Maundy Thursday - Exodus 12:1-14 - April 2, 2015
Order of the Confessional Service (Pg. 46)
Holy Communion (pg. 15)
Holy Communion (pg. 15)
Opening Hymn #314
Sermon Hymn #163
1 Corinthians 11:23-32
St. John 13:1-15
1) What do you do with a Passover Lamb? On the tenth day of the month the head of the household selects the Lamb from the flock. It is to be of the first year and without blemish. It shall dwell in the house with the family for four days. “Then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at twilight.” Then the Lord commands “they shall eat the flesh on that night, roasted in fire, with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs they shall eat it.” What do you do with the Passover Lamb? Very simply, you kill it and you eat it. But not the blood. The blood of the lamb has a different purpose. The Lord tells Moses, “They shall take some of the blood and put in on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses where they eat it. When I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.” The blood protects from the Destroyer that comes during the tenth and final plague upon Egypt. The blood of the sacrificed Lamb on the doorposts and lintel of the door marks that family as one for whom a Passover Lamb has died. Where there is blood there can be no judgment or condemnation because the Lamb has died instead of the firstborn of the house. The Passover Lamb’s blood diverts judgment away because the blood of a thing is its life. In Genesis 9, after Noah and his family exit the ark to begin the world anew, the Lord gives the flesh of animals to mankind for food. He says, “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs. But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.” (Genesis 9:3-4) The blood of an animal contains the life of a living thing. The Lord reiterates this to the Sons of Israel in Leviticus 17. The Lord tells Israel, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.” The flesh of animals may be eaten, especially the flesh of sacrifices, for that is how an Israelite participated in his sacrifice. But the blood was off limits for consumption. The blood of a sacrifice is what made atonement for sin, the blood is the lamb’s life for your own, it is that which turned away wrath and judgment.
2) St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 5:7, “For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.” Christ is our Passover lamb because all the lambs sacrificed in the Old Testament looked forward to His sacrifice to atone for the sins of the world. Christ is our Passover Lamb because it is His blood alone that turns away the wrath of God against sinners. Christ is the One about whom Abraham prophesied when he told Isaac on Mt. Moriah, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” (Genesis 22:8) The prophet Isaiah saw the Lord’s passion and proclaimed that, “He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7) St. John the Baptist, the culmination of the Old Testament, preached, Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) St. Peter writes in 1 Peter 1:19 that Christ was “a lamb without blemish and without spot,” for the Lord had commanded that Passover lambs be “without blemish.” Christ lives perfectly in our stead, without the blemish of sin or the defect of selfishness.
3) Christ goes to the cross, willingly, unflinchingly, knowing full well what will happen. He goes to die a gruesome death and first experience terrible sufferings. Moses commanded the Passover lamb be eaten with bitter herbs. Christ’s sufferings are the bitter herbs that prepare Christ for His death. Jesus, like Isaac of old, carries the wood for the sacrifice upon His own back, the weight of which is far more than wood, but the sins of the entire world. Christ suffers hellish pain, but the true pain of the cross was the full wrath of God against sinners. The Passover Lamb dies in place of the family so that judgment and death will pass over their house. So the collect for Good Friday begins, “Almighty God, we beseech Thee graciously to behold this Thy family.” Christ dies as our Passover Lamb to atone for our sins, to bear the full wrath of God against sinners, so that by taking our sins and deserved judgment, we are spared from that same judgment and death.
4) Christ is our Passover Lamb. And what do you do with a Passover lamb? You kill it, which happens on Good Friday. Then you eat it. That’s what Christ is doing on the night in which He was betrayed. On this night, Christ institutes the Sacrament of the Altar, the Lord’s Supper, a holy meal which supersedes the Old Testament Passover because Christ Himself IS the Passover Lamb, slain once for all. When He says, “Take, eat, this is my body, given for you,” He saying, “This is the flesh of the sacrifice offered for your sins. Eat of it and so participate in all the blessings of the sacrifice.” Since Christ was offered up to atone for our sins, to eat His flesh in the Sacrament brings the forgiveness won at the cross. There is no need to wait to feel forgiven. That may never come. But in this meal He offers the fruits of His passion directly to you, the forgiveness of all of your sins. But then He takes the cup after supper and says, “Take, drink. This cup is the New Testament in My blood, shed for you for the remission of sins.” This is all backwards from the Old Testament! This is where the continuity between Christ’s Supper and the Passover feast dissipates. Drinking blood was prohibited because life was in the blood. Drinking the blood of animals was prohibited because the Lord wants His people to only drink the blood which will give true life, which is Christ’s blood shed on the cross. The blood of a thing contains its life. So in offering us the cup of the New Testament in His blood, Christ is offering us not only the forgiveness of sins but also His everlasting life. This is why Luther wrote in the Small Catechism, “Where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.”
5) Christ gives His flesh for forgiveness and His very blood for our everlasting life. So we see that the Lord’s Supper is the better and far great Passover meal. Just as the Passover protected each house of Israel from judgment and death, so by eating Christ’s body and drinking His blood, we are protected from God’s judgment against sin and everlasting death in Hell. Christ atoned for our sins on the cross. He endured the pangs of Hell at the crucifixion, which are the true separation from the love of God and the true experience of His righteous anger against sin. By enduring all this for us, and by giving us all this in the Sacrament, Christ protects the houses of Israel, His true church, from sin, from death, and from the power of the Devil. The sacrament is most surely a memorial meal, just the Passover was. But it is much more than “only” a memorial meal just as the Passover was. There are true benefits, not just spiritualized, esoteric, phantasmal gifts. There is real body because we have very real sins and transgressions against God and neighbor. There is real blood given to drink because we have merited real death, not just physical death, by our sins, but everlasting torment and death. Christ is truly present, physically present to truly forgive sins, to remove them, and to absolve you for all your offenses. “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.”
6) Dear people of God, Christ has been slain to atone for your all your sins. The sins that others see in you, the sins you hide from others, and the sins you try to hide from yourself, Christ takes all of these upon Himself at Calvary. The sins that come out of your mouth, the sins that come from your hands and feet and all your members, and the sins that reside solely in your mind and heart, all these sins are laid upon Jesus, the perfect, sinless, spotless Lamb of God. Christ has atoned for all your sins upon the cross and tonight institutes this Blessed Sacrament so that we might always receive the benefits and blessings that come with eating the flesh of the sacrifice and drinking His life blood. In this meal He gives us exactly what He says He gives: body and blood, bread and wine, for the remission of all our sins. Christ is our Passover Lamb who has been slain for us. Let us now partake in His sacrifice so that He may once again give us the blessings He earned upon the cross. Amen.