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Maundy Thursday (Full Service)

April 9, 2020 Speaker: Murray Keith Series: Lent

Passage: Matthew 26:17–26:30

†††In the Name of Jesus†††
Pastor Murray Keith
Text: Matthew 26:17-30
Date: April 9, 2020 Maundy Thursday
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
  • It was the night on which Jesus was betrayed.  The disciples were ready to celebrate another Passover, just as they had before. 
  • They were blissfully unaware of Jesus’ impending suffering and death.     
  • But Jesus was deeply aware.  
  • He would use this occasion to leave behind his last will and testament.  He was preparing for his departure.
  • What Jesus would leave behind on that Holy Thursday was the new testament in his body and blood, given and shed for the forgiveness of our sins. 
  • It was the pure Gospel for his disciples, for us, to receive for the rest of time.
  • On this night so many years later, we find ourselves in these difficult days of a pandemic and we are not able to gather for the Sacrament of the Altar. 
  • And so, we remember and take great comfort in the times past when we have received the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation that Christ gives to us through his true body and blood.  We are sustained by it.    
  • Tonight we are going to hear some teachings from Dr. Martin Luther on the Lord’s Supper, and I pray they will deepen our understanding - and hunger and thirst - for this means of God’s grace. 
  • Dr. Luther teaches in his Large Catechism “that no one should by any means be forced or compelled to go to the Sacrament.” 
  • The Lord’s Supper isn’t a work or religious act that we do to earn God’s love and forgiveness.  It isn’t something that we have to do to gain salvation.
  • Rather, it’s a great gift from God that we are blessed to receive!
  • Luther said, “Indeed, those who are true Christians and value the Sacrament precious and holy will drive and move themselves to go to it” (LC V 42–43).
  • When we consider what Christ promises and gives to us through his body and blood we are driven and moved to receive it often.  
  • God’s Word teaches us that in the Sacrament the bread and wine are a communion or participation in the body and blood of Christ.
  • St. Paul said, “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” (1 Corinthians 10:16).
  • Participating in the body in blood of Christ is receiving God’s forgiveness, life, and salvation.
  • Luther said that we should regard the sacrament “…as a pure, wholesome, soothing medicine which aids and quickens us in both soul and body. For where the soul is healed, the body has benefitted also” (LC V 68).
  • But there can be barriers to our participation in the Sacrament that go beyond our isolation and social distancing.
  • One barrier is that we don’t feel worthy to participate.  
  • We might stay away from it because we feel that we are too sinful to sit at the Lord’s Table, or our faith isn’t strong enough. 
  • We might think that first we have to clean ourselves up a bit, get on God’s good side - then we will eat and drink again. 
  • When we view the Sacrament as something we do, it’s natural to feel unworthy and unprepared.  We sin daily. 
  • But if we wait until we are good and pure - we will never come to the Sacrament.  None of us.
  • So, who can receive this Sacrament worthily?
  • Luther answers, “…that person is truly worthy and well prepared who has faith in these words: ‘Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” 
  • The gift of faith that God has given us is what makes us worthy and is what receives all that he offers through Christ’s body and blood.
  • However, Scripture does offer us words of warning concerning the Lord’s Supper that we need to be aware of. 
  • St. Paul clearly teaches, “Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord.  Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself” (1 Corinthians 11:27-29).
  • But Luther reminds us in his Large Catechism that: “This Sacrament does not depend upon our worthiness.  We are not baptized because we are worthy and holy.  Nor do we go to Confession because we are pure and without sin.  On the contrary, we go because we are poor, miserable people.  We go exactly because we are unworthy” (LC V 61). 
  • Luther goes on to say, “I, indeed, would like to be worthy. But I come, not upon any worthiness, but upon Your Word, because You have commanded it. I come as one who would gladly be Your disciple, no matter what becomes of my worthiness” (LC V 62).
  • We receive this gracious gift not because we are worthy, but because of his promise, “This is my body, which is given for you. . . . This is my blood . . . shed for you for the forgiveness of sins” (LC V 64). 
  • Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection are for you!  
  • Again, from the Large Catechism, “Here in the Sacrament you are to receive from the lips of Christ forgiveness of sin. It contains and brings with it God’s grace and the Spirit with all His gifts, protection, shelter, and power against death and the devil and all misfortune” (LC V 70).
  • Further, “If, therefore, you are heavy laden and feel your weakness, then go joyfully to this Sacrament and receive refreshment, comfort, and strength. . . . If you wait until you are rid of such burdens, so that you might come to the Sacrament pure and worthy, you must stay away forever” (LC V 72–73).
  • Luther says that some might ask, “What, then, shall I do if I cannot feel such distress or experience hunger and thirst for the Sacrament?” (LC V 75). 
  • Well, he provides three down-to-earth answers to this question.   
  • Luther’s first answer is that for those who are of such a mind that they do not realize their sinful condition and need for the Sacrament - that he knows no better counsel than that they put their hand into their shirt to check whether they have flesh and blood.  And if you find that you do, then go, for your good. 
  • Apart from Christ, our flesh and blood is sinful. We need to participate in the body and blood of Christ so that our sin is forgiven and removed. This is true for all of us who have a body!
  • For those who still need more encouragement to go to the Sacrament, Luther suggests, “In the second place, look around you. See whether you are also in the world” (LC V 79). 
  • We all live in this fallen world and we are vulnerable to its sinfulness and misery.
  • When we watch the news it doesn’t take long to discover a world filled with violence, anger, sin, vice, and despair.  
  • Any one of these things will move your heart to the Savior in the Holy Sacrament.
  • Finally, if these are not enough to drive you to the Sacrament, remember that you also have the devil to contend with.  
  • He is a liar and murderer.  He will do anything to lead your heart away from God’s Word.  He will do whatever it takes to separate you from God eternally. 
  • Luther observes, “If you could see how many knives, darts, and arrows are every moment aimed at you . . . you would be glad to come to the Sacrament as often as possible” (LC V 82).
  • We contend with our sinful flesh, a sinful world, and the devil.  
  • But on the night when he was betrayed, Jesus gave us his very body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins, life, and salvation.
  • In the Sacrament Christ gives us victory over sin and death and strength for a new life in him.
  • From Romans chapter 8, “If Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness” (Romans 8:10).
  • What a joy it will be when we can again gather to receive this powerful and gracious gift from God.
  • What comfort and hope we have received from when we have been fed and nourished in the past.
  • Thy body, giv’n for me, O Savior, Thy blood which Thou for me didst shed, These are my life and strength forever, By them my hungry soul is fed.  Lord, may Thy body and Thy blood be for my soul the highest good!  (LSB 619)  Amen.
 
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.

More in Lent

April 10, 2020

Good Friday (Full Service)

March 28, 2020

Fifth Sunday in Lent

March 22, 2020

Fourth Sunday in Lent