Thursday, April 17, 2014

Homily for Maundy Thursday



Tonight the Passover festival is at hand. All the people are celebrating the Israelites rescue from slavery in Egypt. Recall that the Israelites were commanded to take a spotless lamb, kill it at twilight. They were commanded to paint their doors and houses with the blood of the Lamb.

They were to roast the lamb over the fire and eat the sacrifice. God said “I will pass through the land of Egypt, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt…I am the Lord. The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you

The church of Israel eats and lives. God sees the blood. Death passes over. The waters are parted and they escape through the Red Sea. Pharoah is drowned and they escape on dry ground.  They receive manna from heaven. Water from the rock.

God instituted the first convenant with blood through Moses and Aaron. They took the blood of the sacrificed animal and splashed it on the altar and upon the people of the congregation. Buckets of blood were sprinkled upon the people and even their children. God called it a “peace offering” for the forgiveness of sins. They worshipped the true God – and anticipated their Savior who was to come.

Joshua, which means Savior, then leads them into the promised land. Jonathon destroys the Philistines. David kills Goliath, and the ark of the covenant is brought to Jerusalem. All these things are but dim shadows of what’s to come.

For tonight everything is different. The old has passed away and the new has come. The New Testament has been signed, sealed, and delivered. Not by the flesh of bulls or goats but by the blood of the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. Tonight in the upper room Jesus says I did not come to be served but to serve and to give my life as a ransom for many. He takes off his clothes, ties a towel, around his waist – He takes the form of a slave. And he begins to wash the feet of his disciples who will soon use them to run away.

Judas will betray him, Peter will deny him, and the disciples will all fall away. Who will betray him?  They all ask, “Is it I Lord?” The answer of course is “Yes, it is you.” The same crowds who welcome Jesus on Palm Sunday are actually the same folks who yell our “crucify him..crucify him!”

The bloodthirsty crowds yell out “Let his blood be upon us and on our children.” As David took the arc of the conevant to Jerusalem, so now Jesus is dragged through the same city streets. But unlike David, no one is dancing because everyone is looking away in horror. Jesus is mocked, beaten, and spat upon. He is treated worse than a slave – He bears the curse for all sin.

Like a lamb he is led to the slaughter. He is roasted in the father’s fiery wrath. And like the lambs he is killed at twilight. The creatures kill their creator and lay him in a tomb. But first the centurion says at the cross “Behold this truly was the Son of God.” And like Aaron He strikes the rock and out comes waters from his pierced side.And blood pours forth sprinkling those who looked on. 

Nearly everyone’s favorite hymn is "Were you there when they crucified my Lord?" But it doesn’t really matter if you were there. It’s actually better that you’re here tonight where God wants you to be. Because tonight is the night of your deliverance. Because God himself, the firstborn is struck down – His name is Jesus. His blood is painted upon the door of your heart and the lintel of your soul. He comes under the roof of our mouth. And God sees the blood which marks you and death passes over.

The devil cannot have you. You escape through the Red Sea of Christ’s blood – and pharaoh – Goliath – and Satan himself is drowned – and destroyed. Although you still wander around in the wilderness of sin God is with you and Jesus lives. Even tonight you receive manna from heaven to nourish you. You are washed in Holy Baptism – refreshed by heavenly waters of rebirth.

Jesus is our Joshua who leads us to the promised land – to be in the presence of God forever more. The upper room with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven. The same blood that flows from his pierced side is the same blood which is poured out for you tonight from our altar. All so that you can be comforted again and hear the most refreshing words on this side of heaven. All your sins have been forgiven. “Drink of it, all of you; this cup is the New Testament in My blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” Therefore, we too can cry out “Let his blood be upon us and our children.” 

In the name of Jesus. Amen.        

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