Rev. Dr. D. K. Schroeder
Matthew 26:26-30 Sermon
April 2, 2015
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Hymns (from The Lutheran Hymnal):
166 "Saviour When In Dust To Thee"
163 "The Death Of Jesus Christ Our Lord"
159 "Go To Dark Gethsemane"
655 "I Pray Thee, Dear Lord Jesus"
153 "Stricken, Smitten, & Afflicted"
RECONCILIATION AT THE LORD'S TABLE
Text: “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 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 of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s kingdom.” When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.”
Could anything have been simpler? Jesus is with his disciples in a borrowed room. They have come there to celebrate the Jewish festival of Passover. They have come to the yearly remembrance ofIsrael’s delivery from Egyptian slavery. They have come to recall how glorious it was when the angel of death passed over the houses of the people ofIsraelwho had their doorposts painted with the blood of the lamb being eaten inside. They remembered how that angel of death brought death to the firstborn of every household inEgyptthat did not have its doorposts painted with the blood of the lamb.
Passover was the central festival of the Jewish calendar. Everybody looked forward to it. Jesus’ disciples were no exception. But this Passover was different. In the middle of the Passover celebration, very quietly and unceremoniously, with no fanfare or fuss at all, Jesus did something new, something different. He instituted a whole new feast. But he did it so simply that we have to wonder if the disciples, at the time, got even a fraction of the significance of what was happening.
We strongly suspect that they did not, because as usual, their minds were on other things. They had been so busy arguing with one another about which one of them was most important that no one took on the task of feet washing before the meal. Servants or hosts would do that when people came in from the dusty outdoors. But no one did it that night; no one wanted to be the servant of the others. No one, that is, except Jesus, who took on the task himself and washed the feet of the disciples.
Then Jesus spoke of his coming death. But again, it was Passover, and they were celebrating. Who wants to talk about such things at a celebration? And Jesus spoke about betrayal, about the one who was that very night going to sell him out. The disciples were mystified and did not understand. There was so much crowded into the evening, so much celebration ofIsrael’s past, so much confusion about the present, so much wrangling over the future, that it boggles the mind.
And in the middle of it all, again with no fuss or fanfare, Jesus creates a new feast. It is so simple, so easy to pass by and treat it as though it were nothing. He took the Passover bread, the plainest bread possible. He broke the bread and gave it to them to eat. He declared as he did so: “This is my body!” He didn’t explain it. He didn’t say that it was a symbol for his body. No, the words are plain and clear: “This is my body.” He didn’t tell them either to save it up or put it on parade or worship it. He just said, “Take and eat.”
And then with equal simplicity, he took a chalice of wine, the final cup used in the Passover celebration. And he just said, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” Again he makes no further explanation of what he means. He does not have to. The words are plain and clear. “This is my blood,” he declared. He didn’t say that it was a symbol for his blood. Neither did he say that it was something to be worshiped and adored. No, just “Drink from it, all of you.”
This was a feast of reconciliation, sinful mankind being reconciled with God himself. Here is the Lamb for sinners slain, the Lamb whose blood redeems the world. Yes, here in this new feast is the solution to the sins the disciples were committing that very night. For Jesus comes in this feast to give forgiveness. That’s what he said: “This is my blood...for the forgiveness of sins.” Here is the Lamb who gives himself as food for life eternal, not merely as paint for the doorpost.
In Hebrews chapter 9, verse 22 we read these words: "Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins." Blood had to be shed. In the Old Testament sacrificial system, the blood of various animals, especially lambs was used.
But this was a foreshadowing of Christ. Jesus would sacrifice himself and shed his own blood to fulfill this sacrifice once and for all. Continuing on in Hebrews chapter 9, we read verses 24-26: "For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself."
Perhaps even this evening before you came to church, someone said, “Well, it’s Maundy Thursday; that means we have to go to Communion; everybody goes to Communion on Maundy Thursday.” Yes, it’s all so simple that we easily treat it like an empty ceremony whose purpose we have long ago forgotten.
But Jesus makes the purpose clear. This is a meal of reconciliation. Sinful humanity has been redeemed by the shed blood of Jesus. Our sins have been forgiven. There are no more animal sacrifices, because Jesus has fulfilled it, once for all.
Jesus died for the sins of the whole world. He paid the ultimate price. And here at the Lord's Table, this becomes very personal for each one of us. Jesus paid the world's debt of sin, but we hear the words applied to us personally: given for YOU; shed for YOU; this is for YOUR sin; this is YOUR reconciliation; YOUR sins have been forgiven. And this is the foundation for our relationship with Jesus. For without that relationship, without the shedding of his blood, there is no sacrifice for our sins, like the Bible says.
