Maundy Thursday – 2021 LSB #’s 544, 543, 448
Text – Mark 14:14
…Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?
DEEPEST, TRUEST LOVE AT OUR LORD’S TABLE
His death lay just ahead, & Jesus knew it. He knew that His road had come to Jerusalem for the final time. The Son of God knew that one of His own disciples would betray Him. This would be His final Passover meal with His disciples, & He would not drink a cup of wine with them again until the great feast of the world to come.
Although there was sorrow, there was also a sense of earnestness & even satisfaction. Luke’s Gospel records an additional statement of Jesus in this scene. Sitting with His disciples, Jesus says to them “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Luke 22:15). The Master earnestly desires to be in the company of His disciples.
There is something wonderful about being the host at a great meal, something exciting & satisfying on a deep level. That’s why some people dream of opening their own restaurant. Jesus has been longing to share this meal with them, & earnestly desiring to institute a new meal among them: the life-giving feast of His true body & blood. It is a feast of love.
There is something wonderful about being welcomed by a host who really wants to be hosting you. Have you had the experience of being in a restaurant when the owner is there who enjoys visiting with the guests & making sure they feel welcome & have what they need?
Think of the anticipation & hosting done by a mother & father as their children come home for the holidays. Or the excitement & delight of a guy who has invited his girlfriend over for a special dinner, working so hard to make everything perfect, & so enjoying the company of his beloved.
On this night in Jerusalem, Jesus was hosting not just any meal. He & His disciples
were eating together the ancient Jewish Passover meal, which, already at that time, had been celebrated among God’s people for 1500 years. Passover commemorated God’s mighty rescue of His people from slavery in Egypt. He struck down the firstborn sons in the homes of the Egyptians but mercifully “passed over” the blood-marked homes of the Israelites.
This meal commemorated the time in history when God brought them out from Pharaoh’s tyranny, so that God Himself might come & dwell among them. They were the chosen people. The Lord was their host. They were God’s invited & treasured guests.
Having come out of Egypt, God met with them in the wilderness. He made promises to be their God, to dwell in their midst, & to bring them safely to the land He had promised them. Moses had sprinkled the people with blood from the animal sacrifices, the “blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you,” Moses declared at the time.
The people ate & drank before God. The book of Exodus says the people “saw the God of Israel,” & He didn’t stretch out His hand against them. Communion! Fellowship! Nearness! A feast of love. It was clear already in the OT, that the God of Israel was One who desired to be with His people, to draw His people near to Himself, to be their God & to have them as His own.
But the Passover meal & the blood covenant, of the book of Exodus, were not in themselves the end of the story. They also pointed forward to a coming day, to an even greater fulfillment of God-with-His-people. They pointed forward to an even greater meal & to an even greater blood. They pointed forward to this night, Maundy Thursday,
Jesus would eat His final Passover with His disciples. This is what the OT Passover meal, what the blood covenant at Mount Sinai, what God’s dwelling with His OT people in the tabernacle, what all these things had been anticipating & foreshadowing. For here is Jesus, God in human flesh, earnestly desiring to host His beloved disciples, to be in their midst, to eat a meal with them. And here is Jesus, instituting a new meal to be celebrated often among them: a meal of Christ’s true body & the cup of Christ’s true blood. For the time had come when the precious blood which would bring forgiveness would be shed for all sinners.
The time had come to establish a new table, a new feast, a new & greater welcome, a new & greater sharing, a meal in which our Lord Jesus would be with His people, pardoning their sin, hosting them in love. Jesus institutes this new & ongoing feast for His disciples & for us. We call it the Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion & the Sacrament of the Altar.
The Lord Jesus Himself is the host & earnestly desires to share with you this feast of love. Interestingly, our Small Catechism, with all its questions & answers, does not make more of this. In the section on the Sacrament of the Altar, the catechism emphasizes what it is: the true body & blood of our Lord Jesus in, with & under the bread & the wine.
It underscores what benefits it gives: forgiveness of sins, life & salvation. It emphasizes what makes a person worthy to receive this meal: recognizing their sin & their need while trusting in Christ & His promises.
