Maundy Thursday “ March 28, 2013
Exodus 12:1-14a; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; John 13:1-17, 31b-35
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.
Tomorrow is the great tragedy of human sin. Yet tonight the Lord works to guarantee our salvation. Tomorrow we enter the wilderness. Yet tonight we are fed for the journey. Tomorrow we wander away. Yet tonight our homeland is established forever. Tomorrow we show our true nature. Yet tonight the Lord shows his true nature.
On the night before he suffered, our Lord Jesus Christ instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood. Knowing that his people would come face to face with the guilt of their own actions, our Lord provides for them a means for knowing God’s forgiveness. Knowing they would soon come to see their own weakness, Jesus gives them something which will show them God’s great strength. He provides this on the night before he is to be killed. Later, after the resurrection, he will return and give full meaning to that which he establishes tonight. He commands us to continue this his sacrifice and he returns to encourage us in our following. He does not just command us to follow that which our weakness will not allow us to follow faithfully. He establishes a foundational practice and returns in his own strength. He does not tell us to follow this commandment so as to gain God’s attention. He tells us to follow so that we might find the Lord already with us.
This month shall mark for you the beginning of months…. On the night before the Passover, the Lord establishes a feast which will serve as remembrance of the great feat to come. All of time shall be different after this event, he proclaims. You will look back on this night as the beginning of all that is, for had this not occurred, there would be nothing. On the night before he dies, Jesus issues a statement which returns the listeners to the Passover and hereafter his people will know a new and deeper Passover. We deserve to die, yet we will be spared. The power is not in our following but in him who commands us to follow.
Your lamb shall be without blemish…. The description of the Passover feast is laid out in some detail. For years and years, the people of Israel sought the perfect lamb. At times they were so sure they had found it and the sacrifice led them to think more highly of themselves. At times they knew they could not find a lamb good enough and they thought their act was in vain. In the fullness of time, our Lord provides the lamb without blemish. It is his own Son who is our Lamb and our Lord.
Take some of the blood and put it on the doorposts. The blood shall be a sign for you…. The blood shows the great cost involved in our salvation for it does not come easily. The blood shows what we could so easily have become, utterly lost and hopeless. The blood we receive this night slides into our very bodies, coats our hearts, allows us literally to feel that Christ’s blood is shed so that we might live and be joyful.
I will pass over you. You will be spared the death that you fear so much. Tomorrow the people will wake to find death all around them, yet they will still live. They will be spared. Tomorrow you and I will see death all around us and we are spared. Our suffering will not be our end.
I will lift up the cup of salvation and call upon the Name of the Lord. The psalmist proclaims that we do not save ourselves. It is only through calling on God that we have life. Repeatedly God is renewing us, saving us, guiding us
Do this in remembrance of me. Paul recalls the words of Christ himself and teaches the Corinthians that the Sacrament is established for them, so that they may know God’s grace. It returns us to the beginning event and allows us to ponder what it might be like had it never occurred.
You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand. We do not come to the kingdom as if by qualification. We are brought into the kingdom and then we see the grace that brought us there. The fact that we cannot know the meaning first, only afterwards, is proof we are not the power. We only receive the power.
Unless I wash you, you have no share in me. We do not cleanse ourselves and come to the Lord for inspection. We put our slimy selves in his hands and he cleanses us. We would not do it well enough ourselves and we would only be mindful of what we had done. We must be made clean by the Lord Jesus and him only. We must let him cleanse us.
You also should do as I have done to you. We are to serve rather than seek to be served. Yes but more than that, we are to allow ourselves to be served by the Lord and to know he is laying down his life for us, and then we are to serve others with that act in mind. We do not serve so as to gain but only to show that we all must come to be served by the Lord.
Tomorrow is the horror. Yet tonight is the grace and sweet presence. Tomorrow does not undo tonight. Tomorrow provides the arena in which the power of this night will be enacted.
The grace of God. The tragedy of human sin. The grace of God. Grace precedes and follows each act of ours, each situation in which we are involved. The grace our Lord gives us this night will not be destroyed by what we do or fail to do tomorrow.