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LSB Holy Thursday A Sermon – Matthew 26:17-30

April 18, 2014

April 17, 2014 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA

Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where will You have us prepare for You to eat the Passover?” He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with My disciples.’”

“Where will You have us prepare for You to eat the Passover?” That’s the question posed to Jesus by His disciples. They knew the deal. Every year the event that had brought salvation to the sons of Jacob was to be commemorated. Every year the lambs would be slaughtered and roasted, unleavened bread kneaded and baked, bitter herbs plucked and peeled. And every year the night unlike any other night in the Jewish calendar would be kept: memorial meal eaten, divine deliverance recounted.

“Where will You have us prepare for You to eat the Passover?” That question made all the sense in the world for disciples to ask their Master. But this year, the question did not make any sense. The Passover was about to be changed, to become something different. Because this year, the Passover would truly become a night unlike any other night—not just in a Jewish calendar, but in the diaries of all the world’s nations. For an even greater Passover was about to take place.

“Where will You have us prepare for You to eat the Passover?” The way that Jesus answers that question begins to show how this year was different. Recall how Jesus answered: “Go into the city to a certain man and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with My disciples.’” In that phrase—“My time is at hand.”—Jesus notes that this night is connected to something great that His disciples will not prepare, but that He will accomplish.

Jesus’ acts during the Passover meal touch on the unique things that will happen that night. He reveals that one of His disciples will betray Him. Then He takes the menu items and repurposes them, declaring them to be something new: “Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body.’ And He took a cup, and when He had given thanks He gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you, for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’” 

Jesus was no longer recalling the covenant that the LORD had made with His ancient people. That was the point of the Passover meal. But now Jesus was making a covenant. He was not having the Passover prepared for Him; He was preparing a Passover for His disciples to eat. The covenant made through Jesus’ death and the sign of the covenant that He institutes makes this night unlike any other and more so.

From then on, this night is not remembered as the evening when the LORD passed over the houses of His enslaved people in Egypt. Now it is known as the night on which our Lord Jesus Christ was betrayed. It is no longer a time to eat bitter herbs to recall slavery. Now it is a night to eat bread and wine in remembrance of salvation granted. It is no longer a night to remember how the first-born of Israel was spared. Now it is a night to recall how the only-begotten Son of God was given into death. That’s how this night was changed by Jesus’ preparing a Passover for His disciples to eat.

Jesus prepares the meal for His disciples to eat, so that they can participate in the covenant that He has made with them. There is more than just a memory about something that took place. No, there is the present activity that Jesus’ work bestows: “For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. Therefore He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.” Purifying of conscience, redemption from transgressions, forgiveness of sins: that is what Jesus grants through the Passover that He has prepared for you to eat.

The point of this night is not to prepare something for Jesus. No, it is for receive what He offers to you. That is what Jesus’ first disciples learned during that Thursday night in ancient Jerusalem. The time had come for Him to fulfill His role as the Redeemer. The time had come for Him to be lifted up and offered to the LORD. The time had come for Him to be handed over, condemned, beaten, and killed. The time had come for a sacrifice to be made—not a sacrifice that mankind offers, but a sacrifice offered for mankind: “When Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) He entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of His own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.”

That eternal redemption is what Jesus has prepared for you. And the One who prepared it for you now presents it to you. The question for this evening is no longer: “Where will You have us prepare for You to eat the Passover?” Instead, it is: “Where will You have us eat the Passover that You have prepared for us.” And Jesus gives the answer: “Here it is. Here is what I’ve offered for your sake. Take it and eat it. Take it and drink it. It’s been poured out for the forgiveness of your sins. You will abide in Me and I will abide in you. I’ve made everything ready for you. And our time will come, an even greater day, when you will eat and drink with Me in My Father’s kingdom.”

So heed the Lord Jesus’ invitation. Eat and drink what He has prepared for you—the wondrous Sacrament that remembers His Passion. Eat and drink what He has prepared for you—for in that way the fruits of His redemption will be manifest in you. Eat and drink what He has prepared for you—taking up the cup of salvation, calling on the LORD’s Name, receiving the benefits that come from the death of His Holy One for you, and looking forward to the day when the Father welcomes you to the place in His house that Jesus has prepared for you.

+ In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

 

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