Holy (Maundy) Thursday (1 Cor 11, 23–32; Jn 13, 1–15, 34–35; Ex 12, 1–14)

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The holy Evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke, and St. Paul write: Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night when He was betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to the disciples and said: “Take, eat; this is My body, which is given for you. This do in remembrance of Me.”

In the same way also He took the cup after supper, and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you; this cup is the new testament in My blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”

᛭ INI ᛭

The Sacrament is what Jesus says it is. It gives what Jesus says it gives. Jesus tells us what it is: “This [bread] is My body…This cup [of wine] is My blood.” That’s why Paul says, “The cup of blessing that we bless, isn’t it a communion [κοινωνία] of the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, isn’t it a communion [κοινωνία] of the body of Christ?” (1 Cor 10) Jesus also tells us the benefit that the Sacrament gives: “The forgiveness of sins.”

It’s the forgiveness of Calvary that Jesus is giving. The forgiveness He “purchased and won” “with His holy, precious blood and His innocent suffering and death.” The forgiveness Jesus has and delivers is always tied to His death. The forgiveness He gives is always His body-and-blood forgiveness because He gave His body into death and He shed His blood as “the propitiation for our sins and the sins of the whole world,” as John says.

When the Lord gives His forgiveness, it means more gifts for us! The Catechism reminds us that “in the Sacrament forgiveness of sins, life and salvation are given us…for where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.” As we look at our Old Testament and Gospel lessons we also see that

JESUS’ BODY-AND-BLOOD FORGIVENESS, GIVEN US IN THE SACRAMENT, ALSO WORKS LIFE AND LOVE WITHIN US.

(I. The life Jesus’ forgiveness gives is one of freedom from slavery and death.)

What sort of life does Jesus give? Well, what sort of life do you have apart from Him? Ask the children of Israel about that. They lived a life apart from the Lord’s Promised Land. They lived in the Land of Egypt. They were “in the house of slavery.” The didn’t live under the power and authority and slavery imposed by Pharaoh. They had not land to call their own. They had nothing of their own.

Apart from the Lord Jesus you would also live a life of slavery. You’d be far worse off than the Israelites. If the Lord left you to yourself, well, you’d live for yourself alone, maybe having the outward form of “love for neighbor.” (More on that in a little bit.) Anyway, you’d be a slave to your own passions and desires. You’d be a citizen in the domain of darkness, under the power of the devil. You’d be captive to fear of death. All the sins we do, daily a much, the sins for which we’re rightly ashamed—that’s just the devil, the world, and our flesh trying to reestablish a foothold.

We need to be “transported out of the domain of darkness.” We need to be rescued, redeemed, set free. That’s exactly what Jesus does for us! “Through death He destroyed the devil who had the power of death and freed those who were guilty of slavery to the fear of death all their life,” as Hebrews says. “God the Father has transported us out of the domain of darkness into the Kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom We have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,” for in Baptism we’re united with Christ’s death and resurrection.

So that’s what we are: forgiven, redeemed. Christ’s death and Holy Baptism do this for us because Jesus’ death earns the forgiveness of sins and Baptism delivers it. But it isn’t just Calvary and Baptism, but it’s also the Supper of Jesus’ body and blood. For that, too, gives us the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. A life free from sin, from slavery, from death. Sealed to the Israelites by the Lamb’s blood on the door. Sealed to you by the body and blood of the Lamb of God which delivers the forgiveness of sins.

JESUS’ BODY-AND-BLOOD FORGIVENESS, GIVEN US IN THE SACRAMENT, ALSO WORKS LIFE AND LOVE WITHIN US.

(II. The forgiveness of sins enlivens our “fervent love for one another.”)

Besides life, we’re also blessed with love. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

This “fervent love toward one another” is something that flows toward and out of the sacrament. “Out of love for one another” we seek to believe, teach, and confess the same things. It is out of “love for one another” that we confess the Creed together. It’s out of love for one another that we speak the truth with our neighbor. We don’t ignore disagreements about what the Bible says or sweep them under the rug. Earlier Paul says, “There must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.” This applies to closed communion, besides the fact that we don’t want anyone “to eat and drink judgment.” “Whoever believes these words has what they say, forgiveness of sins.” Sadly not all churches do believe them as they’re written.

Among our congregations, however, the Sacrament is the sign and seal of our love for each other. It strengthens our “fervent love toward one another.” Here “though we are many, we are one body” through the body of Jesus. How can we have anything but true, actual, fervent, real love for each other when we have taken the body and blood of Jesus together for the forgiveness of our sins. All our interactions with each other as members of Bethlehem, members of Immanuel, or members of our dual-parish are put through the lens of forgiveness. Love is a fruit of the Spirit worked by the forgiveness of sins. Baptized into the death of Christ, Absolved before God in heaven, fed the body and blood of Jesus, we look at each other as forgiven, and we actually treat one another with love and mercy and forgiveness. It all flows from there [font], and there [altar].

(Conclusion.)

The Sacrament is what Jesus says it is. It gives what Jesus says it gives. Jesus tells us what it is: “This [bread] is My body…This cup [of wine] is My blood.” Jesus also tells us the benefit that the Sacrament gives: “The forgiveness of sins.”

JESUS’ BODY-AND-BLOOD FORGIVENESS, GIVEN US IN THE SACRAMENT, ALSO WORKS LIFE AND LOVE WITHIN US.

“This is My body, this is My blood, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” “Whoever believes these words has exactly what they say: forgiveness of sins” and life and salvation and love, too.

᛭ INI ᛭

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