E 100 – Maundy Thursday – April 13, 2017

“A Meal to Remember” – Luke 22:1-46

Maundy Thursday – April 13, 2017


  1. The Last Supper: What it Was

a. Passover: God’s great act of deliverance

What was Jesus’ doing on that Thursday night of Passover week? Well, we already heard of the many things that happened, but what was at the core of His gathering with the disciples was the celebration of the Festival of Passover. It’s what all good Jews did. It was a multi-day celebration that culminated with a family meal to remember God’s greatest act of deliverance for His people, Israel.

The people of Israel ended up in Egypt in an unusual way. Ten of ancient Jacob’s sons were jealous of their younger brother, Joseph, who seemed to be dad’s favourite. So, they threw him in a pit, sold him to a caravan on its way to Egypt, and told dad that an animal must have killed Joe. Through a long, circuitous chain of events, Joe ended up as the Pharaoh’s right hand man just as seven years of plenty were about to happen followed by seven years of famine. Because a dream of the Pharaoh foreshadowed the future, Joe had the entire nation prepare for the famine. During the years of famine, Joseph’s brothers – still in the land of Canaan – were looking for food, and, aware of the plenty, came to Egypt to buy some for their families. They encountered Joe, and long story short, the entire family, including aged dad, moved to Egypt. They stayed there for hundreds of years, and, en masse, were made slaves to the Egyptians. When God had had enough of that for His chosen people, He raised up Moses to lead the people out of slavery and back to the promised land of Israel. The Pharaoh was reluctant to allow His work-force to leave, even after nine successive plagues devastated the land of Egypt. There was to be one final plague that would successfully change the Pharaoh’s mind. An angel of death would wend its way through Egypt one night killing the first-born of every family, but sparing the Israelite families by passing over homes where the blood of a lamb had been brushed on the outside door frames. In conjunction with God’s miraculous intervention and deliverance, the people of Israel were to eat a special meal to remember His mercy. Each element of the meal had significance. We heard about that from Exodus 12. The Israelites would leave the next day – remember they were to have their cloaks tucked in and their sandals on. They would face another challenge at the Red Sea as the fickle Pharaoh changed his mind yet again. But in the sequel of the Great Deliverance, God would part the Red Sea allowing the Israelites to cross on dry land, but then drowning the Egyptian army. This Passover meal was to be celebrated each year at the same time, and the story told and re-told, so that future generations would know of, remember and celebrate God’s act of rescue.

Just over a month ago, our confirmation students shared a Passover meal with all of those same foods, and we rehearsed what they meant. That’s what Jesus was doing that Thursday night with His disciples. They were eating that holy meal, and re-telling the Passover story, and the formation and identity of the ancient Jewish people in connection with their last night in Egypt and the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea.

b. For Jesus: Fulfillment of mission

But there was something more, something profound about this night and this meal for Jesus. Although the disciples couldn’t have comprehended this, Jesus knew that this meal had symbolisms that related to His fulfillment of God’s mission for Him here on earth. He said, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” If they were listening, really listening, they might have asked, “What do you mean, ‘before I suffer?’” And then He would have explained – again – that He would suffer, and be crucified, and rise again for their forgiveness, for their salvation.

The symbolism related to the shank of lamb they were eating as part of their Passover meal. The lamb was not just the meat element of the meal, but, in the original story, it was the blood of the lamb on the door frames that caused the angel of death to pass over the homes of the Israelites. Jesus, who at His Baptism was identified by John the Baptist as the Lamb of God, would the very next day have his blood spilled as He was whipped, as the crown of thorns pierced his brow, and as the nails punctured his hands and feet. He would be the Lamb whose blood covers His people, takes away their sins, delivers them from slavery to sin, and spares them from the angel of eternal death. Everything that the Law and the sacrifices had symbolized, everything that the prophets had predicted, everything that we read in the Old Testament pointed to what was about to happen. Jesus was there to fulfill the mission given to Him by His father – to die on the cross for the sins of the world. That was His mission, and this meal began the chain of events that would fulfill it.

c. For God: New covenant (Jeremiah 31)

