Maundy Thursday: Exodus 24:3-11

Did they even realize or have a clue what they had agreed to do?  “We will do everything the LORD has said.”  We don’t even have to think about all the Lord had commanded to realize the futility of that response.  All we have to do is remember the two chief commandments: Love the Lord your God with your all, and love your neighbor as yourself.  “We will do, and we will be obedient.”  Can you love God with your all and from the depths of your entire being?

Have you ever tried it?  To love God with your all, I mean.  Your heart is undivided by competing loyalties, given to God and Him alone.  Your only wish is to enjoy His presence and do His bidding.  Your only fear is that you will cause Him some displeasure.

Give it a whirl.  Let me know how it goes!  And then there is your neighbor, the one made in God’s own image.  Love him as yourself?  Or, again, as our Lord paraphrased, do to others as you want others to do to you.  Have you given it an honest try?

But I’m afraid we would be about as successful as the Israelites who put up that rugged promise.  They quickly fell flat on their faces.  As they journeyed through the wilderness to the Promised Land, their lives showed something other than a love for God above all and love of neighbor as self.

Instead, they grumbled against God and the way He led them.  They distrusted that He would provide them with food and water.  Neighbor squabbled against neighbor.  They wore Moses out as he sat on the judgment bench from dawn to dusk, as he tried to settle their petty squabbles.  “We will do everything the LORD has said; we will be obedient.”  How is that working out for you?

Yet, despite their words, despite their foolish trust in themselves and their abilities, the covenant was still sealed with blood.  Part of the blood went on the altar; part on the people.  And with the blood went forgiveness, for there is no forgiveness without blood being shed (Hebrews 9:22).

And so it was as blood-sprinkled people that Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and 70 elders climbed the mountain to see the wonder of God’s glory.  They saw God, and His beauty wounded their hearts.  He was seated on His throne.  Under His feet was something like a pavement made of sapphire, dazzlingly pure like the sky.

And in God’s presence, as blood-covered ones, they were able to sit down and eat.  But they did not die.  They lived–although they knew they had no right to see such holiness and continue breathing.

They lived, even though they did not keep their end of the covenant.  They lived, even though their love for God did not characterize their all.  They lived, even though they did not love their neighbor as themselves.  They lived because they were under the blood.  And under that blood, the presence of God came to them as an experience of life, not death.  They lived because God kept His end of the covenant!

We know that we have failed to keep this covenant of the Lord.  The Ten Commandments, which spell out the shape of love in our lives, accuse us without end.  No, we do not love the Lord with anything close to our all.  No, we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.  Like Israel of old, we have not kept the words of the Lord or done them.  It matters not how many times we have promised to do better or to change.

Yet, today is Maundy Thursday.  Jesus still comes to us this night.  He readies a gift for His people, a gift in the heart of God from before time began.  And that gift, the gift of His body and blood, will go on strengthening His own until the day of His glorious appearing.

Jesus will provide a meal for His wounded people, His broken people who do not live up to the covenant of love.  He will feed them with His own body and blood.  He does this, so they might live, so they might be forgiven, healed, and restored.

And do you realize why there is life in that body and blood?  It is the body and blood of the One in whom there is nothing but love.  He has love for His Father with all His heart, mind, soul, strength, with His all.  And just as surely, Jesus also had a love for His neighbor: for you, me, and for every member of our fallen race.  Jesus loved us as Himself, indeed more than Himself.  So, the Law cannot condemn Him.  For Jesus’ whole being–His every word, thought, and action–was always and only love.  And He calls us to live under that blood.

To live under that blood is to taste something better than the food Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the other 70 elders ever knew.  We do more than eat and drink in the presence of the All-Holy One.  Through our faithful eating and drinking, God comes to us.  He enters us with His forgiveness.  He plants within us, a wounded people, a life that death cannot overcome.

We live because of what Jesus gives us to eat and drink.  We receive the body and the blood of Jesus, who is Love Himself.  Only Jesus is Love incarnate.  Only He is Love crucified.  Only He is Love risen and triumphant, and coming again in glory.

Jesus said, “I give you a new commandment: Love one another.  As I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34).  From this gift of love, Jesus will now pour His love into you.  He is the strength of your love toward others.  His gift in His Supper shows that what you now enjoy, in a hidden and mystical way, will be your eternal joy in the life to come.  His gift gives you the courage and strength to sing and pray, even as death comes stalking your way.

Be Thou my consolation, my shield, when I must die; remind me of Thy passion when my last hour draws nigh.  Mine eyes shall then behold Thee, upon Thy cross shall dwell, my heart by faith enfold Thee, who dieth thus dies well. (LSB 450:7)

In His Supper, Jesus enfolds you in His cross, marks you with the blood of the covenant, and feeds you with His body, the body of Him who is immortal Love.  In His Supper, Jesus is preparing you for your passion, suffering, and death, whenever it may come.  Jesus is holding you with a love that is stronger than death, with forgiveness that is greater than all your sin.

To Him alone be glory forever–our Lord Jesus, who gives us this meal to heal the wounded with His love.  Amen.