Thursday, April 2, 2015

Is it I?

Sermon for Maundy Thursday Evening, preached on April 2, 2015.

    We say it every Sunday – on the night when Jesus was betrayed, He took bread. . .  as if this detail were merely a time stamp to locate when it all happened.  Perhaps we think it references Judas – he was the betrayer who sold Jesus for a few easy pieces of silver after dipping bread into the dish with our Lord.
    The disciples seemed in the dark about it all – except when Jesus talked about who would betray Him.  Then they perked up.  “Is it I?”  They asked with forced voices, holding back their tears.  Though Jesus draws their attention to Judas His betrayer, notice that does not reassure them, “No, its not you.  You are the good disciple...”  Why not?  Because Jesus knew what they knew -- their betrayal would also come just as you and I betray the Lord over and over again in thought, word, and deed.
    Is it I?  What an honest question!  In other words, it could be me.  I am weak and my heart is black with sin.  I am fearful and choose the easy road all the time.  Is there anyone here who does not believe it could have been any one of those disciples. . . or YOU. . . or Me?  Who among us has not disowned the Lord over and over again in countless ways?  We have betrayed our Lord with sins, with shameful thoughts, with hateful words, and with empty hearts.  Yes, we all know it could be you... or me.  and it has been, too. 
    And, in fact it is.  We are all guilty.  But listen to Jesus.  Just as Jesus does not give false comfort to those who know better -- no, you did not deny Me -- Jesus gives real comfort.  This is My body given for you and my blood poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins.  As real as our sins of denial and betrayal, so real is the forgiveness in the blood of Christ that is our drink and His flesh that is our food.  Just as your guilt is yours, now Jesus has made His blood yours. And in that blood is power to cleanse the guilty.  For you Jesus has shed His blood.  For your sins, for your death, for your betrayal, and for your shame.
    For you Christ shed His blood and now gives you this blood to drink.  You are a sinner of Christ’s own redeeming.  For you Christ gives His flesh as food.  The bread placed upon your lips is bread for sinners, flesh that pays sin’s price, and forgiveness for the guilty.  For you Christ places His cup to your lips that you might drink and be cleansed and made new.
    We are too quick to point to others when look at sins.  The truth is that the sins we cannot stand in others tend to be the sins of which we are most guilty.   We are too quick to explain away or excuse or justify our sins as if words can minimize the guilt and shame of what we have said and thought and done.  We are to quick to compare our sins to others as if somehow all of us being guilty makes none of us guilty. There is no comfort in this, no consolation that we are the best of the worst.  No, comfort cannot be found where guilt remains and shame convicts.  We need the One who is strong enough to overcome guilt, to steal from us our familiar and pet sins, and to cleanse our hearts.
    Instead, what we need to do is to admit that it is me – I am a poor, miserable sinner.  But Christ died for sinners.  His blood cleanses sinners.  His bread dipped in the suffering for our sins feeds us sinners and makes us whole.  There is nothing here for the righteous who believe they have no sin, nothing here for the holy who believe they have kept themselves pure, and nothing here for the comparatively good -- who settle for being on the better side of the bad or the best of the worst.  No, the comfort here is for sinners who know and confess, "It is I. . . "  Until the day when Christ comes to drink it new in His kingdom without end, we come as sinners admitting that we are the guilty ones – while at the same time pleading the blood of Jesus in which we were cleansed, and which now we drink for forgiveness of those sins.  Amen.

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