Maundy Thursday – 2019 LSB #’s 636:1-4, 618:1-4, 917
Text – Mark 14:12
And on the 1st day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, His disciples said to Him, “Where will you have us go & prepare for you to eat the Passover?”
THE LAST SUPPER: A PLACE FOR A FEAST
On the eve of His death, Jesus’ concern was for His disciples. While Satan was marshaling his forces, when Judas had made his contract of betrayal, when the soldiers & guards stood ready to follow the traitor wherever he led, while Caiaphas was drumming up a meeting of the Sanhedrin in anticipation of Christ’s capture, Jesus had His disciples at heart.
He knew how frail & frightened they were. He wanted to give them strength & support. And that night Jesus was looking not only at those disciples. He was also looking into the future at you & me. So He showed His tender mercy in a remarkable & miraculous way. He took His disciples, & still today takes us, to the Last Supper: a feast of three communions.
If you’re sitting at a table ready to eat & wondering what’s for dinner, all you have to do is look at the food. Chicken is chicken. Potatoes are potatoes. Beans are beans. If you want to know any of the ingredients that you can’t see, you can read the label.
Salad dressing may contain water, corn syrup, cultured buttermilk, vinegar, onion juice, sugar, garlic juice, salt, modified corn starch, soybean oil, xanthan gum, phosphoric acid, propylene glycol alginate, monosodium glutamate, potassium sorbate & calcium disodium EDTA as preservatives, dried parsley, dried green onions, spice & yellow #5.
To know what Jesus gives in this feast, we start by looking at it. “While they were eating Jesus took bread, gave thanks, broke it, & gave it to His disciples… Then He took the cup, gave thanks & offered it to them.” When we partake of this feast, bread is still bread & wine is still wine, but there are added ingredients we do not see. So, we look at the label. We look at the Savior’s words: “He took bread & gave it to the disciples, saying, ‘Take; this is my body.’ Then He took the cup… & gave it to them… saying, ‘This is my blood.’” In this special meal, Jesus gives His own body & blood, the same body that was nailed to the cross, the same blood that was shed there, but they are miraculously joined to the wine & the bread.
How can bread & wine be the body & blood of Christ? A professor once said, “If a hundred thousand devils should rush forward & ask that question, we know that all the demons together with all the scholars of the world do not have as much wisdom as does God in His little finger.” The words of Christ stand: “This is my body… This is my blood.”
At this place for a feast, & every time this feast is celebrated as Jesus began it, there are 3 communions, three “coming-togethers.” The 1st is a communion of four elements. “It is the true body & blood of our Lord Jesus Christ under the bread & wine, instituted by Christ for us Christians to eat & to drink.” And that leads to the 2nd communion.
Have you found yourself eating the wrong kind of foods? People enjoy junk food, but eating it causes us to take in too much fat & cholesterol. What we need is a well-balanced diet – a proper combination of protein, fiber & carbohydrates so all our systems function correctly. We need food with solid nutritional value so our bodies grow & maintain their strength.
Well, your soul needs nourishment too, so that your faith can grow & maintain its strength. Yet, there’s a lot of spiritual junk food available in the religious marketplace. You can fill up on the “Twinkies” of social action & civil rights served up as the main course in some churches today.
You can fatten up on the “cupcakes” of self-indulgence, self-reliance, or self-fulfillment neatly packaged as religious piety. But there’s only one food that has value for our soul. That is the forgiveness of our sins. When we want to be sure that food for our bodies has value, we check with the experts, the nutritionists. They can tell us not only what is in certain foods but also what benefit there is for us. If we don’t believe what they say, we end up feeding on harmful foods & eating our way to an early grave.
The same is true in this special meal. When we want to be sure that this sacramental meal has real value, we check with the only expert there is, the Lord Jesus Himself. He has the expertise to tell us not only what is in this supper, but also the benefit it has for us. If we don’t believe Him, we may be feeding on Satan’s lies & eating our way to an eternal grave.
So let’s examine what our Lord says: “Take; this is my body given for you… This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” The word covenant is the key. It’s an agreement, & normally there are two sides to one. If you agree not to throw a hymnal at me, I’ll agree not to throw one at you.
That would be a two-sided covenant. But when Jesus made this covenant with us, He did not make a two-sided agreement. This is a one-sided promise. He says: You don’t have to do anything. Come to this table empty. Come with your sin. Come with your guilt. I will heal your waywardness & love you freely, for my anger has turned away from you.
Sometimes we struggle long & hard against the desires of our sinful nature yet still lose the battle. Then we wonder if God still loves us. That’s where this special meal brings comfort. Because we are struggling, tempted & weak, we go to the Lord’s Supper to touch & taste, to eat & drink in a personal way this reassurance, “Your sins are forgiven.”
At this place for a feast, & every time this meal is celebrated as Jesus began it, there are
3 communions. The 2nd is a coming together of God & sinners. Now for the 3rd.
It’s difficult to grasp how a politician can attend a state dinner with his political opponent & actually smile & digest the food. A person would have to be a terrific actor to pull it off. It’s enough for us non-politicians, when invited to a business lunch, to sit across the table from the person who’s been bad-mouthing us at work all week. A meal like that would be awkward & uncomfortable. We might be so tense that our digestive system gets thrown off & the meal may prove to have little nutritional value.
On the other hand, some of the most pleasant times in our lives may center around a relaxing & enjoyable dinner with friends & relatives. Relationships are solidified, & expressions of love & mutual commitment are shared. As the evening in the upper room drew to a close, Jesus hinted at that kind of oneness:
“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.” (Matthew 26:29 ESV) There can be no closer link between friends than when they are joined with each other & Jesus in heaven. This meal is a foretaste of the oneness we will enjoy there.
Then the writer adds, “When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” Singing at the Passover meal was commonplace, a demonstration of the unity shared by those who partook of the meal. While it’s only hinted at here, but expanded on in greater detail by the apostle Paul, we’re given a taste of the 3rd communion of this great feast.
At this altar & every time this meal is celebrated as Jesus began it, the 3rd communion is a coming together of people to people. When we participate together in this feast, we’re indicating that we are one in faith, that we all believe the same teachings of Jesus. We are also saying that we have a truly repentant heart for all our sins.
Another aspect is demonstrated in the story of doubting Thomas. Jesus had risen from the dead & appeared to His disciples who were hiding behind locked doors. But Thomas wasn’t there. When the others told him that they’d seen the Lord, he declared, “Unless I see the nail marks in His hands & put my finger where the nails were, & put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” He wanted more than the others’ say-so. He wanted to touch & see for himself.
A week later the disciples were in that house again. This time Thomas was with them. Jesus appeared suddenly, & after calming their fears, He turned to Thomas & said: “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand & put it into my side. Stop doubting & believe.” Thomas answered Him, “My Lord & my God!” (John 20:27-28)
Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen & yet have believed.” (John 20:29 ESV) I’d like to think Jesus was talking about us, those who are blessed. But sometimes, like Thomas, we have our doubts – maybe not an all-out “I won’t believe this!” but certainly misgivings.
“Is our religion really the right one? Is the Bible totally without error in all it says?” Then there are times when we sin & start to wonder: “Will God actually forgive me for saying that? Does He truly have the patience to put up with me every time I slip? I know He tells me I’m forgiven. I hear His words, but if I could see Him or touch Him, then I’d be certain.”
The kind of reality we want; the kind of reassurance we desire comes to us from the only kind of Savior who can help, a Savior who takes us by the hand & leads us to this place for a feast, a feast of three communions. Here He joins the payment for our sins with something we can see, touch & taste. Here He joins His love to our hearts.
Here He joins us to each other so at this place, whenever we partake of this feast, Peter’s words are pointed right at your heart & mine: “Though you have not seen [Jesus], you love Him. Though you do not now see Him, you believe in Him & rejoice with joy that is inexpressible & filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” Those are the true words of God. They’re never filled with empty calories. A diet of these words brings eternal life & never-ending health. That is our Savior’s covenant promise to each one of us. Amen.
I come O Savior to Thy table for weak & weary is my soul. Thou Bread of life alone art able to satisfy & make me whole. Weary am I & heavy laden; with sin my soul is sore oppressed; receive me graciously & gladden my heart, for I am now Thy guest. Lord may Thy body & Thy blood be for my soul the highest good. Amen. LSB 618:1, 4.
 John 20:25 ESV
 1 Peter 1:8-9 ESV
Pastor Dean R. Poellet