There was also something profound about this Passover from the perspective of God, the Father. The very first Passover set in motion a covenant, an agreement, between God and His people. It was a covenant of sacrifices. The rest of the book of Exodus, and especially the book of Leviticus highlights the various sacrifices and offerings that God expected of his people when they sinned. They would have to make grain offerings, or sacrifice doves or lambs or bulls. There is an alternate Bible reading from Hebrews 9 appointed for tonight. It summarizes this Old Covenant: “This is why even the first covenant was not put into effect without blood. When Moses had proclaimed every command of the law to all the people, he took the blood of calves, together with water, scarlet wool and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all the people. He said, ‘This is the blood of the covenant, which God has commanded you to keep.’ In the same way, he sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies. In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.”

Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness – that pretty much sums up that bloody, animal-sacrificing old covenant. They had to do it over and over and over and over again. But already through the prophet Jeremiah God had said, “The time is coming when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant…”

And that’s what that Thursday night was about for God – the institution of the new covenant. Jesus said it: “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” Hebrews 9 repeated it: “Christ is the mediator of a new covenant,” and Hebrews 7 explains, “[Christ] sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered Himself.” God says that Jesus’ sacrifice is the new covenant which makes meaningless the entire sacrificial system of the old covenant. Again, from Hebrews 9, “He appeared… to do away with sin by the sacrifice of Himself.”

Prayer – Holy God, You deal with us in steadfast love. We thank and praise You for the annulment of the demanding Old Covenant at the cost of the holy precious blood of Your Christ, and for the establishment of the New Covenant with us, signed and sealed in Christ’s body and blood; through the same Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord. Amen.

  1. The Lord’s Supper: What it Is (for us)

a. A meal to remember God’s great act of deliverance – cross

In his famous painting titled “The Sacrament of the Last Supper,” Salvador Dali envisioned the Upper Room as a spotless, surrealistic, almost otherworldly setting. But when we look carefully at this passage in Luke, we see that the reality was more down-to-earth: a borrowed room, a dinner cooked by men, lots of arguing around the table, and one person with a dark secret.

And this down-to-earth reality points to what the Lord’s Supper is for us. But maybe first we need to connect it with that ancient Passover meal. Just as the celebration of the Passover was a tangible – food and drink and story – remembrance of God’s great act of Old Testament deliverance for the Israelites, taking them out of Egypt’s slavery, crossing the Red Sea to safety and the Promised Land, in the same way this meal – Jesus’ true body and blood – signifies and leads us to remember God’s great act of New Testament deliverance for us that would take place on the cross less than 24 hours after Jesus shared this holy meal with His disciples. And just as the Israelites couldn’t free themselves from slavery, one form of our confession of sins admits “that we cannot free ourselves from our sinful condition.” So the shedding of Jesus’ blood on the cross was God’s mercy, God’s release, God’s promise… for us.  Jesus’ blood covers us, protects us.

b. Real Presence

Would you all pick up a Care Card from your pews, and look at the Holy Communion side… if you’re coming to the Lord’s Supper tonight, you’re going to want to fill one out in a few minutes anyway. Look at the fourth bullet… it reads: “I believe that Christ’s body and blood are truly present, in, with, and under the bread and wine.” This is our biblical understanding of what we receive in this meal, and we call it the Real Presence. It’s based on Jesus’ own words which we heard both from Luke 22 and from 1 Corinthians 11. When He gave His disciples the bread during the Passover meal, He said, “This is my body given for you.” And when He gave the disciples the Passover cup of wine, He said, “This is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” He connected His body with bread, His blood with wine in a sacred way. Paul picked up on this connection in His writing about the Lord’s Supper, asking two questions: “Is not the cup of thanksgiving… a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?” The expected answer to both questions is an obvious “Yes, of course!”

So, theologically, this is not just a meal of remembering. Nor is it just a meal of symbolism. We call it Communion – a union of Christ’s very body with bread, a union of Christ’s very blood with wine, a union of Christ with us, and a union of us with one another as we share a common faith in Jesus. Maybe that’s what Dali was trying to capture in his famous painting – the surreal spiritual connection of Christ with His followers in this holy meal.

c. Forgiveness

But now let’s land on the down-to-earth reality of that first Lord’s Supper. Yes, Jesus did identify that one of His own disciples at the table would betray Him and turn Him over to the Jewish and Roman officials. Since that night, the name ‘Judas’ has been a dishonourable one.

But he wasn’t the only culprit at the supper. We read that a dispute arose among Jesus’ disciples as to which of them was the greatest. Isn’t that a common theme, still today? We all like to puff ourselves up with sinful pride, boasting of our own accomplishments while putting others down. These men, who walked and talked with Jesus for three years, could not bottle up their game of one-up-man-ship even while they were sharing that special Passover celebration which Jesus was making even more holy with respect to His very presence in the meal and with respect to His pending sacrifice. Sin… it will raise its ugly head in even the most holy of circumstances and company.

But that’s precisely why Jesus gave us this meal… for forgiveness, for our forgiveness. It’s Matthew’s account of Jesus’ words that make that explicit: “This is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

When we sin – and we do… often… daily… – when we sin, we want to bring the down-to-earth reality of our own sins to the cross where Jesus died for us. This is the place to come – for sure and certain forgiveness for those sins. That’s what we believe – it’s the fifth bullet on the communion card: “I believe that, in this Sacrament, God gives me the forgiveness of my sins by grace.” And that’s why, in a few moments, we will, as St. Paul counseled, examine ourselves, examine our lives, and confess our sins, before eating of the bread and drinking of the cup. We can be confident that in Christ’s true body and blood we do receive God’s forgiveness and grace for our lives.

d. Presence of Christ in us, and through us to others

Then, in a realization of that saying “you are what you eat,” we can understand that as we take Christ’s body and blood into our bodies, as we receive His forgiveness, we have the very presence of Jesus coursing in and through our lives as a daily reality. It’s part of our becoming Christ-like, being little Christs to others by forgiving as we have been forgiven, and in our loving actions of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, welcoming the stranger, and visiting those who are sick and in prison. Christ is present to us in the bread and wine of Holy Communion, and Christ is present to our world for as St. Paul said, “Christ lives in me.”

Prayer – Lord, Jesus Christ, You dined with Your disciples one final time, giving them everlasting gifts in bread and wine. Give us, we pray, those same gifts; forgiveness, salvation, and communion with You as we feast upon Your very body and blood in this bread and wine. In Your holy, precious name we pray. Amen.


  1. The Lord’s Supper: What it Will Be

a. Foretaste of the Feast to Come

Our last thoughts for tonight are about what the Lord’s Supper will be. The Bible, and Jesus, Himself, used a banquet as an image of heaven several times. We heard it this evening from Luke 22. Right after Jesus said, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer,” (that was the Jewish Passover that He would change to be our Lord’s Supper) – right after that Jesus said, “I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” He was saying that there will be an eternal Passover celebration in heaven.

In Matthew 22 Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. And in Matthew 25, when Jesus was teaching about the end times and the kingdom of heaven, He also told a parable about ten virgins who were waiting and preparing for a wedding banquet.

Jesus’ first miracle was to provide wine for a wedding banquet.

Isaiah 25 talks about God preparing a lavish banquet for His people.

Revelation 19 calls blessed those who are invited to the marriage supper of the lamb.

And in another omission of something meaningful from our current hymnals, the previous one featured these words in the Offertory: “Grace our table with Your presence, and give us a foretaste of the feast to come.” At least there are a couple of prayers in our communion liturgy that mention the marriage feast of the lamb in His kingdom. But “a foretaste of the feast to come” – what a beautiful image of that heavenly banquet table where we will celebrate God’s goodness and grace eternally. What we have shared this evening, and every time we receive the Lord’s Supper, is like an appetizer, hors d’oeuvres whetting our desire for that heavenly banquet that we will share with all believers in the presence of our Lord and Saviour.


Prayer – Gracious Heavenly Father, in the midst of this Passion Week, when we remember all that Your beloved Son sacrificed for us, You have given us a remembrance of the Passover meal and the freedom from bondage it recalls.  You have given us true pardon and peace in this Holy Supper, and a foretaste of the feast to come.  Keep us firm in the true faith that our sins are forgiven by faith in Your Son until we celebrate the marriage feast of the Lamb in His kingdom that has no end;  through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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