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2024-03-28 Maundy Thursday

Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen!

Welcome to the sacred Triodion, literally the 3 days leading up to the resurrection of our Lord. Maundy Thursday opens the door to this sacred time of remembering. But remembering in a truly Biblical context. This is not the kind of remembering where you set your phone to sound an alarm or tie a string around your finger so you don’t forget. The kind of remembering that I’m talking about means a first hand participation in an event that took place in the past but still involves us today. Specifically, this was the Passover meal. We talked a lot about it this past Lenten season Bible Study. The mighty works of salvation and redemption were commemorated and remembered and experienced first hand by the Israelites throughout the ages. What better way to fuse two things together than with memories and food! We do this all the time, reminiscing about the good old days and fun times with family and friends as we eat together. It’s no wonder then that God Himself designs His special meal to do the exact same thing.

The Passover meal was designed for this precise reason - to help tell the salvation story. The Hebrews in slavery to Egypt for hundreds of years, they were oppressed and downtrodden. The chosen people were suffering and had been for a very long time. God knows what He must do to make good on His promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. At long last, the time of slavery was coming to a close. The Lord was about to bare His mighty arm and deliver His people. And that is exactly what He did. But the Passover meal forever cemented those divine actions into the collective memory of the people of God.

There was a green vegetable, like parsley, dipped into salt water to remember the tears and sadness of the people in slavery. Also there were the bitter herbs like horseradish to remind the people that slavery was bitter to the root! There was the charoseth, the sweet apple mixture to remind the people of the brick mortar. Even though the making of bricks and mortar was very difficult, this part of the dinner was sweet to remind the people that the hard labour was worth it if it meant the sweetness of God’s redemption. There was also flat, unleavened bread to show how quickly the people had to get out - not having the luxury of time to let the bread rise. And of course, there was the spotless lamb that was sacrificed for the people, the blood of which anointed the door posts and lintels of the Hebrew homes. There were also 4 cups of wine at this meal, each with a specific meaning and remembering. From the Kiddush, the first cup of blessing to the final Hallel cup of praise. All of these things and more the people of God experienced year after year as they remembered and experienced first hand the Passover for themselves.

Jesus and His disciples continued this same tradition. They were good and faithful Jews after all. So, they go and gather together to relive and re-experience it for themselves. However, this night was different from all other nights. Jesus did something very different indeed. During the supper, Jesus takes that unleavened bread of affliction, gives thanks, breaks it and gives it to His disciples. To receive bread from a friend means to be welcome. It says “You belong here!” Then, Jesus says words that have never been said at any other Passover: “Take; this is my body” (MK 14:22). This bread in a mysterious way is the same body of Christ that would soon be nailed to the cross. Also, He takes the wine after supper, the cup of blessing. He lifts it up, gives thanks and gives it to each of His disciples to drink. Again, He speaks never before heard words “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many” (14:24). Covenants are interesting things. They are agreements, but not contracts. They are born of relationship, not legality. And, they are always sealed with blood. This blood of the new covenant was the precious blood of Christ poured out for you, poured out for the life of the world.

Jesus changed forever the Passover meal for His followers. Or better stated, He fulfilled it. He upgraded it to version 2.0! Through the saving work of the Christ, we see that He is our Passover. He is the Lamb of God Who was slain and His blood now saves everyone who believes in Him from eternal death - just as the blood of the lamb saved the Hebrew people from death in the Passover. In this meal, Christ forever unites Himself to His people. “Whoever feeds on My flesh and drinks My blood abides in me, and I in him” (JN 6:56) Jesus said.

This meal was a preparation for what they would do ever after, so that God would remember His sacrificial death and make its power present among them. By eating the bread and drinking the cup, they would eat His body and drink His blood and live forever. This supper, which would be shared forever among our Lord’s followers would be a unique sign of their fellowship together and mutual belonging. It would manifest and reveal our Lord’s sacrifice in the midst of His people, proclaiming His death on the cross forever, until He would come again in glory (1Cor 11:26).

So as our Lord says “Do this in remembrance of Me,” it’s not just recollection or sentiment. Rather in the eating and drinking of our Lords body and blood in the bread and wine, we actively participate in His work of salvation. The Gospel becomes part and parcel of who we are by faith. It’s fascinating really. When we go back to the Garden of Eden, we see that Eve and Adam get in to trouble, putting it mildly, by eating the forbidden fruit. In fact, they bring forth death by eating it. They destroy their relationship with God. They cut themselves off from Him and embark on a life of hiding from Him, a life of suffering and a world of hurt. How Jesus heals this plight of humanity is through… eating. Holy Communion becomes for all the baptized believers the medicine of immortality. This gift of grace undoes the curse of death by bringing forth life for the eater.

The Passover meal concluded with the final cup of wine, the Hallel. This is where we get our word “Alleluia” from. It means praise, specifically to God. The last cup gets this name because the participants chanted the Hallel Psalms 115-118 and then drank it. This was the joyful cup of praise, with highest praise for God and all that He had done. It was this cup that Jesus our Lord said that He would forgo partaking. “Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God” (MK 14:25). Our Lord would not join them in drinking the festive cup. Rather, our Lord had another cup waiting for Him. It would be a cup of sorrow and suffering, the likes of which the ancient Hebrews in slavery had never seen or experienced. The grim contents of that cup were already weighing heavily on our Lord’s heart. The time for joyful festivity had come to an end for Jesus.

Soon, in yet another garden - Garden of Gethsemane, our Lord Jesus would pray: “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will” (MT 26:39). The bitter cup of suffering and shame and death, He drinks for us that we may have the sweetness of forgiveness, life and salvation. By forgoing the final Passover cup with the disciples, our Lord fortified Himself for the final mile of the grim journey of bright sadness.

Our Lord invites us, as He did His disciples on that night that was not like any other night, to partake and to remember. Receive the bread He prepared for you and eat it. It is His body, your manna from heaven to sustain you in your wilderness journey to the cross and then on to the promised land of Heaven. Receive the cup He prepared for you and drink from it. It is His covenant blood, poured out for the many, poured out for you. What greater gift can Jesus give, than to give you the fruits of His sacrifice - His very Body and Blood? “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” Amen.

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