Thursday, April 5, 2012

Time Enough for Eternity

Maundy Thursday
April 5, 2012
A lot happened on Maundy Thursday. In these few verses of our Gospel reading Mark tells us of a lot of things that happened. And he doesn’t even include everything. First they had to prepare the Passover. Jesus had taken care of all the details. The disciples now had simply to carry them out. Then there was the incident we’d just as soon not have to deal with on Maundy Thursday, if at all. Jesus announced that one of them would betray Him. In one of the saddest things ever spoken of a person, Jesus said that it would have been better if that man had never been born. Then one of the most amazing, if not strange, things that ever happened: Jesus gave bread and wine to His disciples and said that He was giving them His body and His blood. After that they went to the Mount of Olives and our Gospel reading this evening ends there. We know that what occurred in the Garden of Gethsemane was Jesus being handed over and arrested.

There’s way too much here to deal with all of that in a short time. But more significantly, there’s way too much here to comprehend fully in a lifetime. But that’s why our Lord has not given us simply a lifetime. He has given us eternity. How He has done so is by giving us His body and His blood. It’s impossible for us to comprehend that in a little physical temporal piece of bread we are given eternity. We are given Christ Himself. It’s impossible for us to wrap our minds around receiving eternity in that little sip of wine.

So the key to all of this is not to comprehend it. It is to receive it by faith. There’s a lot to that, to be sure. There’s the simple hearing of it. There’s the trusting in it. There’s the believing in the Lord who gives you His very body and blood. There’s the confessing of our sin and our unworthiness of such a gift. There’s the rejoicing in it. There’s the confessing it that it’s true and the sharing it with others. But most importantly, there’s the hearing of it. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ.

Think for a moment what you are receiving in the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper. You are receiving the Lord. You are taking into your mouth the body of Christ and the blood of Christ. Reason can’t explain this. Faith simply receives it and rejoices in it. That’s why we are given eternity. It can’t be exhausted, and so we are given not just enough time to understand it but an eternity to rejoice in it and relish its benefits. We are given it not so much so that we can understand it and analyze it but so that we can be blessed in it. This is something that happens in time but is also outside of time. This gifts of God deal in eternity. By His grace He gives us enough time for eternity.

Mark’s account of what occurred on the Thursday before Jesus went to the cross recounts events that occurred in time. This is a historical account even as its primary purpose is theological: namely, to create and sustain faith in us. This is how we see that it is in time that we receive eternity.

Jesus had His disciples prepare the Passover Meal. What they didn’t realize is that Jesus was the one who really was doing all the preparing. He was using them as vessels to prepare the meal they would celebrate. In the same way we prepare the Lord’s Supper on this altar with the various vessels for the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. But make no mistake, Jesus is the one who is doing all the preparing. All we can do is provide on this altar bread and wine. He’s the one who prepares this Meal as one in which what we eat and drink is His body and blood.

The only things we can do in time are things that last in time and history. Jesus uses the things of this world and in time to give us things that last forever. In time He gives us eternity. There is time for eternity because it is in time He gives it to us. At His Holy Supper you are partaking of a Meal in time that is at the same time a Meal celebrated in eternity. When we partake of Holy Communion we are communing with the angels, archangels, and the whole company of heaven, all of whom are not in time but in eternity. In time, that is, here and now when we celebrate Holy Communion, we are brought into eternity with them.

This is why we shouldn’t simply go through the events of that night when Jesus was betrayed as historical events. We shouldn’t simply try to pin them down as events in time that happened one after another. They happened. They’re historical. We believe they’re true. But simply to understand them and appreciate them misses the main point of why they happened. They happened because in them our Lord was preparing for us a Meal. In them our Lord was bringing about salvation history. In time, that is, in those events that occurred, Jesus was bringing eternity down here to earth, giving us time and the means through which we are brought into eternity.

In bread and wine we are given the Body and Blood of Jesus. Jesus’ body and blood were given and shed on the cross. In His Holy Meal He gives to us this very gift: Himself, His body and blood that were given and shed on the cross. When Jesus was on the cross that was a historical event, an event that occurred in time. And yet, eternity was taking place, if that’s even the way to say it. The point is, Jesus was suffering on the cross eternal damnation, in our place. The suffering of this was in our place, therefore, when that was occurring, eternity, that is, eternal life apart from damnation, was being secured. This is what is given, then, in the Holy Supper of our Lord, this eternity, this eternal salvation, this forgiveness of all of our sins.

Never give short shrift to the fact that it comes in such a simple way, through bread and wine. Simply marvel in it. It is in these things, in time, that you are given eternity. Amen.


No comments: