Thursday, April 5, 2012

From "Is It I?" to "For Me!"

Sermon preached for Holy Thursday, April 5, 2012.

The disciples of old were tag alongs.  They watched and listened.  They followed Jesus to Jerusalem.  Everybody that was anybody was out to get Jesus.  But the disciples just followed along.  They did nothing.  Mary anoints Jesus with the expensive oil.  They did nothing.  Jesus spoke of this act of devotion preparing His burial even before He was dead.  They did nothing.  They just watched what was unfolding as a people watch a story they neither know nor understand.

Jesus tells two of them to find a man carrying water on his head and follow him.  Strange.  Carrying water was women’s work.  Was that how they recognized this particular man?  So they followed him.  It turned out to be a clue for the Passover they would never forget.  And there was the room just as Jesus had said.  Imagine that, they thought, but they did nothing?

As they were eating, Jesus said, “Truly I say to you... one of you eating with Me will betray Me.”  What?  They had followed Jesus and been surprised all along but no one saw that coming.  None of them was very sure of himself.  They began to weep both for what Jesus said and for their fear that it could be them.  “Is it me?”  None of them said, “It can’t be me.”  No one protested Jesus’ words.

Then Jesus continued.  “The Son of Man will go as it is written...”  Written?  By whom?  They had all celebrated the Passover so many times and they did not recall this being in the script.  In it all, none of the Gospel’s mentions the Lamb that was the center of the meal.  But they do tell us of the bread that Jesus blessed and broke and gave it.  “This is My body...”  That they had never heard before.  They said nothing.  They did nothing... but eat.  Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

And then the cup.  Back to the ancient Haggadah script.  He gave thanks in the traditional way and then gave them His cup.  They did not drink from their own but from His chalice.  More surprise.  “This is My blood of the new covenant.”

No one asked Jesus “What are You saying?”  Not even a good Lutheran there to ask “What does this mean?”  Jews could not drink blood or even eat meat still bloody.  Everyone knew that but they did not protest.  They too it and drank it and followed. Without comment.  They followed Jesus’ command.

They knew the words Jesus said.  “The blood of the covenant” was familiar to them. These were the words from Exodus.  But this was not the old covenant.  It was new.
This blood was poured out “for many.”  Jesus said it.  Just as He had said He would give His life as a ransom for many.  They all wondered if they might be the one to betray Jesus but no one asked the most important question.  “Are we among the many for whom Your blood is poured out and Your body broken, Jesus?  Are we?”

We come here to meet the same mystery.  Yes, we know more than the disciples because this meal has become the familiar turf of the baptized people of God.  But it is not something we understand.  Like the disciples of old, we know that we have betrayed Jesus in thought, word, and deed.  We don’t like it but we can all see ourselves as those who betray Him.  But the words of the Lord over the bread and cup are still a mystery to us.  What counts is not that we understand how this bread is His body or this cup His blood.  What counts is that we believe it and follow Jesus’ bidding to come and eat... to come and drink... in faith.

The goal of the meal is not understanding but faith.  What counts is not if you are holy enough for this meal but the holy gift that comes to the unworthy and undeserving here.  What counts is not how many times you have betrayed Him but the faith that seeks His grace to forgive and restore you again.  What counts is that this body broken and this blood poured out is for you.  You are among the many for whom Christ offered Himself in death and still offers His crucified and risen body and blood in this Supper.

We walk with Jesus not as the wise or discerning in this world... We follow Him because there is nowhere else to go – He alone has the Word of life.  His is the only body that feeds us this life and His is the only blood that nourishes us in this life.  We have no alternatives.  Until Jesus came, we lived and we died.  Now in Christ, the dying live and the living never die.

Jesus said, “No more will I drink of the fruit of the vine until I drink it anew in the Kingdom of God...”  Jesus is not here to drink but to give us to drink of His blood. He is not here to be served but to serve you and me with the blessings and fruits of His life-giving death and His death overcoming life. 

Our lives might have been utterly predictable... until Christ came.  He has opened for us the door that death had kept locked and sin had kept barred.  Now we come for the surprise of a life hidden in death, of His body hidden in bread, of His blood hidden in wine.  We come not as the wise but the trusting, not as those who unpack this great mystery but as those who believe it, who eat and drink receiving its gift and grace.

Faith takes the fearful “is it I” and transforms it into the confident “for me..”  God does not ask of us wisdom but trust, not understanding but faith, not the discernment of the mind but the confidence of the heart.  We would be left with the fears of our betrayals except that Jesus has given us His body and His blood, for you, for me, and for many, that eating and drinking our faith may be strengthened, our lives equipped to serve His purpose, and our joy made complete. 

Come... the table it set, the Lord is present, His Word speaks, “this is My body... this is my blood...”  My flesh for the life of the world...  My flesh for your life...  There is only one thing you can say to such a gift.  Amen.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

It could not have been said better. This is the word that strengthens the heart of every child of God and fills us with joy. It is all about Him forever giving, and we forever receiving. Thank you, and thanks be to God.

Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart