blessing on the cross for the eternal salvation of all people. However, it would do me no good if I wasn’t connected to it. And how are we connected to Jesus? We are connected to Jesus through the Gospel which comes to us in the Word and in the Sacraments. One of those sacraments is the Lord’s Supper.
Notice again what Jesus said, “This is my body given for you…this cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins.”
Jesus’ body given up for us on the cross and His blood poured out for us on the cross, Jesus gives us to eat and drink in the Sacrament for the forgiveness of our sins.
The devil loves to come and tempt us with doubts about God’s love for us, doubts about our forgiveness, doubts about our salvation. And so what does Jesus do? In the Lord’s Supper Jesus comes to you personally and visibly, audibly, tangibly, and tastefully He gives you Himself for what? For the forgiveness of sins, connecting you personally to all the blessings He won with His death on the cross.
And not just once, but He comes to you again and again and again with forgiveness. Every time you receive the Lord’s Supper you receive the very forgiveness of sins Jesus won for you on the cross. And not only that, with forgiveness comes strength, strength God Himself gives you to live for Him, to make choices in life not to sin, to make choices that honor and please your Savior. And finally, with forgiveness comes assurance. Every time you receive the Lord’s Supper God gives you the assurance that heaven is your home, for His own body and His own blood shed for you won it for you. What blessings!
Quiet. Be still. Get up take your mat and go home. Fill the jars with water and take some to the master of the banquet. Lazarus, come out. Jesus said some crazy things, didn’t He? It’s certainly not logical to tell a storm to be quiet and still. It’s not a medically approved treatment to tell a paralyzed person to walk. It’s not scientific to fill jars with water and expect them to turn into wine. It’s normally not nice to tell someone’s dead relative to come out of his tomb. But Jesus did. And if it was anyone else who was saying those things we would have reason to believe they were crazy.
But not Jesus. Why? Because when said something, things happened. When Jesus spoke storms stilled, the lame walked, water washed into wine, and the dead came back to life. Jesus’ words have power.
And so it is when Jesus said, “This is my body; this is my blood shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” It might not be logical, it might not be scientific, but it’s true because Jesus says so. Jesus’ words give it the power.
Just like Jesus wanted storms to still and lame to walk, so now by His words Jesus has attached His power to His Supper so that every time you receive it your soul wearied with sin is refreshed with forgiveness, your spirit crushed by bad choices is renewed to live in a God-pleasing way, and your heart so often bruised by all the hurts of life is given healing by God’s love and commitment to you. That’s the power of Jesus’ words, that’s the power of Jesus’ Supper.
You’ve been admitted to the hospital, you have a 104 degree fever, you feel terrible, your heart feels like it’s racing right out your chest, you’re in a cold sweat, a doctor – whom you’ve never met- walks in the room tosses you a bottle of pills and walks out of the room saying, “Take those.” And he’s gone. Are you going to take those pills? I’m guessing not! A different doctor walks in, looks you over, takes your pulse, your temperature, examines your charts, asks you a bunch of questions, then he says, “Yep, you’re sick, you’ve got whatever.” And you’re going ask, “Is there a cure?”
That’s kind of like what doctor God does. Before we take the Lord’s Supper God wants us to ask ourselves, “Am I sinner? Do I need forgiveness? How have I measured up to God’s 10 commandments? How have I fulfilled my duties as a spouse, parent, student, employer, employee?” And if I’m honest with myself I have to conclude: I’m terribly sick with sin. I need forgiveness.
And what happens? God awakens in us a hunger for His Supper. He awakens in us a desire to receive the very forgiveness we need in the Supper. Then Jesus comes to us with His own body and blood together with the bread and the wine to give us the cure we need: the forgiveness of our sins. May we with ready hearts receive His Supper. Amen.