Thursday, April 9, 2009

You Know What You’re Getting

Maundy Thursday
April 9, 2009
Mark 14:12-26

They knew what was to happen. And yet, they didn’t know what was to happen. Jesus knew what was to happen, and yet, went on through with it.

Yes, it would be easy enough to celebrate the Passover with His disciples. But to be betrayed. To be arrested and convicted and mocked and beaten and crucified. Jesus knew all this would happen. The suffering for the sin and guilt of the world. Jesus knew what was to happen. The disciples didn’t. They thought they would simply be celebrating the Passover. They didn’t know Jesus would celebrate something else. They didn’t know, although they should have, that He would be betrayed and arrested and crucified.

So though they knew what was to happen, they really didn’t know what was to happen.

And what about us? Do we know what is to happen? Do we know what happens in our celebration of the Lord’s Supper? In a few moments we will approach the Lord’s Table and partake of the Lord’s Meal. Is that something we just do, just as the disciples asked Jesus where they should prepare for the Passover meal? Or do we, unlike the disciples did that night, know exactly what is going on in the celebration of this Meal?

What Jesus did during the Passover meal must have thrown His disciples for a loop. Why did Jesus institute it? It’s for this reason: He knows what is going to happen. We don’t. Oh, we know. But not really. We know we need it. But do we know just how much? Do we know and believe that without it we will starve spiritually? Our Lord knows us better than we know ourselves.

The disciples were all ready to prepare for the Passover. They were ready to celebrate it. But Jesus knew that what they needed was not just a reminder of God’s saving acts. They needed salvation. They needed to be forgiven of their sins.

Jesus knows what you and I need. We need to be forgiven. And we know this. But perhaps we suffer from the same problem the disciples did, only from the opposite direction. They didn’t know what was going on because things were unfolding. We know exactly what happened because we’re after the fact and have it in black and white in the pages of Scripture. But whereas they were thinking they’d just be celebrating the Passover meal, we might think we’re just celebrating a sacred meal. They didn’t know exactly what Jesus was doing in giving them the bread and wine with the words “this is My body, this is My blood.” We know—but do we take it for granted? Do we just go through the motions? Is it just a remembrance?

The Lord’s Supper is most certainly a sacred meal, but it is also and especially a Sacrament. It is an actual means by which our Lord forgives us. We know the Lord’s Supper is a big deal, but it’s hard not to take it for granted. This is natural. That doesn’t mean it’s okay, it just means that we very easily slip into taking the things that are most important in our lives for granted.

Do you still get as excited after twenty years of marriage when your spouse comes home as you did after twenty days of marriage? Or do you just take him or her for granted? You know you love your husband, you know you love your wife, but do you treat him or her in a way that shows you cherish him or her? I’m not talking about having ecstatic emotional feelings for them all the time. I’m talking about being grateful for and cherishing the man or woman God has given you to love in marriage. Is this the way you see your spouse, or do you often just take your marriage for granted?

This can happen easily to us. With the people we love the most. With the things that are most important to us. Does it happen to us with the Lord’s Supper? We clearly confess and believe that in and with the bread and wine, we eat the body of Christ and the blood of Christ. But do we then just take that for granted? Do we hunger and thirst for receiving the body and blood of Christ? Do we cherish the gift our Lord gives to us in His Supper of Himself and the forgiveness of our sins and the strengthening of our faith? Do we rejoice in the unity we share in the partaking of Holy Communion?

The things we most treasure are often the things we end up not treasuring. This will happen if we don’t cherish the blessings we are given. In the Lord’s Supper our Lord has given us an eternal blessing. He gives it to us in the context of our sinful state and our need for salvation. The Passover was instituted in order for the people of God in the Old Testament to celebrate not just a festival, but the grace and salvation of God. He had rescued them from their slavery in Egypt and spared their firstborn children in the judgment of the slaying of the firstborn. It was only by the blood of a lamb that the firstborn were saved.
Why is the Gift our Lord gives us in His Holy Supper surrounded by the harsh reality of sin and the slaughtering of animals and the blood of them being used? Why can’t the Passover be a celebration that is free from a history in which firstborn children were struck down and an animal had to be slaughtered? Because God comes right down into our sin-filled world, right where we’re at, in the midst of the harsh reality of our need. Nothing anyone could do would prevent Jesus from going to the cross. Remember, Jesus knew what was going to happen when He was celebrating the Passover with His disciples and planning on instituting His Holy Supper. He knew Judas was going to betray Him. He knew that He was going to lose His life.

This was the context of instituting His Supper. This shows us why He did so. He did because you and I need to be rescued from the slavery of our sin. He did so because you and I often betray our cavalier attitude toward our Lord’s Holy Supper rather than hungering for it and cherishing it.

The disciples didn’t know what they were getting that night. You do. The body and blood of Christ. Given and shed. For you. For your forgiveness. They didn’t believe that hours later Jesus would be hanging on a cross. You know that He did. And you know that it was for you. For your forgiveness. This is what you’re getting in His Holy Meal. You’re getting Him. His body. His blood. His forgiveness of your sin for your salvation, now and forever. Amen.


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