And Jesus shows us the glory that is here. Jesus said, as his last will and testament, "This is my body; this is my blood, given and shed for you for the remission of sins." Listen to what he said. Listen to those powerful words of reconciliation. Let those words be inscribed on your heart. Write its holy truth in your memory and never let it go.
Way back when the disciples were squabbling with one another, way back when Jesus got not a shred of sympathy or understanding from them, way back when Jesus saw with perfect clarity what was coming to him in the next 20 or so hours, way back on that night in which he was betrayed, Jesus spoke his last will and testament.
This is like no other last will and testament we have ever seen. Jesus gave no stocks or bonds. There is no family silver to bequeath, no family china, and no homestead. There is nothing in Jesus’ estate at all that is worth talking about, with the exception of Jesus himself! And so in his last will and testament, having nothing else to give, he gives himself! “This is my body; this is my blood given for you,” he declares. He has completed the work of reconciliation between God and ourselves, especially you.
On this most holy night of nights when there was so much on Jesus’ mind; on this most holy night of nights when the scourge and the crown of thorns, when the nails and the spear were already clearly before his eyes; he thought about the likes of you and me. He spoke his last will and testament, and he made us his beneficiary. Having nothing else to give us, he gave himself to us and for us; and through his blood and merit, we are completely reconciled with God.
Look at the feast. Listen and wonder at its glory. “This is my body; this is my blood.” We do not eat and drink a symbol in this feast. No, it is the real, the true, the living Son of God and Mary’s son. It is the same Jesus who spoke that night and who on the next day offered himself up as a sacrifice for the sins of the world.
Yes, it is the same Jesus who was still thinking about us on the next day when he cried out from the cross, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” And the answer to this most painful question is this: God would forsake him because God wanted to be reconciled with you and assure your salvation. God would forsake him because Jesus wanted to experience hell itself on the cross for you and me.
All around him the people cried out, “If you are Son of God, come down.” Why didn’t he? Because the night before he was crucified, he had willed and bequeathed himself to us. Why didn’t he? Because the night before, he had declared in his unalterable will that he should never be separated from us. We are reconciled.
And the only way that that goal could be reached, the goal that we would be forever united for time and for eternity in this sacred supper, was for him to be abandoned by the Father. The only way was for him to pay for the sin that separated us from God. The only way was for him to endure the torment of hell on the cross as our substitute.
And so, in anticipation of what he is going to do on Good Friday, Jesus declares to us on the night before, “This is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
With the ordinary food and drink have, by God’s design, our bodies are preserved and strengthened. But with ordinary food and drink, there is no reconciliation.
However, look what is in this food and drink! It preserves not just the body but the body and the soul for life eternal. That’s why it has often been called the “medicine of immortality.”
For here is Jesus the living bread from heaven. Here is Jesus the cup of salvation. Here is Jesus, who now gives us the very price that he paid for our salvation; his true body and true blood. He declares that it works; it works now and forever for the forgiveness of sins.
That’s why he came down from heaven in the first place, to win our forgiveness. That’s why he suffered and died, to win our forgiveness. That’s why he has ruled all things in heaven and on earth, so that in Baptism he could wash us clean, and in this Supper he could feed us with himself, to preserve our union with him for time and for eternity. That's the core of our relationship with him, and the means for our reconciliation.
The world passes the Lord’s Supper by with disdain. Many Christians dismiss it as unimportant, not really worth bothering with. But we are looking for the glory of the reconciliation we have through Jesus.
And here it is! Here we find glory worth more than all the wealth of the world, because Jesus, our God and Saviour, is here with glory that lasts for all eternity. Yes, Jesus, the risen ruler of the universe and of time and of eternity itself is here. Here we find glory that is more precious than all the medicines ever invented. Jesus is here with himself as the medicine that bestows eternal life; for where there is forgiveness of sins, there is life and salvation.
Therefore, come with hearts that are broken because of sin and guilt and shame. Come with souls that are starving for food that will strengthen for the ongoing battle with the devil, the world, and the sinful nature. Come with a heart parched with a thirst for salvation. Come and eat and drink the price of your salvation in this feast of feasts. Come and be reconciled.
Then go. Go forth and hold fast to our Saviour who had nothing else to give this most holy night except himself. Go and hold fast to him who, on the night in which he was betrayed, had no one he would rather think about than you and me. Go and always remember him, who in his last will and testament has made us heirs of heaven for all eternity. This he would purchase with his body and his blood, the very same that he gives us this night. Go with the gift of his body and blood that strengthens and preserves you during your life on earth, and for eternal life in heaven.