Note: The following homily was delivered in Chapel at the Synod’s International Center today, Maundy Thursday, March 24, 2016, by Chaplain William Weedon. We share it with you for your edification in the Lord. Go to church tonight to receive what your Lord has been longing to give you! Peace! — Rev. Herbert Mueller, LCMS first vice-president.
A reading from Luke, the twenty-second chapter (Luke 22: 14-20):
And when the hour came, he [Jesus] reclined at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”
I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. That’s probably a bit weak. If I didn’t know the context better, I’d think you want to render it: With lust I have lusted to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. Sounds strange, I know. But the point is that he is not saying just “I wanted to” or even “I really wanted to” but nothing less than “I have been aching to give you this gift for a very long time.”
How long? You can see it was on His mind and heart from Melchizedek and the bread and wine that priest of God offered. From the time an anguished Abraham had prophesied: “God will provide Himself the Lamb for the offering, my son.” From the time Moses had taught about how the Lamb’s blood would cause death itself to “pass over” and spare those who huddled beneath it. From the time Isaiah foretold a feast on the holy mountain to celebrate death’s doom, a feast of well refined wine and choicest meats. So the day came when John pointed to Jesus and said, “That’s Him, the Lamb of God.”
And now the Lamb is preparing for its slaughter, to be the Passover. Did his eyes leave the Lamb as they carried it in? So His love would lead him to be roasted, spitted upon the tree and His blood poured out to cover the world’s sins. The Lamb had been at the heart of God’s love for the lost race of humanity from the very beginning, and from the beginning, He had longed for this day. He came into the flesh to bring it about. He had foretold something of it when He spoke words that left the crowd puzzled and thinking he was crazy:
“I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. THIS is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. (John 6: 48-50).
“Truly, truly I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink” (John 6:53-55).
And now, at long last, right before His sufferings would commence, He teaches them the gift foreshadowed in the types of the Old Covenant, the gift He foretold them at that earlier Passover on another year: This is my body which is given for you. Do this as my anamnesis, my memorial. This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.
Today, we remember when the fervent desire of His heart to give Himself to us in His body and blood for our forgiveness was fulfilled and a new covenant inaugurated. It’s a gift He hasn’t ceased to give to poor sinners in all the years since. Jesus still gathers His church around a table, welcomes sinners and gives to us the irrefutable sign of His love – the body that was on the cross, given in exchange for us and the blood that ran from his pierced brow, hands, feet and side, that covers the sin of a world.
Which is to say that today, we remember that the only way we go on living our fallen life in this fallen world is to take dead things that are not quite rotten and stuff them down our gullet to keep us going a while longer, their lives supplying our life as we stumble on toward our end. But God wanted and ached that we have so much more than that. And so He supplied a living food, His Son’s flesh and blood, alive with the Father’s own life. That’s why He ached to celebrate that Passover with His disciples and why He still aches to celebrate His Supper with you. He wants to be your Food, your Lamb, your Forgiveness and your Everlasting Life.
Go to Church tonight to receive what has been on His heart for a very long time. In fact, even before you were made, before time began, He longed to give you this food. His love for you is that strong, that sure. Taste and see, the Lord is good, and blessed is everyone who trusts in Him!