Rev. Dr. D. K. Schroeder
Matthew 26:26-28 Sermon
March 24, 2016
Click here for service internet broadcast/podcast.
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"
AN INVITATION FOR YOU
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 (after supper) he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the [new] covenant, which is poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.’”
Last Saturday, I was attending a service at Holy Saviour in Lincoln. After the service, I was involved in conversation with various people; no great surprise there. However, as I was standing by the information desk at the front door, there was a group of young people talking about something. I couldn't hear what they were saying; but all of a sudden, one of the girls in the group turned to me and said, "Hey Pastor Dan, we're going to have a group hug; come and join us."
Now, who could refuse an invitation like that? So I did. I became part of a group of about six people (I'm not exactly sure of the number), and we had about a 10-second group hug.
If you have never seen or experienced one of these, I'll give you a brief explanation. A group of people stand in a huddle formation, all facing the middle. And then each person extends their arms and reaches around the shoulders of as many people as they can, and then everybody pulls together.
Now I have no idea what prompted this, but it really doesn't matter. We are one in faith, united in Christ's body of the Church. We have fellowship with each other. We are part of the same family. And now we had the opportunity to express it in a more physical, but yet platonic fashion. It was one of those proverbial "warm and fuzzy" moments.
This evening, we are gathered for our Maundy Thursday service, the day that we have linked with Jesus' celebration of the Passover feast with his disciples. This is the day that we see the fulfillment of the Passover in Jesus himself, the Lamb of God who was sacrificed once, for all people.
There is a physical unifying and comforting aspect to this. Now I realize that using the illustration of a group hug is a rather insufficient description of the Lord's Supper, because it goes far deeper than that. Listen to the words of the Apostle Paul as he writes in his first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 10, verses 16-17: "The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread."
When we are united in faith and in doctrine, then we are united with our Saviour as well. We are told this over and over again in Scripture. But now it becomes more than just a verbal explanation of things. It is now something physical, as Christ unites us through his true Body and Blood. Jesus not only tells us he forgives us and loves us, but he shows it as well.
Jesus extends to us an invitation. He invites us to join with him in this meal. We are sinners in need of a Saviour. We are in need of the forgiveness he offers. And so we come, with the assurance that we will indeed receive exactly what he has promised.
In Luke chapter 15, verses 1-2, the Pharisees and other church leaders complain about Jesus. They say, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” They said this on a day when “tax collectors and ‘sinners’ were all gathering around to hear him.” And this wasn’t the first time either. The religious leaders simply did not approve of the company Christ kept. Their charge was meant to discredit Christ or perhaps convince him to see the error of his ways.
But Jesus didn’t listen to his enemies. “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them” remained the theme for Jesus’ ministry to the very end. And could you expect him to do anything else? Jesus himself said in Luke chapter 19, verse 10: “The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”
Jesus knew why he had come. He knew who needed him. In Mark chapter 2, verse 17 Jesus says: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
And think of who came. There were the outcast lepers, prostitutes, blind beggars along the roadside, tax collectors, etc. And Jesus had time for them all. He had love for them all. This was a love that moved our Saviour to invest his holy, selfless, sacrificial service in a sin-infested human race that, as John records in his Gospel, “did not receive him.” This was the love that led our Saviour to the cross.
“This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” To the very end, this remained the central theme for Jesus’ ministry, which is shown in grand fashion in the upper room.
But here is where you may object. People often ask, “Weren’t the apostles the only ones invited to that first Lord’s Supper? Aren’t we talking about the cream of the crop, when it comes to believers?”
It’s true, that the first Lord’s Supper in the upper room was limited to just the apostles. Well, almost all of them. According to what the Bible says, it seems that Judas parted company with the group before Jesus served his precious meal. But the 11 apostles who remained had a rather checkered past as well.
Think about it. Matthew, a tax collector, was there. He also went by the name Levi. It was Levi’s calling, three years earlier, which prompted the Pharisees to charge Jesus with the sin of eating with sinners. Tax collectors in Jesus’ day were deemed traitors and cheats. They are still not very popular in most circles.
The brothers James and John were there. Earlier Jesus had given them the moniker "Sons of Thunder," perhaps because of their misguided, self-righteous desire to rain fire and brimstone down upon those who rejected Jesus and his ministry.