The catechism teaches some other important things regarding the Lord’s Supper as well. But one thing that it doesn’t talk about, at least explicitly, is the love offered in this meal, how much love we find at our Lord’s table. Our Lutheran hymns, however, are full of this truth!
Thy holy body into death was given, Life to win for us in heaven. No greater love than this to Thee could bind us; May this feast thereof remind us. LSB 617:2.
God descends with heav’nly power, Gives Himself to me this hour – In this ordinary sign. On my tongue His pledge receiving, I accept His grace, believing That I taste His love divine. LSB 620:4.
By faith Your Word has made us bold, To seize the gift of love retold; All that You are
we here receive, And all we are to You we give. LSB 623:3.
Thy heart is filled with fervent yearning That sinners may salvation see Who, Lord to Thee in faith are turning; So I, a sinner, come to Thee. LSB 618:2.
In this holy meal, Jesus not only allows sinners such as you & I to come into His presence & receive in our mouth His holy body & holy blood. Jesus not only allows this, which alone is remarkable, but Jesus delights to draw us near to Himself, & to draw near to us, to share this table with us.
It is His table, & the Lord Jesus is truly here as our host. Your God, who bled & died & rose from the dead – for you, attests to all of that, reminds you of all of that, here in this meal. And He meets you here, Jesus the host – you the guest. It is a feast of love.
Throughout this season of Lent, we have been tracing the dimensions of God’s enormous love & mercy for us in Christ. On this night, consider this – because God is so rich in mercy, He gives you, in Jesus Christ, something that everyone in the world is searching for.
Our Creator gives something that people long for, something that poets have written about, & singers have sung about, for millennia – true love, & this is not the love of fairy tales or sappy movies. True love is what we were created for, what we will enjoy forever in the age to come – true & perfect love.
It will be a genuine & perfect connectedness to another: being known, being welcomed, belonging – being enjoyed, being cherished, being delighted over. Thanks be to God for all the love that we are shown by others in this life; that, too, is a gift from His hand. But true & perfect love, in this sin-warped world, is found for us only in Jesus.
And it is here, at this table, in this meal, that our Lord Jesus meets us with all of that
love. This is not mere sentimentalism or romanticism, though there is plenty of both of those in knowing Jesus’ love. This sacrament is what you need, & what you long for – true love. And what is amazing, is that you have a God who earnestly desires your love too, & He calls you near to Himself tonight & forever.
That night, Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” That is Mark’s wording. Matthew’s Gospel records Jesus’ words in this way: “I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
Just a nibble of bread which is Jesus’s body. Just a sip of wine, which is Jesus’s blood. It’s not much of a meal, but in these small tastes, Jesus gives you His enormous love, along with His pardon, His life, & His salvation.
Maybe it’s appropriate that now, in this age, we merely taste & sip. For this meal & this moment of Jesus’ presence & love in the Lord’s Supper are a foretaste of the coming age. Then we will see Him with our eyes, will dine as most welcome guests, at His banquet table forever. The wine will flow. The platters will be piled high.
There will be song. There will be reunion. There will be fellowship & laughter & joy. It will be a place of true love. Imagine, sinners like you & me, suffering from sin no longer, with God so happy to have us there, singing over us in divine delight & joy.
Perhaps on that day we will hear our Lord Jesus saying, “Bring out the wine, bring out the fruit of the vine, today is the day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom!” Perhaps on that day we will hear our Lord Jesus saying, “I have earnestly desired to eat this feast with you.” Perhaps on that day, we will hear our Lord Jesus saying, “A toast: to True Love!”
Come share that love here with me tonight, with one another, & with your Lord: deepest,
truest love at our Lord & Savior’s table. Come be hosted by the One who has been betrayed, & crucified, & risen, in love for you. He earnestly desires to share this supper, & the life that it brings, with you. Amen.
What wondrous love is this, O my soul! What wondrous love is this, O my soul! What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss to bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul, to bear the dreadful curse for my soul! Amen. LSB 543:1.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet