Holy Thursday – Big Night

This is Israel’s big night. The night Israel walked out of slavery into freedom through the blood of the lamb painted on the doorposts. This is the night when our Lord sat at table with His chosen disciples, soon to be apostles, and put Himself into the Passover. This is the night when Jesus left His disciples, soon to be apostles, both a remembrance and an example of His sacrifice. This is the night on which our Lord was betrayed to death by one of His own, one who had a share in His table, one who had received the morsel of bread from Jesus’ own hand. This is the first night of the three holy days of our Lord’s death and resurrection. And you are part of it.

“This day shall be for you a memorial day, a day of remembrance, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord; through your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast.” Each year, the Israelites gathered with their families to eat this feast of remembrance – bitter herbs, unleavened bread, roasted lamb. The blood smeared on the door was a sign. Where the blood, there death passed over. In eating the Passover you became one with Israel, bound by blood and bread and Lamb. You didn’t say this is the night our fathers came out of Egypt, but this is the night we came out of Egypt. When you ate the Passover, you were one with all of Israel.

This is Jesus’ big night. He celebrates this Passover not with His mother and family but with His Twelve, His inner circle of disciples who would later become His apostles and pastors. He sits at the head of the table, the head of His family, His church. He takes the unleavened bread, gives thanks to His Father, breaks it into morsels, and gives one to each sitting at the table with Him. He says something new, something never heard at a Passover before. “Take this and eat it. This is my body, which is for you.”

After the supper, Jesus took the cup, the blessing cup, raised it to heaven, gave thanks, and then gave His cup to each of His disciples saying, “Take, drink. This is my blood of the covenant which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” His cup is theirs to drink; they have a share in His life as well as His death.

Blood was forbidden in the OT. It was reserved for one thing: atonement. Lev 17:11: For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.” Blood is life, the life of the creature. Hence, blood sacrifice, and the pouring out of blood. Jesus’ blood is a unique blood, a blood that cleanses us from all sin. This blood you may drink, indeed you must. In drinking, you have a share in His life, forgiveness, and salvation.

This bread is Jesus’ body, the body given into death on the cross. And His body is bread, living bread come down from heaven, the bread of life which He gives for the life of the world. This wine is Jesus’ blood poured out as the Passover Lamb’s blood was poured, and His blood is wine that gladdens our hearts with eternal Cana joy.

In the synagogue at Capernaum, Jesus had said, “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him, and I will raise him up on the last day.” They didn’t know what to make of it, then. It sounded like crazy talk. Some stopped following Jesus. Now at last they at least could understand how Jesus could give them His flesh to eat and His blood to drink. .

Jesus gives His Body and Blood to eat and to drink “for my remembrance, in remembrance of me.” He places the tokens of His death before our eyes and in our mouths to remind us of who He is for us and what He has done. This is faith’s true food and drink, stirring up faith’s memory to cling to Jesus’ death for our life.

How sad it is when people try to remember Him some other way than His Body and Blood. For “as often as we eat of this bread and drink of this cup we proclaim the Lord’s death.” This is how the Lord’s death is proclaimed; this is how our Lord is to be remembered; this is how forgiveness, life, and salvation come to His baptized people.

John’s version of the Gospel doesn’t tell us about the Supper. Instead, John wants us to look ahead to the cross and the twilight when the Lamb of God is offered for the life of the world. John tells us about what Jesus did during the Supper, how He stooped down as the lowliest of servants to wash the feet of His disciples. “For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.” This wasn’t a ritual but the pattern of service, what happens when Jesus’ body and blood have their faith-enlivening way with you. Jesus came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many. In washing His disciples’ feet, He provides them the pattern of His humility, His self-giving love, His way of saving from the bottom up.

Bodied and bloodied by Jesus, we too are given to stoop down for one another as servants of the Servant of all. “Love one another as I have loved you.” His love precedes our love, from Father to Son to you to those around you. “As often as you have done it to the least of these, you’ve done it to Me.” Those feet you wash have nail marks in them. Jesus is hidden in the least, the lost, the lowly of this world for you to serve.

We give thanks to You, almighty God, that You have refreshed us through this salutary gift, and we implore You that of Your mercy You would strengthen us through the same in faith toward You and in fervent love toward one another.

His Body and Blood for your faith in Him and your love for one another.

This is the church’s big night. And yours. It is the Lord’s Passover.

In the name of Jesus.

Amen.

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