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Scripture Readings for Maundy Thursday, 2012C

LastSupper

 Collect of the Day

O Lord, in this wondrous Sacrament You have left us a remembrance of Your passion.  Grant that we may so receive the sacred mystery of Your body and blood that the fruits of Your redemption may continually be manifest in us; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Old Testament: Jeremiah 31:31–34

31“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, 32not 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. 33But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

Epistle: Hebrews 10:15–25

15The Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,  16“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,” 17then he adds,  “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”  18Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.

  19Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22let 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. 23Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Gospel: Luke 22:7–20

7Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. 8So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying,  “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it.” 9They said to him, “Where will you have us prepare it?” 10He said to them,  “Behold, when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him into the house that he enters 11and tell the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 12And he will show you a large upper room furnished; prepare it there.” 13And they went and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.

      14And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. 15And he said to them,  “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said,  “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. 18For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19And 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.” 20And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying,  “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”

___

Before Judas betrayed Jesus, before Peter denied our Lord, before His agony, suffering, and death, Jesus ate with His disciples.  But this was no ordinary meal.  It was Jesus’ Last Supper with His disciples.  It was the meal of all meals, the meal of the Passover, which found fulfillment in Christ, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).  Because Jesus was the sacrifice to end all sacrifices, the Passover had its end (Hebrews 7:27).

On that night, Jesus instituted The Lord’s Supper, also known as The Sacrament of the Altar, The Eucharist, and Holy Communion.  This Supper of our Lord, as our Lord’s Meal, is the meal of salvation for all who believe according to Christ’s Word.  Jesus gives bread and wine.  He also gives His true body and blood.  And He gives these for the forgiveness of sins.  This calls for faith, for faith alone believes the Word and promises of Christ.  Such faith takes God at His Word.  And taking God at His Word, the recipient of Christ’s body and blood in, with, and under the bread and the wine receive what God truly gives.  And where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation (Luther’s Small Catechism).

Jesus Alone Gives Life

1[Jesus said:] “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. 2But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

7So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. John 10:1-10 (ESV)

Jesus here makes a distinction. It is a distinction worth noting. It is a distinction worth paying attention to. It’s not for little reason that Jesus says of Himself that He came that they have life and have it abundantly, and that the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.

In context, Jesus is talking about sheep, sheepfolds, doors, and doorkeepers. He here illustrates for us the difference between true preachers and false preachers, and the center of all true preaching, Christ. Jesus and Jesus alone gives life, and abundant life at that. He is the door through whom heaven is opened (John 14:6). It is through Christ, without your works, that you stand righteous before the living God. Though works are indeed necessary, though not for your salvation, your works don’t make you a Christian.

Here is a truth that stands quite forsaken today, but a truth that is true just the same. No one is a Christian because of what he does. You are not a Christian because of what you do. You are a Christian because of what another has done. You are not a Christian because you do this or that, or because you don’t do this or that. You are a Christian because Christ has cleansed you from your sin, because God has made you a Christian through the waters of Holy Baptism. You are holy child of the living God because Christ shed His blood for you. It is God that pronounces you righteous through His beloved Son. You therefore do the right thing because you are a Christian.

But you are not a Christian because you do the right thing. This would make you a Christian based on what you do, not on Him who shows mercy and bestows grace. If it were true that you were Christians because of what you do, you would have to say that if you did good, then you must be a Christian. If you did bad, then you must not be a Christian.

Here, the confidence is placed on you and what you do, not on God and what He done. The truth is, all of you, myself included, have to say that we have not done good enough and that even the ‘good things’ we have done are tainted with wrong motives, improper attitudes, and selfish reasons. We are not t perfect as God demands.

God says, “Be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16; Leviticus 11:44, 45; 20:7). And we are not. If you were to base Christianity on you, you could not be certain of being in God’s favor. In fact, you would be nothing but uncertain of being in God’s favor.

Doubt is not of faith. Nor is it of God. Surety and confidence before God does not rest on you, but on Christ. And on Him, it is nothing but certain.

Therefore, does St. Paul write, “Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1), a peace, by the way, which no one can take away from you.

Being a Christian is not based on what you do, but on Christ and what He has done for you. Though you are not holy, Jesus is. His holiness, His righteousness, His goodness is counted as yours through faith in Him. Like Abraham whose faith God counted to him as righteousness as Abraham believed the promise of God when God promised him a son to be born of his own body, though he was old and his wife Sarai was past the age of child bearing, so our faith too is counted as righteousness, as we believe in Christ who died and rose again for our salvation (Genesis 15:1-7).

You cannot escape the truth of your sinfulness. But God has taken care of our sin with His Son’s death on the cross. And Jesus did not stay dead! “The third day He rose again according the Scriptures and ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father” (Nicene Creed).

To be Christian means to have Christ as your own, and to have Christ’s righteousness counted as your own. This doesn’t mean that you now don’t have to do the things that you should, or that you can now neglect the needs of your neighbor. God’s grace and mercy toward you doesn’t mean that now there’s nothing for you to do. With regard to your salvation, yes, this is true. Jesus Christ died your death. And as Paul rightly says, “You are complete in Him” (Colossians 2:10). Thus, having Christ, you have everything.

And as He has everything and gives to you, so you, having everything, give to others. God doesn’t need your help. Nor does He need your good works. But your neighbor does. As Christ came, “not to be served, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many,” so you too are not here to be served, but to serve, to serve others in their need and to help as you are able with the gifts that God has given us (Matthew 20:28).

It is not the things that you do or don’t do that make you a Christian, but God who makes you a Christian. Though it is right to say that a Christian lives this way or that way, it is not right to say that those things make one a Christian. They don’t. Your works, as good as they might be, do not make you who you are. It is Christ that sanctifies and cleanses your works that they be pleasing to our heavenly Father, and this through faith.

Your true identity is in Christ, the One who makes you whole and acceptable to God. It is what God has done, what He pronounces, that makes you who you are—a saint; forgiven and not condemned; redeemed and not forsaken; a child of the living God, baptized, cleansed, and holy.

Through faith you take hold of these declarations of God and say Amen to what God has said. Though you know yourselves to be prideful, selfish, and corrupt according to the flesh, God speaks His Word. He reveals to you your Savior. He calls you to believe what He says.

“Even while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

In another place, it is written, “God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4-7).

In still yet another passage, God inspired St. John to write, “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10).

This is all good news. God has not left you in your sin. Nor does He leave the decision to you. If He did, you would all be lost. None who are dead in their sins can rightly choose Christ. Just as Adam was lifeless apart from the breath of God breathed into Him, so are you lifeless when it comes to the things of God unless God first give you life (Genesis 2:7).

It is as St. Paul writes, “the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them” (1 Corinthians 2:14). “But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16). God, in His grace, has revealed His Son, Jesus Christ, to you, not as judge and lawgiver, but as Savior and author of eternal salvation (Hebrews 5:9).

Therefore do we say that ‘we cannot by our own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ our Lord or come to Him. But the Holy Spirit has called us by the Gospel, enlightened us with His gifts, and kept us in the true faith.’ (Meaning to the Third Article of the Apostles’ Creed).

Jesus comes to you in Word and in His very body and blood. What you receive here are the gracious gifts of a loving God. This is the blessing of the abundant life promised by the Lord Jesus Christ. This is why He comes, to give you everlasting life. He comes not to destroy, but to save a people for Himself. He comes, not to steal, kill, and destroy, but to protect, to make alive, and to preserve for all eternity.

The abundant life Jesus speaks of is more than anything this world could ever offer. He Himself said it this way, “What profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26). The answer to both questions is ‘nothing’.

On the one hand, a man might have everything in this life, yet really have nothing at all. All the riches of the world amount to nothing in eternity.

On the other hand, a man might have nothing in this life, yet in reality, have everything, and all the riches of heaven. The difference is not in the quantity of things that you posses. It is a matter of who has you.

If God has you in Christ and you are His, you have everything, though you don’t see the fullness of all that is yours. Your true treasure is in heaven, where both moth and rust cannot ever destroy. If God doesn’t have you, if you don’t believe in Christ according to His Word, you really have nothing, though you might think that you have everything.

