Sermon Maundy Thursday 4/2/2015

Mark 14:22-25                                                      Maundy Thursday


Mark 14:22-25  As they were eating, He took bread, blessed and broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is My body.”  23 Then He took a cup, and after giving thanks, He gave it to them, and so they all drank from it. 24 He said to them, “This is My blood that establishes the covenant; it is shed for many. 25 I assure you: I will no longer drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it in a new way in the kingdom of God.”

Take and Eat

1. Christ’s body and blood are really present

2.  Receive by faith the covenant promise

It took three years to complete. To this day, it is the most popular piece of Christian art in the world, with its image being found on carpets, canvas, carvings in altars and practically any other medium imaginable. With lifelike facial expressions that depict emotions unable to be captured by its contemporaries, the 15 x 29 foot painting became an instant masterpiece of design and characterization. It’s the painting we call The Last Supper. 

Did you know that basically from the time it was completed in 1498, it started to fall apart? Leonardo da Vinci, always the inventor, tried using new materials for this mural. Instead of using the customary wet plaster, he thought he’d give dry plaster a whirl. What worked artistically did not work so well in regards to durability. Almost immediately it began to flake off the wall, and people have been attempting to restore the original ever since. The Last Supper isn’t so lasting.

But the Lord’s Supper is.  Da Vinci purposely painted the Last Supper into contemporary Italy of his day.  He didn’t try to capture what it would have looked like in Palestine of the First Century.  He painted Jesus and the disciples into a Fifteenth century Italian villa.  He wanted to communicate that the Lord’s Supper is just as relevant in his day as in the disciples’ day.  It is still relevant for us, too, so we come to the Lord’s Table at his invitation of “Take and eat.”

Take and eat what?  Bread.  As they were eating, He took bread, blessed and broke it, gave it to them.  Jesus had gathered the Twelve together for one last meal together, but this was no ordinary meal.  This was the Passover, the annual celebration commanded in the law of Moses.  It commemorated the original Passover meal in Egypt.  When Pharaoh would not let the people of Israel leave their slavery, God sent the angel of death to strike down every first born in Egypt.  In order to be spared the plague and to be ready to leave, Israel was to sacrifice a year old male lamb and use its blood to mark the door frames of their homes.  They were then to eat the lamb with unleavened bread – unleavened bread because they didn’t have time for it to rise.  They would leave soon.  

Take and eat what?  Unleavened bread.  Take and drink what?  Wine.  Then He took a cup, and after giving thanks, He gave it to them, and so they all drank from it.  Jesus called it the fruit of the vine, that is, grapes.  Since grapes are harvested in late summer and this was early spring, the only way to preserve the drink made from grapes is to ferment it.  It could be nothing else but wine.  

Take and eat what?  As they were eating, He took bread, blessed and broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is My body.” . . . He said to them, “This is My blood that establishes the covenant; it is shed for many.”   The New Testament has four different accounts of the Lord’s Supper.  Three gospels record the event and so does Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians.  That many accounts of this one event tells you how important it is.  It’s also noteworthy that although there are some variations in the accounts, Jesus’ wording is always the same, “This is My body.”  

At the risk of sounding like a former president, what does “is” mean?  Is means is.  At the Marburg Colloquy, which is just a fancy word for a meeting, Luther and his colleagues met with the Swiss reformers to discuss the Lord’s Supper.  The Swiss reformers believed that the bread and wine merely represented the body and blood of Christ.  So Luther wrote “This is my body” on the table to remind himself of the key issue.  Is means is.  Jesus said is.  He didn’t say represent.  This really is his body and blood.  

If you found out you were in a rich relatives’ will, you would be excited wouldn’t you?  You would expect something nice or a chunk of cash at least.  How would you feel if all you got was the cat?  Jesus was clearly doing more than eating a meal.  He was instituting something special for us.  It would be pretty empty if it was only bread and wine.  We can’t get that at Woodman’s.  

We call this the Real Presence.  In other words, bread, wine, along with Christ’s body and blood are all really present just as Jesus said.  We don’t try to explain how it is.  But we believe what Jesus said.

That’s what it is.  What’s it for?  It’s for us.  I have Joe DiMaggio’s autograph.  He signed it for me when I just a child on a family vacation in California.  Some of you young people may not know who he is.  He was one of the best baseball players ever.  Hall of Fame centerfielder for the New York Yankees in the 1930s and 1940s.  Just because I have his autograph, I can’t say that I knew Joe Dimaggio.  I met him once.  That doesn’t even count for a passing acquaintance.  Jesus doesn’t just want a onetime encounter with us.  He doesn’t even want a passing acquaintance with us.  He doesn’t just want a friendship with us.  He wants a close relationship with us so he gives himself to us in this meal.  He gives us his body and blood to assure us of his love and forgiveness so that we can be close to him.

Along with his body and blood in, with and under the bread and wine, Jesus gave us a promise.  As they were eating, He took bread, blessed and broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is My body.”  23 Then He took a cup, and after giving thanks, He gave it to them, and so they all drank from it. 24 He said to them, “This is My blood that establishes the covenant; it is shed for many.  He calls it a covenant, a new covenant.  The old covenant was established at Mt. Sinai recorded in Exodus 24.  After God gave Moses the initial laws of the covenant and after the people agreed to the conditions of the covenant, namely, that they would keep the laws God gave them, the covenant was established by a sacrifice and a meal.  After an altar was built and sacrifices given, it says, “Then Moses went up with Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and 70 of Israel’s elders, 10 and they saw the God of Israel. Beneath His feet was something like a pavement made of sapphire stone, as clear as the sky itself. 11 God did not harm the Israelite nobles; they saw Him, and they ate and drank.” (Exodus 24:9-11)  The old covenant was established by a sacrifice and a meal.

In Jeremiah 31, God promised a new covenant.  He said, “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah.  32 It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. 33 “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord.  “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.  I will be their God, and they will be my people.  34 No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord.  “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jeremiah 31:31-34, NIV)

On the night of his death, Jesus was leaving his disciples a new covenant.  Just like the old covenant, it was put into effect by a sacrifice, Jesus, and a meal, the Lord’s Supper.  Unlike the old covenant that demanded them to keep the law in order to preserve the covenant, the new covenant is a covenant of forgiveness.  

You hear a lot of people talking about their legacy.  We have had a Living Legacy campaign and now a Moving the Legacy Forward campaign.  The media are beginning to talk about what kind of legacy President Obama will leave behind when he leaves office.  That is what Jesus was doing here.  He was leaving us a legacy, a last will and testament, an inheritance of forgiveness.  That is the new covenant he established in his blood and in his meal.

May we receive this with faith.  A covenant is just a fancy word for a promise.  Jesus gives a promise for us to believe.  Believe the promise.  Believe that our Lord is giving us an inheritance of forgiveness in the Lord’s Supper. The best picture of the Lord’s Supper is getting a hug from Jesus.  We can come to the Lord’s Supper with our doubts, our fears, our hurts and problems and our sins and failures.  When we receive the bread and wine, we are receiving Jesus.  He is reaching out and giving us a hug, reminding us of the Father’s love.  

Da Vinci’s Last Supper is not lasting. Jesus’ Lord’s Supper is a lasting covenant of forgiveness.  It will always be relevant for our spiritual lives.  So come, Christians, take and eat.