Thursday, April 5, 2007

The Messy Work of God

Maundy Thursday
Thursday, April 5, 2007
Luke 22:7-20

“Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed.”

Dear Friends in Christ, you know what Christianity is all about? The Bible? Your Christian life? God’s salvation for the world?

It’s about blood.

You know what Christianity, salvation, the Bible, is? Well, it sounds like something a Brit would say: it’s a bloody mess.

You know what this night, tomorrow, and Easter Sunday is all about? It’s about blood. Death. Sacrifice. It’s about a harsh reality: life does not happen for us without death. Without blood. Without the whole bloody mess of sacrifice being offered.

Why were the Jews 1500 odd years after the Passover was instituted still sacrificing that Passover lamb? It was just a ritual, wasn’t it? Couldn’t the people of God be forgiven just by praying to God and knowing that He does, in fact, forgive His people? Why do they have to go through the whole mess of slaughtering a poor animal just to know and receive forgiveness of their sin?

God is spirit. He is not bound by space and time as we are. He is eternal. He doesn’t have hands as you and I have. He is above the limitations of the physical world.

But He deals in a very physical way. In blood. In a physical animal being sacrificed. The animal’s blood being shed on behalf of the people of God. He deals in a messy way. He doesn’t leave us to our own imaginations to wonder whether or not we receive forgiveness from Him. It’s real. It’s tangible. It’s a spiritual reality delivered in a physical way. In a way we can see, feel, smell. It’s messy, but we know what’s happening. An animal is being sacrificed. Its lifeblood is being removed from it. In the shedding of blood is forgiveness.

So Luke matter-of-factly says: “Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed.” So that’s what they did. They sacrificed the lamb. They prepared and ate the meal God had instituted in His delivering them from Egyptian slavery. Their celebration of the Passover was a celebration of life. Of deliverance by God. Deliverance not just from slavery but from death. From sin. In the meal forgiveness was delivered.

This meal came at a price, however. It came at the cost of shedding of blood. An animal had to die in order for them to have their celebration of life. Their restoration to God. Their forgiveness of sin. There should be no cavalier attitude toward all of this. It comes at a price. We must always remember that.

So Luke reminds us that the time came for the festival in which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. Do we fall into the trap of treating the gifts of God lightly? Of forgetting that they have come at a price? The price of the shedding of blood? That the work of God in saving us and forgiving us is a messy business? That He gives us life at the expense of His own Son? That our salvation is at the cost of the death of Christ?

That the Lamb who was sacrificed was Jesus Christ Himself?

In this meal we eat here tonight there is no sacrifice made. God has done away with that in the sacrifice of His only-begotten Son. In this Supper we partake of there is no messy shedding of blood we participate in. Our God has offered up the pure Lamb on behalf of the world. In this Sacrament there is only the giving of the body and blood of Christ for you to eat and drink. The sacrifice has been offered on the cross. The salvation from that sacrifice is delivered to you in this Meal. The shedding of blood has been accomplished. In this Holy Communion Christ who has been raised gives you Himself as He gave Himself on the cross.

The shedding of blood was done often in the Old Testament. An animal was offered up time and time again in order for the people of God to be forgiven their sins. We are the New Testament people of God. We partake of the Body and Blood of Christ often. There is no more shedding of blood. The Lamb of God has shed His blood on Calvary. He gives you His body that was offered up and His blood that was shed in this Meal. His sacrifice was the one sacrifice for all time and for all people.

His gift to you is eternal life. It’s found here in His Supper. It’s found in the God who Himself provided the Lamb for the sin of the world—His very own Son, our Lord and Savior. Amen.


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