Thursday, April 1, 2010

Holy Thursday Sermon -- Luke 22:7-20 (LSB Holy Thursday C)

April 1, 2010 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran ChurchMechanicsburg, PA

And Jesus 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.”

The Lord God had promised a new covenant, and He makes good on it. You have heard the words from Jesus’ mouth that fulfill the words given through the prophet: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord.” Promises are made and promises are kept. And the promise is based on the faithfulness that the Lord God has for His people.

Note what the prophet had said: “My covenant . . . they broke.” The words are regrettably true. Though the Hebrews had been delivered out of Egypt, they broke the covenant that the Lord God had made with them. Slaves were made into a nation. A land was promised to them. Direction was given to lead them to it. But what did the Israelites do? They did not give the Lord God their full allegiance. They chased after other gods. They abandoned the covenant, seeking out other promises, other terms. “My covenant . . . they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord.”

But despite the unfaithfulness of His people, the Lord God remained faithful. His desire to have a nation for Himself remained. He wanted people to have true life, just as He had breathed the breath of life into the first man Adam. For the Lord God is generous and compassionate: He wants to share what He has with those who lack it. And so, He did not forget His promises, His covenant. He fulfills them instead. He meets all terms and conditions. But not only does He make good on His covenant, He dares to make another one!

This is what Jesus shows to His disciples. He is the Fulfiller of the Old Covenant. It demanded full obedience, true devotion, complete submission. And that is what Jesus provides. That is what He gives in His life on earth. He offers Himself in sacrifice for the life of the world. Everything demanded and more is provided by Christ. What the Lord God says about the Israelites—“My covenant . . . they broke.”—becomes the opposite for Christ—“My covenant . . . He kept.” As that covenant is kept, Christ then can institute a new one.

The fulfillment of the covenant has great effects for all who had broken it. Divine faithfulness brings about forgiveness for sinners. They were under the sentence of death, but that sentence has been vacated, as Christ fulfills the covenant through His own death. They were separated from the Lord God, but that separation has been overcome, as God reconciled the world through Christ. Though you have been unfaithful to God by your sin, He has remained faithful to you. And He gives you a great promise fulfilled in Christ: “I will forgiven their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

As the covenant was fulfilled by Christ, you now have access to the Lord God and all His benefits. This was accomplished by Christ’s sacrificial death for you. The Epistle Writer speaks about that sacrificial death and its significance: “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that He opened for us through the curtain, that is, through His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” Because Christ offered Himself, because He fulfilled the covenant that you and your ancestors had broken, you receive great benefits: forgiveness, life, and salvation.

Forgiveness, life, and salvation: these are the benefits of Christ’s death and resurrection which fulfilled the Old Covenant and which institute the New Covenant. The terms of the Old Covenant were fulfilled by Jesus: His obedience, faithfulness, and submission led to His sacrifice—an offering of Himself as a ransom for many. The life of God Himself is presented in exchange for the lives of all sinners—past, present, and future. The Epistle Writer says: “Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.” No more must anything be offered in sacrifice, for Christ’s sacrifice has obtained forgiveness, life, and salvation for all.

But what Christ obtained must be received. What Christ obtained must be offered. And so He institutes the New Covenant. That is what you remember on this day. Everything of the Old Covenant has gone. There is no more sacrifice, no more Temple, no more Levitical priesthood, no more Passover meals. Those are the institutions of time gone by. Their purpose has been fulfilled. They benefit no one anymore. Jesus puts an end to them with His words: “It is finished.” The deliverance of the Israelites from Egyptian slavery showed the Lord God’s power used in a great act of mercy. But a greater event of power and mercy has taken place: the death of God Himself and His rising again. This is what must be remembered and believed. And so it is remembered and believed, Christ institutes the New Covenant.

Hear again what Jesus said: “This is My body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me. . . . This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.” Here Jesus offers to you what He offered to His Father to atone for your sins. His crucifixion was the end of the Old Covenant. Christ accomplished what you could never do. He brought forgiveness to you by offering His blood to cover your sins. He brought life to you through His death. He brought salvation to you by defeating Satan. And to remember that this is so and to receive the great benefits, Jesus institutes the Lord’s Supper.

The Lord’s Supper is all about the cross. It is the remembrance of Christ’s death for the forgiveness of sins. But it isn’t just saying that it took place or the simple recalling of historical details. It is the remembrance of faith: believing that what took place on Calvary was real, was powerful, was effective . . . and that it was for you. To create that faith, belief, and trust, Christ speaks: “My body is given for you. My blood has been poured out for you.” But He does not simply remind you through His words; Jesus presents that body and blood to you. Through His words which carry the power to make and create, Jesus causes His body and blood to be put in front of you. Here He offers to you the very things that accomplished your salvation. He says: “Here again is what I gave for you. Here is My body that hanged on the cross for you. Here is the blood that spilled on the ground for you. Here is the sacrifice that removed all your guilt and overcame the curse of your sin. Remember everything that I accomplished for you and receive the benefits of My work.”

This is the significance of the Lord’s Supper. That which fulfilled the Old Covenant is given to you. And in your hearts are put the words of Christ’s New Covenant. So it was promised by the Lord God: “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put My laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds. . . . I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” You remember what Christ did which caused the Lord God to remove His condemnation and curse from you. You remember with your hearts, souls, and minds, as you hear His great words of salvation: “I have forgiven your iniquity and I remember your sins no more.” You remember as the source of your salvation is given to you through eating and drinking in remembrance of Christ: “This is My body given for you. . . . This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.” You remember the faithfulness that the Lord God showed to you who were unfaithful.

Promises are made, and promises are kept: not by you, but by the Lord God. That is the greatness of His goodness. What He says about you is true: “My covenant . . . they broke.” But what He says about Himself is even truer: “My old covenant I have kept. And a new covenant I have instituted, and I keep this as well.” The forgiveness of sins is in this New Covenant. And so you receive the benefits. This is what you heard at the beginning of today’s Divine Service: “Therefore, whoever eats this bread and drinks this cup, confidently believing this Word and promise of Christ, dwells in Christ and Christ in him and has eternal life.” So it is, because the Lord God has been faithful to you and gives you the evidence of that faithfulness again: “This is My body given for you. . . . This is My blood shed for you. . . . Do this in remembrance of Me. . . . For I remember your sins and your lawless deeds sins no more.”

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

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