Friday, April 18, 2014

Covenant blood. . .

Sermon for Holy Thursday evening, preached on April 17, 2014.

    Israel was a largely bloodless culture and the Jews had little contact with blood.  Contact with blood rendered you unclean.  A woman was unclean during her flow of blood.  Meat had to be well done so that no blood remained.  There was only one place where contact with blood was allowed – the covenant blood, the blood of sacrifice in the temple.
    All other blood rendered you unclean but the blood of the sacrifice had the power to make the sinner clean.  In this context Maundy Thursday is set.  The blood of the doorpost, the blood of the Passover lamb, was no longer the blood of a memory.  Jesus fulfilled the Passover as THE Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world and whose blood is shed to pay the price of sin and cleanse the sinner from his death.  He fulfilled the covenant provisions and initiated a new covenant relationship sealed also in blood – His blood.
    The blood of the covenant, the blood of the Passover lamb and the blood of sacrifice in the temple were all fulfilled in the blood which Jesus gives as the new drink of the Kingdom of God in Holy Communion.  We hear this in Jesus' own words.  This is My Blood of the covenant.  At this point the ears of the disciples must have perked up.
    Behold the blood of the covenant, said Moses, to the blood spattered people.  He sealed them into a relationship with God by the Word of the Commandments and the sacrificial blood poured on the altar and on them.  From Hebrews we read that Jesus is both the fulfiller of this covenant and all its provisions as well as the mediator of a new covenant – this new covenant relationship is also sealed in blood.
    Under the Law everything is purified with blood and without the shedding of sacrificial blood there is no forgiveness of sins.  So the disciples had eyes wide open as they watched Jesus take the Passover cup and heard Him say: This is My blood of the covenant poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
    Covenant blood was not a price to be paid but the gift of the God who counted this blood for forgiveness.  It was not a mere symbol but the sacramental means by which the promise of God conveyed to His people.  It had the power to ward off the angel of death at the Passover and  satisfy the Law to deliver the people from their sins by the blood shed in the temple.  It made clean that which was unclean.
    Jesus' blood is covenant blood.  It is poured out for us on the cross.  There Jesus shows Himself the true Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  But the new covenant gives us not only the forgiveness won but the blood of Christ as our new cup and the new drink of the Kingdom of God.
    John says unless we eat of this bread and drink of this cup there is no life in us.  Jesus' blood is given for many as a ransom to redeem our lost lives.  It is no mere symbol or sign but actually bestows what it signs.  We eat Christ's body and drink His blood and we are forgiven.
    This meal is not some occasional thing to remember but the true and regular food of God's new covenant people.  In this way a bloodless people become a people of the blood in Christ.  Jesus insists His flesh is real food and His blood real drink – the drink of the Kingdom that imparts forgiveness to the sinner and life to those dead in their trespasses and sins.
    We come here weekly and even more often because of Jesus’ command (do this often) but even more because of what we receive in this eating and drinking.  We are the covenant people of God; our participation in the blood of Christ is the means by which we receive the benefits of this new covenant -- forgiveness, life, and salvation.
    John says to us the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin.  This is not some theoretical statement but descriptive of our eating and drinking in this Sacrament.  His blood shed for us saves us.  Again this is not theoretical but practical as we come to eat and to drink the flesh and blood of Christ.  There is power in the blood.  No symbol has power to do what it signs – except this blood which Jesus commands us to drink in His remembrance.
    We come to eat and to drink at His command, because here is where the blessings of forgiveness, life, and salvation are received and our life as the covenant people of God confirmed and nourished.  We come as the Psalmist compels us.  The goodness of the Lord is not some trait to be admired but tangible and concrete for us to eat and drink.  Taste and see that the Lord is good!  Our communion is no mental exercise but a real eating and drinking with our lips and tongues.  Tonight we remember how our Lord fulfilled both the Passover Lamb and the sacrifices of the Temple with His own flesh for the life of the world and His blood shed for our forgiveness.  More than that, we come to eat and drink the covenant meal as God’s people.
    We come as covenant people to the place where our life in the covenant is bestowed and renewed.  We eat and drink what the Lord has given because hidden there is the fulfillment of His very own promise.  Israel was a bloodless culture and blood was reserved only for the Lord.  Now the Lord has given us back the blood that won our salvation and it has become the new food of the Kingdom and the means by which we receive Christ and all the fruits of His death and resurrection.  We are a bloody people and we refuse anything but the real thing – Christ's flesh as our food and Christ's blood as our drink.  Here is where the mark of our identity is refreshed and here we receive what He has to give.  Come and eat the covenant meal of Christ.  Amen.

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