Because God gives us His Word, gives us His Son, there is nothing for you to be in doubt about. Through the waters of Holy Baptism, God worked faith within our hearts and continues to grow that faith through His Word preached and the Holy Supper received. Because He is doing the doing, there can be no doubt that God effects what He will for your good and keeps you in the true faith according to and through His Holy Word. As the Psalmist says, “God is my helper. I will trust in Him and not be afraid.” (Psalm 54:4; 56:11; Isaiah 12:2)

But if doubts ever should arise, know that these do not come from God. Though uncertainty raise its head, don’t listen to it. Don’t entertain such thoughts. Fight against them. Turn away from them, and hold tight to God’s sure Word in Christ. You’re not alone. And when you become tired and weary in your struggle, remember that words of Jesus where He says, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

God would have you trust in Him. He would have you deny yourself, and cling alone to Him in hope. His Word does not and will not fail (Joshua 21:45; 23:14). His mercy endures forever (Psalm 118:1, 2, 3, 4, 29; 136:1-26). This is so because God has revealed it by means of His One and only Son. God gives you His Word, that you hang on to Jesus as for dear life and listen to none other, that you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing, we have life in His Name (John 20:31).

Only Christ gives you abundant life. There is none other that does. Only Christ gives you a conscience free from blame. Go anywhere else and you won’t have a clear conscience. Only Christ gives you the sure confidence of God’s mercy, and the promise of eternity with Him. Trust in something else, and God’s promise to you is not sure.

God gives to you His Word that you distinguish between what is true from that which is not. Only Jesus leads to life and the green pastures of heaven. All others lead to barren land and eternal death. All who are of Jesus’ flock follow Jesus, for they know His voice. Those who are not of Christ’s sheepfold follow another, and not Christ.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd. To all that follow Him and hear His voice, He gives life that has no end, not a life that is trouble-free and without challenge, but one where Christ is, preserving, sustaining, and saving, now and forevermore.

True preachers preach Jesus according to what the Bible says. All others preach something different. And those who follow Christ as His beloved sheep hear only those who preach Him aright. They won’t listen to strangers, that is, false teachers, for they don’t know his voice. They will only listen to Christ and to His Word, for they love the Lord. And because they do, they seek to be faithful to Him who gives it.   Amen.

Meal of Salvation

17Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?” 18He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’” 19And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover.

      20When it was evening, he reclined at table with the twelve. 21And as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” 22And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” 23He answered, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me. 24The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” 25Judas, who would betray him, answered, “Is it I, Rabbi?” He said to him, “You have said so.”

      26Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

      30And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. (Matthew 26:17–30)

These Words of Christ in which He instituted the sacred meal are the very Words of our Lord on the night that He was betrayed.  On that night, Jesus held what is called the ‘Last Supper’ with His disciples.  But that ‘Last Supper’ is not ‘Last’ for us.  Our Lord says, As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes (1 Corinthians 11:26).

The meal in which we partake of Christ’s very body and blood is a proclamation of the Lord’s death till He comes again in His glory.  It is a meal of remembrance.  It is also a meal in which the Lord Himself distributes what only He Himself gives.  Though the eyes see one thing, the ears hear another.  We see bread and wine, but the Lord says that more is going on than meets the eye.  The Lord would have us believe what He says.  This is how one eats and drinks the true body and blood of our Lord worthily, by faith in the very Words that the Lord speaks.

Though your eyes and reason say something different, believe what God speaks in His Word, and His promises are yours, even the forgiveness of all your sins.   You might not understand it, but that’s ok.  The Lord would not have you to understand it.  He would have you believe it, not according to your eyes, but according to His Word.  This is where true confidence and lasting peace are found.  This is where we hear the words, given and shed FOR YOU for the forgiveness of sins.

In the Lord’s Supper, in the meal offered for your salvation, our Lord Jesus gives His body and blood.  By these, God really remits all your sins.  Think not, ‘how can this be’?  Believe rather that because the Lord says it, it must be so.  What He offers and what He gives is your salvation.

As one before has said, “That person is truly worthy and well prepared who has faith in these words: ‘Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.’ But anyone who does not believe these words or doubts them is unworthy and unprepared, for the words ‘for you’ require all hearts to believe.” (Luther’s Small Catechism, The Sacrament of the Altar, ‘Who, then, receives such Sacrament worthily?’)

We partake of the Lord’s Supper on the basis of God’s Holy Word, having faith in that and not in ourselves.  True faith is not just going through the motions.  It is not simply doing things because everyone else is doing them.  True faith is of the heart and takes God at His Word, seeing there His Son, for us, not only in Word, but in bread and wine and body and blood.  To not believe the Words of the Lord as they are is unbelief.  To believe is belief.  To those who do believe, God offers the promise of life and salvation.

It is for this reason that the Lord’s Supper is offered in our churches, offered and not forced.  We cannot coerce anyone to believe.  We do not force anyone to receive the Sacrament of the Altar.  The Lord does not give it to burden consciences.  He gives it to comfort and to gladden the heart.  He gives it that you know that you are forgiven according to His Word.

Jesus says, Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28).  Even as the Lord gives rest in His Gospel, so also does our Lord give rest in the Lord’s Supper.  In the Lord’s Supper, the Lord gives you this rest for your weary soul.  Here, He provides and nourishes you unto eternal life.  Here, He strengthens and preserves you to life everlasting.  He forgives your sin and gives Himself FOR YOU.

If you feel or think that you are not worthy to receive the holy things of God, know that true worthiness does not consist in you.  Your sincerity of confession or the sorrow of your heart is not the basis for going to the Lord’s Supper.  What is the basis for eating and drinking at the Lord’s Table is not you, but the Lord’s Word.

If you are waiting to feel worthy, you never will.  Believe His Word.  Though you know yourself to be unworthy, this supper is prepared for you, not because of your own righteousness, but because here the Lord gives you forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation, “For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation” (Luther’s Small Catechism, The Sacrament of the Altar, ‘What is the benefit of such eating and drinking?’).

Christ’s words are to be taken as they are.  Many add to them or take away from them.  But this is not the right way.  What we cannot understand, we leave in God’s hands.  There, we are safe.  Anything else is going too far.  Sticking to the words of our Lord, we are on solid ground.

Christ gave bread and said, This is My body.  Christ gave wine and said, This is My blood.  He could not be more clear than that, saying what He means and meaning what He says.  If this Word is not enough, St. Paul also says, The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? (1 Corinthians 10:16)

What the Bible gives in one place will also be supported in another.  All interpretations of Holy Scripture therefore that contradict what Scripture says are against Scripture and not Christian.  The inconsistencies that abound in Christendom are the result of not everyone being faithful to the Lord’s Word.  True unity doesn’t consist in ‘agreeing to disagree’ or in ‘tolerating different opinions’ when it comes to the things of God.  It consists in this, believing what God says and confessing the same.  Because all churches do not say the same thing concerning the things of God, there is not true unity.

Because we are not united in the faith, we are not able to express true unity.  If we were, then we could commune at the Lord’s table with others, and they with us.  As it is, all do not agree with reference to what God says in His Word.  This is the problem.  We cannot express Christian fellowship where there is none.  To do so would be to deny Christ and His Word.

For this reason, our churches and the Christian church throughout her history has practiced ‘close or closed communion’.  This is not the unloving practicing of welcoming all to the table, regardless of creed and confession.  It is the loving practice of clearly proclaiming Christ and Him crucified to a confused world, declaring that Christ and His Word does matter, and that Christ’s body and blood, truly and really present with the bread and wine, are given for life and salvation.

This we believe and this we confess.  The Lord offers the Sacrament of the Altar for our salvation.  Here, God gives the forgiveness of sins.  It is not the bodily eating and drinking that does this, but the words here written, “‘Given and shed for you for the remission of sins’; which words, besides the bodily eating and drinking, are the chief thing in the Sacrament; and he that believes these words has what they say and express, namely, the forgiveness of sins” (Luther’s Small Catechism, The Sacrament of the Altar, ‘How can bodily eating and drinking do such great things?’).

To the Lord’s Words we cling.  It is here and in what He gives that you find rest for your soul and the promise of eternal life.  Hear it often.  Receive it plenty.  Amen.

Lutheranism 101

This book is worth checking out: Lutheranism 101

The Use of Wine in the Lord’s Supper–Not Grapejuice

During Christ’s institution of the Lord’s Supper, Mt 26, Mk 14, and Lk 22, the Lord gave to His disciples unleavened bread and what is called ‘the cup’.

ATP.GrapejuiceOrWine.pdf

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