Maundy Thursday, Matthew 26:26-30

Could Jesus have made it any simpler?  It is Thursday, and Jesus is with His disciples in a borrowed room.  They are there to celebrate the Jewish feast of Passover.  They are there for the yearly remembrance of Israel’s rescue from their slavery in Egypt.

They recall that glorious rescue from God.  They remember when the angel of death passed over their houses, with their doorposts painted with the blood of the lamb.  They remember how the angel brought death to the firstborn male of every household that did not have its doorposts painted with the lamb’s blood.

Passover was a central festival of the Jewish calendar.  Everyone looked forward to it.  So, too, did Jesus’ disciples.  But this Passover was different.  In the middle of the Passover celebration–quietly, without fanfare or fuss–Jesus did something new, something different.  He created a whole new feast.  Yet, Jesus did it so simply that we have to wonder if the disciples, at the time, fully got what Jesus was doing.

Jesus creates a new feast.  It is so understated, so easy to pass by, that we often treat it as if it were nothing.  Jesus took bread, the plain, unleavened wheat bread of Passover.  Without the crackle of lightning or the boom of thunder, Jesus took bread, broke it, and gave it to His disciples to eat.  He declared as He did so: “This is my body!”

Jesus didn’t explain it.  He didn’t say that it was a symbol or represented His body.  No, His words were straightforward and clear: “This is my body.”  Jesus also said, “Take and eat.”

And then with equal simplicity, Jesus took a cup of wine, the fruit of the vine fermented from the previous season.  This was the wine used in the Passover celebration.  Jesus then said, “Drink from it, all of you.  This is my blood of the New Covenant, which is poured out for the many for the forgiveness of sins.”

Again, Jesus does not delve into what He means.  He doesn’t have to.  His words are plain, straightforward, and clear.  “This is my blood,” He declared.  Jesus also said, “Drink from it, all of you.”

Yes, it is all so stark that we may miss the glory in it.  But there is glory, glory beyond all telling.  Here, is the Lamb for sinners slain, the Lamb whose blood redeems the world.  Yes, here in this new feast is the antidote to the sins the disciples were even committing that Thursday night.  The disciples argued who was the greatest among them.  They refused to be a servant and do a servant’s bidding, such as washing feet.  They fell asleep in Gethsemane.  They fled from the soldiers and even denied Jesus Christ.

Yes, this New Covenant of Jesus is all so stark that we may miss its glory.  But be not deceived: Our Lord’s Supper has glory, glory beyond all telling.  Here, is the Lamb of God, the One whom all the Passover lambs had pointed forward to and pictured.  This Jesus is the Lamb whose blood takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29).

In this new feast, Jesus comes to give you His forgiveness.  That’s what He said: “This is my blood… for the forgiveness of sins.”  Here, is the Lamb who gives Himself as food for eternal life, not merely as paint for the doorpost to save our earthly lives.

But so many miss the glory.  Because we celebrate this feast, not just on this holy day, but many times during the year, we sometimes think of the Lord’s Supper as nothing special.  We can easily forget the true significance and meaning of this feast, the gifts that Christ gives us in His Supper.  For the Supper has no outward glory, no flash of light, no glowing change of the bread and wine during the words of our Lord during His Supper.  Yes, it’s all so stark that we easily treat it like an empty ceremony whose purpose we have forgotten long ago.

But Jesus makes the purpose clear.  And He shows us the glory that is here.  Listen, listen to what Jesus said.  May Jesus’ words be inscribed on your heart with the blood that is here in His Sacrament.  May it be, for you, the Bread of Life that He intended it to be.  Write its holy truth in your memory and never let it go.  Jesus said, on the night of His betrayal, on the way to the cross, as His final will and testament: “This is my body.  This is my blood, given for you for the forgiveness of sins.”

Way back on that night when Jesus was betrayed, He spoke His final will and testament.  He gave no stocks and bonds.  He bequeathed no family silver or china.  There is nothing in Jesus’ estate that is worth noting–except Jesus Himself!  And so in His final will and testament, having nothing else to give, Jesus gives Himself!  “This is my body; this is my blood given for you,” He declares.  Yes, His “for you” is for you!

On this most holy night of nights, when so much was on Jesus’ mind, when He suffered scourging and a crown of thorns, when the nails and spear were already before Him, He thought of you.  Jesus spoke His final will and testament, and He made you His beneficiary.  Jesus gave His utmost and His best.  He gave Himself to you and for you.

Look at the feast.  Listen and wonder at its glory.  “This is my body; this is my blood.”  We do not eat and drink a symbol in this feast.  No, the real, the true, the living Son of God is in the bread and wine.  It is the same Jesus who spoke that night, who, on the next day, offered Himself as the sacrifice for the sins of the world.  Yes, it is the same Jesus who was still thinking of you on the next day when He cried out from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).

And the answer to this most-painful question from Jesus on the cross is this: God would forsake Him because God wanted your salvation.  God would forsake Him because Jesus wanted to suffer the torments of hell on the cross for you.

All around Jesus, the people cried out, “If you are Son of God, come down from the cross” (Matthew 27:40).  So why didn’t Jesus come down from the cross?  Why?  Because the night before, He had willed and bequeathed Himself to you.

Jesus had declared in His unalterable will that He should never be separated from you.  And the way for that goal to become reality, the goal that would be forever united with Him in this sacred supper, was for Jesus to be abandoned by the Father.  The way for Jesus to take away your sin that separated you from God, was for Him to endure the deserved torment of your sins as your substitute.

The world passes by the Lord’s Supper with little thought.  Many Christians dismiss it as unimportant.  To many, the Lord’s Supper is nothing more than a remembrance of Jesus’ death.  But we see the glory hidden in the cross.  Here, in His Supper, is a glory worth more than all the wealth of the world!  For Jesus, our God and Savior, is here.

The glory hidden in our Lord’s Supper is a glory that lasts even into eternity.  For Jesus–the risen ruler of the universe and of time and eternity itself–is here in His Supper.  Here, is a glory that is more precious than all the medicines ever discovered.  Jesus is here with Himself as the medicine of immortality.  For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation!

So come with your sin-broken hearts.  Come with souls starving for food, food that will strengthen you for the continuing battle against the devil, the world, and your own sinful nature.  Come with a heart parched with a thirst for salvation.  Come and eat and drink the price of your salvation in this feast of feasts.

And then, after Jesus has fed you, go in His peace.  For you have received your Savior who, in His final will and testament, gave Himself to you.  Go, having received your Savior who, on the night when He was betrayed, had no one He would rather think of than you.  Go and never forget your Savior.

For in His final will and testament, Jesus makes you an heir of heaven.  Go with the gift of His body and blood that strengthens and keeps you for life and life eternal.  Amen.