To Eat and To Drink
April 9, 2020
Grace, mercy, and peace unto you from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Today we celebrate Maundy Thursday in a manner which we are not accustomed to. On this day every year we gather to celebrate and remember Jesus’ death as we participate with the Lord’s Supper. But at this time tradition is suspended. While we are rightly coming together virtually to hear the Scriptures taught, we are not experiencing the fullness of this celebration. And it seems as though, after the governors remarks yesterday, that it very well could be another month of fasting from our most blessed tradition of all, the Lord’s Supper.
Our Gospel reading begins with Jesus and His disciples going to a place to practice the greatest tradition that was handed down to them for centuries. They went into Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover.
Now, the Passover was the great salvific even of the entire Old Testament. Nothing in the Old Testament was as great as God bringing the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt. God did so in a marvelous way. God sent 10 plagues upon Egypt, and protected His people from them. The Israelites were not affected by any of the plagues and Pharaoh sent Israel away.
Passover has its roots in the tenth and final plague before they left Egypt. The tenth plague was the killing of the first born child. The Israelites were commanded by God’s servant Moses to slaughter a lamb that was a year old without blemish. They were to take the lambs blood and put it on their door posts. And they would then eat the lamb that was slaughtered in haste with their sandals on and staff in hand so that they were ready to leave at a moments notice. Then as the angel of death came, he would see the blood on the door post of the Israelites and Passover their house. But for the Egyptians he would kill the first born child of that household. And the next morning, all the Egyptians mourned death, but the Israelites were safe.
After this Pharaoh sent the Israelites away, but quickly changed his mind and hunted down the Israelites. Pharaoh was defeated through one last miraculous act. The miraculous act of God parting the Red Sea and Pharaoh’s army in pursuit drowned in the sea. The sea was the boarder of Egypt, and now passing on the other side, the people of Israel were freed and were now fully under God’s protection, rule, and reign. They were now His people, and no one could take them from the palm of His hand.
It is this salvific event that Jesus and His disciples go to celebrate. The Passover feast was at hand, but another, even a greater salvation was instituted and traditioned that night. It would be traditioned through betrayal and instituted by the death of the very Son of God.
THE LORD’S SUPPER IS THE GREATEST TRADITION OF THE CHURCH.
“WHEN IT WAS EVENING, HE RECLINED AT TABLE WITH THE TWELVE. AND AS THEY WERE EATING, HE SAID, “TRULY, I SAY TO YOU, ONE OF YOU WILL BETRAY ME.” Well ain’t that a conversation killer. Thank you Jesus for killing the mood! But Jesus’ words here are quite profound. Jesus is saying that one of the 12 disciples would hand him over. Or to put it more bluntly, one of the 12 disciples will tradition Jesus. Betray, handed over, and tradition is the same word here in Greek – paradidomi (παραδιδωμι – pronounced para-did-o-me). Here it most simply means betray, but betraying with a particular outcome and purpose. That purpose is to hand Jesus over to death and for the supper which Christ is about to institute to be efficacious for the Christian who partakes in it.
But as we discussed in our midweek Lenten series, betrayal is transgression. It is a broken promise. Betrayal is a knife stab in the back from someone you trusted and had an agreement with. So all the disciples became “VERY SORROWFUL AND BEGAN TO SAY TO HIM ONE AFTER ANOTHER, “IS IT I, LORD?” HE ANSWERED, HE WHO HAS DIPPED HIS HAND IN THE DISH WITH ME WILL BETRAY ME. THE SON OF MAN GOES AS IT IS WRITTEN OF HIM, BUT WOE TO THAT MAN BY WHOM THE SON OF MAN IS BETRAYED!” One would think that this is an obvious sign and that everyone in the room would know exactly who it was that was going to betray Jesus. However, it seems as though Matthew is making the point that they all dipped their hands into the bowl with Jesus. Thus, they are all going to betray Him. Not a single one of them would be guiltless.
This becomes more evident later that night when Peter promises never to deny Jesus, and all the other disciples promised the same. But by the end of the night, they would have all fled in fear and hide for their lives.
Nevertheless, Judas would be the one to hand Jesus over to the chief priests of the Sandhedrin. And they will sentence Jesus to death and hand Him over to Pilot, who would hand him over to the guard to be crucified.
But on this night, “AS THEY WERE EATING, JESUS TOOK BREAD, AND AFTER BLESSING IT BROKE IT AND GAVE IT TO THE DISCIPLES, AND SAID, “TAKE, EAT; THIS IS MY BODY.” AND HE TOOK A CUP, AND WHEN HE HAD GIVEN THANKS HE GAVE IT TO THEM, SAYING, “DRINK OF IT, ALL OF YOU, FOR THIS IS MY BLOOD OF THE COVENANT, WHICH IS POURED OUT FOR MANY FOR THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS. I TELL YOU I WILL NOT DRINK AGAIN OF THIS FRUIT OF THE VINE UNTIL THAT DAY WHEN I DRINK IT NEW ITH YOU IN MY FATHER’S KINGDOM.” Jesus instructs His disciples on a new tradition that serves particular purposes. He instructs them in His death which will establish a new covenant. This covenant is not established by the blood of bulls or lambs. Rather it is a covenant that is established by His own death. It is His own body and His own blood that establish this covenant. He entered into a covenant with many, and that many are made one at the Supper of our Lord.
Therefore, when we come for this blessed tradition, for this blessed Sacrament, we who are many are united as one. This is a Supper that cannot be taken all by one’s self. Rather it must be shared with another who also believes the same. It is for the forgiveness of sins because the very body and blood that we receive is the very body and blood that won that forgiveness. It is that very body and blood that brings those who have betrayed Him by their sin that forgives and restores. The very body and blood of Christ is what gives the Christian community to stand firm in the midst of many and various trials. It is the very body and blood of Christ that has been traditioned down to us today, and there is no other tradition that is as important. It is this tradition of the very body and blood of Christ that we currently fast from today.
When we last met on March 22nd, we did not want to believe that we would be fasting from this blessed meal, especially in Holy Week. For many in this Christian community and in Christian communities around the world, this meal is a way of life because in no other place does Jesus promise to be there in flesh and blood. If there is ever an instance of doubt of Christ’s presence and forgiveness in life those doubts are relieved when we partake of this meal. But it seems as though this fast will still last a little while longer yet. At the same time, even though we cannot gather in large groups, if you desire this blessed meal, your pastors stand ready with Christ to give it to you.
During this quarantine, we have given up many traditions this week, but there is one tradition that will never be given up, and that is the Lord’s Supper. And in it, you will find strength to preserve you through this time of pandemic, even until eternal life. And on the day of which we receive the crown and reward of eternal life, we will drink it new with Jesus sitting at the head of the table.
God’s blessings during this unique Maundy Thursday.
The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
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