Thursday, May 7, 2009

Sermon for April 9

Maundy Thursday
April 9, 2009
Text: Mark 14:12-24

Dear Friends in Christ,
With all the focus on Good Friday and Easter, we miss what may be the most important moment of all. It is the moment that explains and gives meaning to the events that would follow.
The Jewish religion was established at Mount Sinai with the construction of the tabernacle and beginning of the cultus. However, Passover set the stage for the practice of the Jewish religion. It began a pattern that would be followed throughout the period of the tabernacle and both temples. The people killed the lamb and painted the blood on the doors of their houses. The houses that had blood were passed over by God and the life of the first born was spared. But we often miss what happened next. They were to roast the lamb and eat it. Anything that they could not eat, they were to burn in the fire. Later, at Mount Sinai, the people were dedicated to God as a nation of priests by being sprinkled with the blood of bulls that were sacrificed to God. This was called the blood of the Testament. It marks the people of Israel as a people bought with blood. Then comes something significant. Seventy elders of the people ate with God. What did they eat? Meat from the bulls that were sacrificed. Those marked with the blood were set aside for God. Those who ate with God claimed this for themselves.

Christ is the true Passover Lamb - the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. Christ explains this to His disciples in the upper room. He was about to die. He was about to do all that God had promised. He was about to fulfill all that had been promised in the sacrificial system of the temple. But some things do not change. To belong to God, we must be marked with blood. To claim this as our own, we must eat of the sacrifice. Since we cannot go back in time and eat of from the corpse, Christ has a new way for us to partake of this. He gives us His very flesh in, with, and under the bread. The bread of the Supper does not represent Christ. It is Christ. It is the means by which we participate in the one perfect sacrifice for our sins. For this to be true Christ must be present in that bread according to the flesh. For this sacrifice to be credited to our account, we must literally eat of the sacrificial lamb. Then, we are sprinkled with the blood of the Testament. But here there is a change. The Israelites were sprinkled outwardly. The blood touched their clothes and their skin. We take the most Holy Blood into our selves. We are sprinkled inwardly - that is our hearts, minds, and consciences. By this we are marked as one set aside by God. We are set aside as that nation of priests.

By explaining this ahead of time, Christ was creating the framework for His actions. He was dying, yes. He chose to give up His life. But in the Last Supper, we see why He did so. He is establishing Himself as the sum of all the sacrifices. He is the living temple. He is the victim and the priest offering up the sacrifice. He is the entire Old Testament cultus embodied in one single person. This is what modern American Christianity doesn’t understand. Most American Christians are totally clueless - like proverbial blonde in all the jokes. It is commonly held that Christ abolished the Old Testament with His death and resurrection. This is false and a poor reading of what Christ, Himself says. What did He say? "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” (Matthew 5:17-18) The Law, that is the Old Testament, is not abolished to this day. How do we know. Heaven and earth are still here. But it is all fulfilled in Christ. This is no more need for a temple. Christ is the temple. There is no more need of sacrifices. Christ is the one perfect sacrifice for the sin of the world. Christ blood takes away sins. The blood of lambs and bulls cannot do this, any more than wine could do this. It is only in that these things become the incarnation of Christ’s blood among us that they have the power to forgive sins. But all this has to be conveyed to us. We must be attached to it. Christ’s sacrifice must become the sacrifice I bring to the temple of God. We do that when we eat of what was sacrificed and are sprinkled inwardly with the blood of the sacrifice.

Maundy Thursday. It is the day that explains the meaning of all the events that are to follow. It explains it by showing how Christ is now fulfilling the entire Old Testament - that He has become the entire Old Testament. In the institution of the Lord Supper, Christ is showing us how these things, His sacrificial death and victorious resurrection to life, are indeed ours as well. We no longer bring lambs and bulls to be offered up to God. God has provided the perfect sacrifice on His holy mountain. In the Supper, He carries us to that place and makes us participants with Him. In the Supper, we make the one perfect sacrifice our sacrifice, by eating of His flesh and drinking of His blood.

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