Maundy Thursday 2018

Exodus 12:1-14; 1 Cor. 5:6-8; Mark 14:12-25

This night is all about memory, about remembrance; but of an event that is more than just a memory. Nearly 3,500 years ago the Lord told the people of Israel, “This month shall be for you the beginning of months… This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast.” The Jewish people have been doing so ever since. Tomorrow they will again celebrate the Passover and remember how God brought them out of Egypt by the death of the firstborn of Egypt. Jesus Himself celebrated it with His disciples, as we heard in the Gospel reading. But, He didn’t just celebrate it. He transformed it. “Do this in remembrance of Me,” He said. Jesus made Himself the focus of Passover. And so, Christ’s Passover has been celebrated by His people with His meal, known as the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion, ever since. We do so ourselves every week of the year.

But: if this meal is a memorial only; if our participation is therefore dependent upon us, upon our going back in our thoughts and our memories, and by our intellectual reflection and focus… then what?

Ø  What if you lose the ability to remember and reflect due to the infirmities and decline of age, or because of a brain injury (such as a stroke)?

Ø  What if your mind is elsewhere during Christ’s meal and you are just not focusing on what is going on and what you are receiving? You know how our minds wander. We who live in an age of entertainment and external stimulation are especially prone to distraction.

“Do this in remembrance of Me.” We struggle, and fail, to fully do this, to keep this simple command of our Lord, just as we struggle and fail to fully keep God’s other commands. It’s beyond us. How, then, can Christ’s Passover be for you the beginning of months? How can it move you and shape you and change you and direct your life?

Tonight we hear that Jesus remembers the Passover; and not just because it was an event that was written down and then recited to Him every year of His life. Jesus remembers the Passover in Egypt because He was there.

Ø  He was the One speaking to Moses and Aaron in Egypt. Before God sent Moses to Egypt He had appeared to him on Mt. Sinai in a burning bush and said to him, “I Am; that is My name.” Many times during His ministry Jesus claimed that name, “I Am,” as His own. In fact, on the very night of His last Passover meal with His disciples, after telling them that He would be betrayed, He told them, “I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I Am.” (John 13:19)

Ø  And so, it was Jesus there in Egypt, passing through the land and striking down Egypt’s firstborn while sparing those in homes that were marked with the blood of the Passover lamb.

But the events and the meal of that night in Egypt were preparatory only. They were a preparation for the greater work and greater feast that would come when Jesus came among us in flesh and gave His life for us.

Jesus is the Passover. When He came to it, then, on the night He was betrayed, He didn’t just come to look back and remember. As the eternal God whose life and memory encompasses the past, the present, and the future Jesus came to His final Passover to act. He came to fill it with His sacrificial life and deliver His life to all people.

He did so by becoming the Passover Lamb on whom were laid the sins of the world and whose blood was shed to rescue all people. Centuries ago God said to His people in Egypt, “When I see the blood [of the Passover lamb] I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you.” God now says, “When I see the blood of Jesus I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you.”

Does God see the blood of Jesus, His Lamb, upon you? Is Christ’s blood upon the doorposts and lintel of your heart, marking you as His own? Your Savior has not left it up to you alone, to your memory and the sincerity of your efforts. We who forget and fail and sin would then have no certainty of life when the angel of death and judgment draws near! God has acted to Himself put the blood of His Son, His Lamb, upon you.

Ø  He sprinkled Christ’s blood upon you in Holy Baptism. Holy Scripture (Heb. 10:22) says that we can now “draw near [to God] with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”

Ø  In the bread and wine of His Passover meal He, the Lamb sacrificed for your salvation, gives to you His very body and blood which was crucified and then rose from the dead for your eternal life. “I am the living bread that came down from heaven,” Jesus says. “If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:51, 56)

Here on this altar, in this bread and wine consecrated by Christ’s very words, is your Passover Lamb. Here is the blood that was shed to mark you and keep you from being struck down for your sins. He is here for you this night, and each and every week of the year.

If you wonder, “Why so often?” it is because Jesus is the living One, the eternal God whose acts and memory encompass the past, the present, and the future, all that was and all that will be. His presence among us and His giving of Himself to us makes this meal “the beginning of months… a feast to the Lord throughout your generations, a statute forever.” Your life is constantly marked with Christ and made new here. Here Jesus puts His blood upon you and marks you as His own that He might direct and shape your life each and every day.

Remember this. Keep this in your mind and heart each time you come forward to receive Jesus, your Passover Lamb. This feast will then be a continual sign of your deliverance from your bondage to sin and death, until that joyous day when you drink it new with Him in the kingdom of God.

In the name of Jesus, our Passover Lamb. Amen.