Maundy Thursday – 2022 LSB #’s 634:1-4, 543, 634:5-8
Text – Luke 22:15
And He said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.”
THE ETERNAL PASSOVER THAT JESUS DESIRED TO EAT
During this season of Lent, we’ve tried to be realistic as we continue learning to trust God. The realism has to do with evil: the evil that betrayed & condemned & crucified Jesus long ago, along with the evil in our world & in our lives today. In the face of that evil, we trust our God, & the plan He carried out in the Lord Jesus.
We have considered how we can say to Satan, to the world, & even to ourselves, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.” This evening’s service will be a break in the action because of the gift that the Lord Jesus created that night long ago in the upper room.
Tonight is not a night to be somber, but to be quietly joyful. It’s a night to marvel at what happened when Jesus ate the Passover meal with His apostles, to marvel at the new gift that has come down through the ages also to you & me. Jesus said to them that night, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.”
That was a particular ritual happening at a particular moment in a particular place. I want to suggest – & I’ll explain this as we go – that it was also an eternal Passover that night. By “eternal” I mean that it was not isolated, disconnected, alone, or even limited.
That Passover gathered up & brought to fruition so many things from the past, & its past gave meaning to that night. The Exodus Passover became part of the most significant “present moment” in the history of the world. History was turning a corner on Maundy Thursday & from that Passover ritual came a new gift for the future, for us tonight, & until the Lord returns.
All of it happened just before Jesus was betrayed – past, present, future. So, consider with me this evening “The Eternal Passover that Jesus Desired to Eat.” If you listen, you can almost hear the past rushing into the upper room that night. In our calendar system, Luke describes an evening that happened about the year AD 30. The 1st Passover event occurred more than 1400 years before that. The time gap is six times longer than the United States has existed.
But the point is this: beginning with the 1st events in Egypt, with Moses & Pharaoh, the ten plagues & God’s rescue – every Passover throughout the centuries had been pointing to, leading up to, the night that Jesus desired to eat this Passover with His 12 chosen apostles.
Quickly review with me. The descendants of Jacob, whose name God changed to “Israel,” had become a nation; twelve tribes. They were enslaved by Pharaoh, king of Egypt. If you asked the man on the street how the Egyptians could do this, the answer would be, “The Egyptian gods were stronger than the God of Abraham, Isaac & Jacob.”
The true God changed that perception. The blood of the lambs marked Israel’s homes & the angel of death spared them. With an outstretched arm God brought the Israelites out of slavery, to the edge of death at the shore of the Red Sea, through the death of the waters that drowned the Egyptian army & Pharaoh, then out into a new life on dry ground.
The Passover meal began as a remembrance of that, & down through the centuries, the people were supposed to remember. But they didn’t always remember very well. The history of God’s people was up & down, for sure, & the time came when they finally succeeded in breaking their covenant with the great I Am.
He was eager & willing to be their God, but they wanted to be His people at the same time that they were the people of Baal, & the people of Molech, & the gods of the nations around them. A covenant with the true God is exclusive – He accepts no rivals, because all of them lead us to eternal death. Yet, Israel broke the covenant.
That covenant that Israel broke was in need of something greater. In hindsight, we can
see that God always planned it that way – those past events were always pointing forward to something greater. That night in the upper room, with sin & evil all around, with quarreling disciples seated with their master, the past came rushing up to them, crying out:
“How long, O Lord? How long until you deliver us again? How long will your people wander? When will you do a new thing!” And the answer was, “Tonight. Right now.” That particular night long ago remembered the past mercy of God & magnified it. On that particular night Jesus confronted the slavery of all of the gods of the world – even Satan himself.
Jesus faced that slavery, took hold of it, & did not let go. On the night when Jesus was betrayed, He freed sinners of all the ages & invited them to the table. It all came together in the eternal Passover that Jesus desired to eat, right then, in that present moment.
In a way, that evening, & the hours that followed, were the turning point in all human history. Jesus embraced the old even as He created something new. Not utterly new, with no connection to the old, but larger, new in the sense of “recreated,” stronger & more beautiful.
Jesus begins that turning point in history with the old ritual the disciples had probably known their entire lives. He takes a cup that is part of the old ceremony, blesses it, & asks them to divide it among themselves. Then He says: “That’s it. I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes,” until the great & last day. (Luke 22:18)
Turning from the old, Jesus gives them something new – really new. None of the Gospels tell us how the disciples reacted when Jesus said such completely unexpected things. The Gospels don’t tell us, so we shouldn’t speculate; it’s not important. But it was new.
“This bread is my body which is given for you. As you have remembered deliverance from long ago, now you will have a new deliverance to remember. Do this in remembrance of me.” It was new. “This cup being poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood, through my death.” It was new. And the old Passover meal has now passed away. In the most important way of thinking, the old Passover cannot be observed again – at least, not by the disciples of Jesus. When Christian congregations host a Seder meal in our day, they are not celebrating the OT Passover. It’s not possible for Christians to do that. Something new & stronger has come.
