Sermon for Maundy Thursday, April 18th, 2019, 7:00 p.m. service of Holy Communion

 

The Lessons:

The Epistle: 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

The Gospel: John 13:1-17

INTRODUCTION

Maundy Thursday night was the night when Judas Iscariot betrayed the Lord Jesus Christ to the Jewish chief priests. But at the Last Supper, the Lord Jesus Christ instituted the Holy Communion, which the Church later defined as the Sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood. The Collect for today uses the words “in remembrance of him” to show how we are to receive the Sacrament.

W.A. Criswell once wrote that the Lord’s Supper is, first of all, a memorial to the atoning death of our Savior. He said, “There are many kinds of memorials on the earth. If you have ever been to Washington, D.C., you have seen there the tall, monolithic marble monument to the Father of our country – the Washington Monument. In Egypt, you can see many towering obelisks. Sometimes a monument will take the form of a mausoleum. In India, you will see the most beautiful mausoleum in the world – the Taj Mahal – built by Shah Jahan in memory of a beloved wife.

But our Lord did not create a monument out of marble to bring to us the memory of our Savior’s suffering in our behalf. In fact, this memorial is not in the form of any kind of structure. He did it in a primeval, fundamental, and basic way – by eating and drinking – and this simple memorial is to be repeated again and again and again. The broken bread recalls for us His torn body, and the crimson of the cup reminds us of the blood poured out upon the earth for the remission of sins.” [1]

REMEMBRANCE OF CHRIST: THE NEW PASSOVER

However, the Holy Communion is not simply a memorial of Christ’s death, nor merely a celebration of a life once lived on this earth. Instead, Holy Communion is the New Passover, in which all Christians join in remembering the Lord Jesus Christ, who was not only slain as the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world, [2] but rose again from the dead, proving that He is the eternal Son of God, and the Resurrection and the Life. [3] Just as year by year, the Jews at Passover remember the deliverance of their forefathers from the slavery and oppression to which Pharaoh and the Egyptians subjected them, so Christians at every service of Holy Communion receive the bread and the wine as the Body and Blood of Christ, in remembrance of Christ himself as their Lord and Savior, who not only died on the cross for their salvation, but rose again from the dead. The bread and the wine of Holy Communion are the Body and Blood of Christ, the Bread of Life, the spiritual manna provided by God for all Christians in their journey to heaven, to the Promised Land. For as long as we live on this earth, we live in companionship with the Real Presence of the Lord Jesus Christ, whose Body and Blood we receive in Holy Communion. His death becomes life for all Christians in Holy Communion, since in Holy Communion we are proclaiming the life and power of Christ’s death until He comes again. [4] Just as the Israelites were fed supernaturally with manna as they wandered through the wilderness, so we are being fed with the true and living bread that has come down from heaven, the Lord Jesus Christ himself. [5] The Holy Communion is the New Passover, [6] and in it Christians are celebrating the death of Christ by which they have been saved, and have been made the community of God’s New Covenant. In it also, Christians encounter the Lord Jesus Christ himself as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world and whose blood continually washes them clean, as St. John writes, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” [7]

Given to us in this Blessed Sacrament is “the pledge of life eternal” (Collect). Throughout our earthly pilgrimage, we have in the Sacrament of Holy Communion both God’s sign and God’s pledge of eternal life to all who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and follow Him.

CONCLUSION

Since Holy Communion is so meaningful and powerful as a pledge of eternal life, as a sign of Christ’s atoning death, as a proclamation and remembrance of not only his death but his everlasting life and of our resurrection, and as an effective means of grace, we ought to come willingly, happily and frequently to Holy Communion.

From now on, will you make it a priority to do just that?



[1] p. 525, Robert J. Morgan: Preacher’s Sourcebook of Creative Sermon Illustrations. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2007.

[2] John 1:29; Revelation 5:6; 1 Peter 1:19

[3] John 11:25

[4] 1 Corinthians 11:26

[5] John 6:51

[6] John 19:14; 1 Corinthians 5:7-8; Ch. 3, Brant Pitre: Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist. New York: Doubleday, 2011.

[7] 1 John 1:7

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