And of course we can't forget Simon Peter. He was the apostle who suffered from a persistent case of foot-in-mouth disease.
And so the list goes on. “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” That’s the only reason any of the apostles received an invitation to the upper room. And for lack of a better term, Jesus is able to gather them together in a type of divine "group hug."
The same is true for us here this evening. All walks of life are represented at the Lord's Table. We see husbands and fathers, wives and mothers, sons and daughters, and the list continues. Yet, no matter whence we come from or who we are, not a one of us deserves an invitation to dine with the Saviour. Why would that be?
It’s because we come loaded down with the burden of sin. All too often it’s the same sins we brought with us the last time we came to the Lord’s Supper. I’m sure that you are well aware of the various sins that plague your individual soul.
And so we wonder. Won’t the day come when Jesus will tire of our sinful company? His word of invitation provides the answer. “Take and eat; this is my body. . . . Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
These are the words Jesus speaks to each of us right now, today. We come to him as penitent sinners seeking forgiveness, and we indeed have it. Jesus wants us to be with him, united with him in the Lord’s Supper in a miraculous way; and ultimately united with him forever in heaven.
Jesus Christ your Saviour has invited you to the most precious meal of all time. This is an invitation that we cannot ignore or take lightly. Providing this meal didn't come cheap. “This is my body. . . . This is my blood.” “Given for you . . . poured out for you.”
Think about the cost. Jesus paid that price just a few hours later on his cross! There, the precious blood of Christ was shed for you and me. In his first general epistle, Peter writes in chapter 1 verses 18-19: "...you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot." And so we see Jesus, the Lamb without blemish or spot, going to the cross. There Jesus suffered. There he died. There he paid in full for your sins and mine.
And it was there God’s Passover Lamb, our Passover Lamb, was sacrificed. The very body and blood Jesus offered on the cross are offered to us now, in a miraculous way we cannot comprehend, in, with, and under the bread and wine of his Supper.
We know that Jesus never regretted the gracious invitation he made that first Maundy Thursday night. Listen to the words he speaks from the cross:
“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke23:34). Jesus counted the cost. He stayed on his cross. He prayed for you and me from that cross. He had no second thoughts.
“Today you will be with me in paradise.” Even on the cross, Jesus welcomed sinners. Tonight, once more, he welcomes you and me.
“It is finished.” The blood of God’s covenant Lamb has been poured out for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus shed his blood to make sure that, as Paul records in Romans chapter 8, verses 38-39: “Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”.
We have our Lord’s guarantee. Isaiah confirms this when he writes in chapter 54 verse 10: “‘Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,’ says the Lord, who has compassion on you.” The Lord’s Supper has been bought and paid for. So take and eat; take and drink. The invitation still stands.
“Given for you . . . poured out for you.” Quite a few years have passed since I was a student in confirmation class. But I still remember two very important words: "for you." These two words are so incredibly personal and so comforting.
Kneeling at the Communion rail, for a moment, it’s just Jesus and you; just Jesus and me. No one else may know what I have done. No one else may know exactly what I’m feeling. I may not even remember all the stupid things I have done. But Jesus knows, and he invites me to this meal of grace anyway; and he does it again and again and again. As often as I come, hungering and thirsting for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus wants me to know that what he did for the whole world, he did for me. He did it for you.
One of the things I find so fascinating about Biblical history, is understanding the meaning behind words and phrases the Hebrew people used. Jesus said "This do in remembrance of me." For a Jew, this word "remembrance" carries a far deeper meaning than what we realize. We might think of remembering a birthday or anniversary or other important event, and leave it at that. But for the Jew, this word "remembrance" means taking an event from the past, and making it happen all over again, just as if it were happening for the first time.
So when we gather together for the Lord's Supper, it is as if we are there with Jesus and the Apostles in the upper room, experiencing exactly what they did. We hear the words of Jesus, "Given and shed for you for the remission of sins," and we know that includes the likes of you and me. Tonight Jesus speaks his word of invitation once again. “Take and eat. . . . Drink from it, all of you.” Come to the meal that unites us sinners to our Saviour, almost like one big group hug. Come to the meal that Jesus has prepared for you and me.