Yes, we can remember & rejoice in God’s faithfulness of old. We can see connections that come together in the eternal Passover that night, but something new has come into the present, that Maundy Thursday long ago.
As the letter to the Hebrews especially says over & over, this new deliverance, the new deeds of Jesus are one & done, once & for all, unrepeatable & unrepeated. Jesus will be the Lamb, whose blood is over the people; whose death protects the people from God’s wrath, from the angel of death, from every evil.
His death, one & done, once for all, enables people to leave slavery behind, to be God’s people in freedom & mercy. Jesus is the new & greater Passover lamb. And there’s more. Jesus is not just the lamb who protects from death. He is the deliverer, the leader, the One infinitely greater than Moses whom God chose to deliver Israel. Jesus is both deliverer & sacrifice.
In that present moment beginning Thursday evening, Jesus performs a new exodus. He goes ahead of His disciples, ahead of His enemies, ahead of everyone into death – the death of the cross. Jesus goes ahead of us so you & I can avoid dying for our sins.
Jesus goes through the sea, through death, coming out onto dry ground, to a new life that leaves our sins drowned & death permanently undone. The old Passover ritual would have ended at 6:00 pm on Friday evening. What Jesus did would never end. He rose to life, as the Lamb who was slain but who lives. He is Lamb & Deliverer.
He did it for His disciples, & for you, & for the whole world. That present moment was
the turning point of all of history. The past rushing forward, to be taken by Jesus & fulfilled. This was the eternal Passover that Jesus desired to eat, so He could do something new, something eternal, for you & for all people. Centuries of longing & promise rushed forward to the eternal Passover that Jesus desired to eat. All of history changed as He did something new.
That night, & on Friday, & on Sunday when Jesus stepped out of the grave onto the dry ground of new life for us & for all people – Jesus was Lamb & Deliverer, all for you & me. One & done; once & for all. But the events of that night were for the future as well, & in saying that, I’m thinking about two specific words that Jesus said.
The two words are these: “until,” & “remembrance.” Twice Jesus says, “until”: “For I tell you I will not eat it again until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 22:16) Two verses later, “For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” (Luke 22:18) That’s the first word: “until.”
The 2nd word is “remembrance”: “Do this in remembrance of me.” We’ll take that 2nd word first. Even though the unique, eternal things that Jesus will do are one-and-done, once & for all ... the new meal that He gave to His disciples is a gift that He keeps on giving.
The events of that night push out, they come running out into the future & around the world as the gospel goes out & is believed. That new gift-meal has come from the upper room through the cross & out of the empty tomb to us, tonight. Jesus lives & the living Jesus gives us to eat His true body, & to drink His true blood. And He says, “Remember.”
Not “recall,” something you might only do in your head, but remember, something you do in your heart – & believe. Remember & give thanks. The gift is real in itself. Your remembering does not make it real; my remembering does not determine whether the living Christ gives His body & blood for us to eat & drink. We don’t make that happen – the living, reigning Jesus does that, from the right hand of God. But remembering in faith, in humility, in need – remembering is how all of God’s gifts are received to our benefit, to our blessing. Remembering is faith, faith that says:
“Yes, Lord. The new gift is here again for us, protecting us from the death of our sins. The new gift is here again for us, strengthening us as we draw together in love for one another. We remember you, Lord, so we eat Your body & drink Your blood & we are one body in you. Yes, Lord. The new gift is here again for us, & it will be ... until.”
That’s the 2nd word. The gift of Jesus stretches out into the future until it is fulfilled in the reign of God, until the reign of God comes in all its glory & power. And so, the Lord’s Supper is a temporary gift; it is, as we sometimes say, a foretaste of the feast to come.
Holy Communion is a banquet, at which death will be swallowed up forever, a banquet with a table at which Abraham, Isaac & Jacob are sitting, at which a believing criminal is sitting, at which all who remember & believe will be sitting. By God’s mercy, you will be sitting there, & so will I.
Past, present & future – that was an eternal Passover that Jesus ate with His disciples that night. The past fulfilled, the present changing all of history, the future reaching out even to us this evening.
One last question to ask. Why did Jesus earnestly desire that night? There are probably many answers, but I’ll offer two. Jesus earnestly desired it because He loves His Father & was eager to do the Father’s will, to carry out the Father’s plan. And Jesus earnestly desired to eat that Passover that night because He loves sinners. He loved His disciples & loved His enemies.
And He loved you. He loves you still. In the name of the Father & of the Son & of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul! What wondrous love is this, O my soul! What wondrous love is that 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! LSB 543:1.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet