Maundy Thursday LSB #436
Text – Luke 22:20
And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”
The Last Supper: A Place of Forgiveness
She had a tattoo. There, on the upper part of her back, just over the shoulder blade. At times it looked more like a scar than a tattoo. It was only one color. This was before tattoos were fashionable & had been done in a back alley garage in spite of the risk of infection & scarring. It was a dark blue scratch making the shape of a crown.
She didn’t know which was worse, the tattoo or what she did to get it. There were many men, boys she should say, & petty crimes that made her worthy of bearing that scar & being a part of the gang. Only that was years ago in another city. That was before night school & a promotion & relocation & a husband & a family.
Now, here she sits at the Christian education committee meeting & they’re asking her to offer an opinion about children & the streets. One member already removed her child from Sunday School:
“If you are going to bring kids from gangs into this program, then don’t expect my child to be there,” she said. “Why do you think I bring my kids here? I want to give them a good upbringing.”
As the meeting continued, the woman with the tattoo thought to herself, “If you only knew. If you only knew where I’ve come from & what I’ve done, you wouldn’t even be asking my opinion! You certainly wouldn’t be sitting here with me.” That night, her world became a little smaller & all she could think was, “If you only knew.”
We all experience moments like that, don’t we? Moments when our world feels like it’s
getting smaller. There may be no tattoo to mark your past. Your moment might have happened in a different social setting, but we all carry scars from the things we have done. Then, in a moment, our world becomes smaller as we find ourselves surrounded by people who don’t know what we’ve done. We are intensely aware that we’re alone – alone with our scars.
We’ve had a failed marriage or broken a vow. We’re a recovering alcoholic. In the fear of an unwanted pregnancy, we aborted our child. We have a parent we haven’t spoken to for over a year. We’ve fought with our children for so long we don’t know how to begin again. Sin disrupts the lives of God’s people & it leaves many scars.
When we gather, there are times it hits us how radically different it all would be if the people around us only knew. Our back muscles tense, a polite smile masks our face, but we’re thinking, “If only you knew where I’ve come from, what I’ve said, what I’ve done, you wouldn’t even be talking to me. If you only knew…”
Tonight is Maundy Thursday; a time when we remember our Lord’s Last Supper & celebrate the Sacrament. As we do, we gather in the presence of a God who does know. We draw near to worship a God who knows all about us. As you meditate on our Lord’s Passion & come to receive His body & blood this evening, my prayer for you is that you experience the wonder that Jesus does know & for that reason this table is a place of forgiveness.
In Luke’s account of the Last Supper, he’s very clear to tell us that Jesus knew about Judas. Like a movie where you see one person & then another & then both of them together, Luke brings Jesus & Judas together in this account.
First, he points to Judas, telling us the Feast of Passover is approaching & Judas goes to the rulers to betray Jesus. This was the Passover preparation of Judas – betraying His Lord. Then, Luke points to Jesus. He tells us the day of Passover has come & Jesus sends Peter & John to locate the room where He will eat His last Passover meal. This was the Passover preparation of Jesus – preparing a table for His disciples. Then, Luke brings Jesus & Judas together. Luke tells us that the hour of Passover has come. We have moved from Passover approaching to the day of Passover & now to the hour of the feast.
Luke sets before us Jesus & Judas & the Passover table. This is where Luke tells us that Judas is in the presence of a God who knows. At the Passover table, Jesus says, “the hand of him who betrays Me is with Me on the table.” (22:21) Jesus told Judas, “I know.”
How did the disciples react to this knowledge? Luke tells us they began to argue among themselves. Which one of them was it? At the conclusion of a religious celebration, the disciples are involved in an argument about sin. Typical, isn’t it? Most rumors in churches arise out of similar questions.
Someone talks about an unnamed member who once had an abortion, so everyone wonders, “Who is she? Who are they talking about?” Somebody says, “I’d like to pray for someone who is having marital problems” & the questions & the gossip & the quarreling begin.
Soon, the spiritual work of God is set aside & everyone is digging around in everyone else’s closet looking for the certainty of sin that is present there. So Luke shows us disciples who are no longer looking to Jesus but looking among themselves. And that’s what happens. In the shadow of wrongdoing, we become engrossed in seeking out the certainty of sin.
But not Jesus. That is what’s so amazing about this Last Supper. Jesus knows about this evil. He begins the meal by talking about His suffering, & He closes the meal by talking about His betrayal. Yet in the face of certain evil, Jesus does not try to keep Judas away from His disciples. He doesn’t turn His disciples against Judas, & He doesn’t run to another city in fear.
In the face of certain evil, Jesus does the certain work of God. Yes, one will betray Him,
another will deny Him & all of them will fall away. But in the midst of everything that is wrong & weak & evil about human flesh, there remains one other thing that is true: God is alive. His love is certain, & this night, the reign of God is coming into the world. In the face of certain evil, Jesus came to offer certain forgiveness.
It’s through God’s Word, Baptism & the Lord’s Supper that He reigns in this broken world. “This is My body, which is given for you. . . This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.” (vv. 19–20)
The freeing of Israel from slavery is what the Jewish people remembered in the Passover. Tonight, Jesus calls His disciples to remember Him. He is their freedom. In Him is eternal love. In Him is the new covenant. In Him, sin, death & the power of the devil are destroyed. In His body, He will bear the punishment of our sins on the cross.
With His blood, He will claim us as His own so that the angel of death puts away His sword. In His body & blood are eternal forgiveness, & as often as we eat this body & drink this cup we proclaim the benefits of the Lord’s death for all people until He comes. There, at this Last Supper, we see the gracious work & reign of God among His disciples.
Here, in the Lord’s Supper, we see the gracious work & reign of God among us tonight. Yes, we come with scars, with parts of our lives that we’d rather not remember. There are things we’ve done that make us say, “Pastor, if you only knew.” For some of you, I do know. For others, I don’t, but for all of us, God does know. He sees & He knows.
Tonight we confess to Him the certainty of our sin, but God comes & proclaims the certainty of your salvation. In the death of His Son, He has forgiven your sin. In His body & blood, He comes to assure you of the certainty of His love. Here, you are no longer known as a sinner; you are known & acknowledged as a child of God. Tonight, God prepares a place for you at His table – a place of forgiveness. Come. I invite you to experience the wonder that happens when God knows all about you: He chooses to know you only through the gracious work of His innocent Son. It’s difficult to express the beauty of this wonder.
An artist once tried to capture it on a painting that would be used on an altar. Around 1500, in Alsace, there was a monastery church of the Order of St. Anthony. There Matthais Grunewald created what is now known as the Isenheim Altarpiece. It is a carved shrine, with two painted wings that open & close over a main painting, like doors on a cabinet.
There are two views for which this altarpiece is remembered: one is on the outside, when the wings are closed; the other on the inside, when the wings are opened. Closed, the altarpiece shows the crucifixion. This could be described as gruesome. Christ is hanging on the cross, His body discolored by a greenish hue. His wounds are torn flesh covering an emaciated body.
When the wings are opened, however, there’s a radically different view. Here, the painting is of the resurrection. Christ bursts forth from the tomb in an explosion of color. His hands are raised in blessing. Behind Him, in orange & startling yellow, a sun rises against a brilliant blue sky. His body is wrapped in swirls of clothing: yellow, white, red & blue garments.
But most amazingly, the artist has placed rubies in His hands & His feet & His side. The wounds of Jesus have been transformed by the artist. They are precious jewels that shine with the brilliance of the resurrection. In that simple act, this artist has captured the wonder of this night. Christ’s body will bear scars which come from a punishment we will never know.
But after His resurrection, these scars stay with Him. Only they are jewels, for they tell the world of a perfect love. Tonight, we have a Savior who invites us with wounded hands to His table. With these wounds, He continually reminds us of a love that our God will never forget. These scars are the marks of a God who truly knows His creatures, knows their suffering, their sin, & the punishment of their death. But these scars are also on the hands of the risen Savior. He carries these with Him, after death. They communicate His perfect love.
In this life, we can’t help but see our scars. We wonder what would happen “if anyone really knew.” Our heavenly Father sent His only-begotten Son in the flesh so that in Jesus, God would know our scars firsthand. In His death, God took on our scars to demonstrate His love for us. The resurrection of Jesus then demonstrates His power to rescue you & me from death.
With that in mind, Jesus invites you to His table this evening – a place of forgiveness. Because He knows of your scars, He comes to feed you, to forgive you, & to cover your scars with His wounded hands. Christ is here this evening to cover you with the wonder of His eternal love. Amen.
Go to dark Gethsemane, all who feel the tempter’s power; your Redeemer’s conflict see, watch with Him one bitter hour; turn not from His griefs away; learn from Jesus Christ to pray. Early hasten to the tomb where they laid His breathless clay; all is solitude & gloom. Who has taken Him away? Christ is risen! He meets our eyes. Savior teach us so to rise. Amen.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet