1 Corinthians 11:23-32
John 13:1-15, 34-35
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
That modern intellectual, Einstein, is said to have said that doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results is the definition of insanity. Well, by that definition faith may be insane; for faith hangs on to Lord no matter what, expecting Him to bless us. But we might re-cast that statement this way: doing the same thing over and over expecting different results (ie., clinging to God and being faithful even when it seems He has abandoned you) is the definition of persevering in faith, knowing that eventually Lord will bless those who cling to Him.
And their lives were hard and cruel. And yet they clung. They wrestled, expecting better things from God. And their cries of anguish went up before the Lord. He heard their cries for mercy. He sent a mighty deliverer, Moses. Not a man of battle, but a man of Israel, whose life had been miraculously preserved from a wicked king who would kill Israel’s children. And in a strange twist, this boy who should be dead was raised in the king’s house as one of king’s grandchildren. And yet, he was an Israelite. An Israelite who had having grown up under the king’s protection had fled from Egypt, from His people, and was hiding out in the butt end of nowhere when the Lord called Him in a burning bush and sent him to Egypt to the king. Maybe it was the same king who had acted the grand father, or maybe it was one of his “brothers”.
Moses was a spokesman, not a warrior. For God does things by words, not swords. Maybe this is why He calls His Word His Sword. So Moses declares for God to the king, “Let my people go.” And proceeds to proclaim ten great plagues designed to humble Egypt and her false gods. The final plague is the death of first born son. Throughout the first nine plagues the Israelites had been preserved from all the plagues. But now to make it completely clear the Lord tells them, “Have a feast on the 14th day of the month at twilight, just before sunset, just as the 15th day is about to start slay a “passover” lamb. (For Israelites count the day to start from sunset, not sunrise.) Gather its blood and put the blood on the two door posts and the lintel of their house. Three strokes of blood to mark you as Israel, those who wrestle with God, those whom the Lord will pass over, whose first born sons will not be slain. Eat only unleavened bread, made in haste, because the Egyptians will finally let you go. And when the command to leave comes, it will be swift! There won’t be time to make a fancy meal or let bread rise. Eat the meal that night with your bags packed and by the door and your shoes on your feet.”
So the great day came, the lambs were slaughtered, the blood was spilt, and streaked on the doors of their houses. And by morning when the great wailing came up over the whole land from every household except those the Lord passed over, the command was swift. “Get out! Take your people, your animals, your possessions, get out! Here take our gold if it gets you gone faster. We don’t want to be reminded of you any more!”
For God had humbled the mightiest king on earth, and had shown up and defeated all that king’s gods, setting His own people free without His people lifting a finger. They’d clung through the years and generations of slavery. Finally, He saved them. Perseverance not insanity.
And every year Israel was to do the same. On the 14th day of that month they were to slaughter a lamb, cook it, and eat it before day break. They were eat unleavened bread for a whole week in remembrance of this event and the travel that came afterward. This remembering was no mere mental exercise, but rather a partaking of it spiritually, a living through it, so that they could recount it, make it part of their identity, be part of it. The Israelite would not say, “God saved my ancestors in the Passover,” but rather, “He saved me!” And so they annually relived it.
And Our Lord, the faithful Son of Israel, did so every year. And that year, the last year of Our Lord’s life, the day fell on a Thursday. The lambs were to be slaughtered at twilight on Thursday. The meat eaten that evening, which is actually the beginning Friday, what we call Good Friday, for Jewish days start at sundown, not midnight or morning. Sundown because when God created everything He counted days this way, “there was evening and there was morning, the first day.” Sundown starts the day. So the lamb was slaughtered on Thursday before sundown, but not eaten till it could be cooked after the sun went down, starting a new day. A day which when the sun dawns everything would be different!
And that final Passover meal for Our Lord was different. By sunrise His fate was sealed. The Highpriests whose job it was to slaughter the passover lamb, took Jesus the Lamb of God to Pilate the governing authority who had the power to put a man to death. They lied and finagled to get their way, and bullied Pilate into killing Our Lord, for that was their role, their task as priests. They were to kill the Passover lamb which takes away the sins of the World and causes God’s justice to pass over the sinner.
So the day the supper was eaten was actually Friday, what we’d call Thursday evening. That final Passover was the prelude to the actual, true, eternal Passover of God.
And on that evening, Our Lord gives a new command. That’s where that strange word “Maundy” comes from. Command or mandate. Mandatum in Latin, becoming known as “Maundy” over the years. A new command, a new mandate I give you to love one another. A new law. A new covenant. The old covenant was based on this Passover lamb, through which God claimed Israel as His own, saving her from slavery in Egypt. The new covenant is based on the true Passover Lamb, the lamb who was yet to be slain the next day. And yet though the Lord’s blood had not yet been spilt, that blood of the new covenant, the covenant of love, yet He gives us a meal of love, a meal of His own body and blood. For this meal is miraculous. It remembers the Passover in Egypt, putting us there, making us part of Israel, those who were saved then. But it also puts us in the midst of the table where Jesus gathered with His Twelve for His final meal. Thus, we are there at this meal being washed, being called His friends, being loved by the Son of God who loves us to His end. The end of His life, pouring out His blood, being roasted in the fire of God’s wrath against sin. We eat His body, and drink His blood, and our Passover Lamb saves us. Our hearts are marked thrice with His blood, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. His blood cleanses all who are Israel, causes angel of death to pass over Israel’s sin, and gives new life! So come to this wonderful meal. Get it early, get it often.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
—Pastor David Haberstock
Epiphany Lutheran Church
Thunder Bay, ON