Posted by: St. Mark Lutheran Church | December 2, 2010

Sermon on Matthew 26:26-28

Downloadable version

Holy Communion:  “…so lovingly bestowed…”

Lessons:  Luke 1:1-25, Matthew 26:26-28

Hymns (Christian Worship): 5, 316

In the Name of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.

When the time had fully come, the apostle writes.  When the time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Those words, read almost every Christmas season, remind us that the coming of Christ into the world as a little child from the womb of Mary was a part of God’s eternal plan.

And it was no slapdash, fly-by-night operation.  This plan God planned in His eternal counsels.  The same apostle writes, This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light. We celebrate Christmas as the culmination of God’s carefully crafted salvation strategy.  He took the time to design all this, to work out all this, to sacrifice all this, for me, for my sins.  Here is one of the marvels at which we marvel during Advent and Christmas.

God’s planning, however, wasn’t done.  This Advent season, we want to recall that God isn’t a one-trick pony.  His strategizing didn’t end when Mary first suckled her divine son.  God had not exhausted Himself.  He continued planning.  And that planning had everything to do with us, bestowing upon us His love in the past and in the present, for the future.  In the past, it was God working out all time to bring forth His Son in Bethlehem, a son who would bear the burden of the law successfully so that when He bore the burden of our sins on the cross it would be the Lamb of God paying the price for the sins of the world.  This is to assure our future, that when Christ the Lord comes in a less humble fashion, as the King of kings, it will be to bring blood-bought saints into His eternal kingdom.  To guarantee that we are among those saints, He made a plan for our present.  This treasure which Christ won, forgiveness of sins, He did not leave in some inaccessible Swiss bank to which we can never know the account number.  He makes the treasure available to you whenever you desire it.  And this Advent season we remember the glorious way in which Christ has done that.  Christ comes to us in His Meal, His Holy Communion, a meal which He so lovingly bestowed.

Matthew records the institution of this meal:  While they were eating, he writes.  This happened during a Passover meal.  Jesus was in Jerusalem celebrating the festival commemorating the LORD delivering Israel out of Egypt.  Each year, the faithful gathered with family or friends, slaughtered and roasted a lamb, prepared the bitter herbs, and rehearsed God’s plan of salvation.  The children asked, “Why is tonight different from any other night?”  This, however, was a night more unlike any other.  For tonight, Jesus ended the earthly Passover celebration and gave the eternal Passover of His body and blood.

This wasn’t a random act.   It’s not as if Jesus was sitting there, singing the psalms, retelling the story of the Exodus, eating some unleavened bread, saying the prayers, raising His wine glass for the appropriate blessings, and suddenly thought, “Hey, I’ve got an idea….”  No, Jesus prepared this meal for this purpose.

On Tuesday of Holy Week, Jesus said, The Passover is two days away – and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified. Meanwhile, as the priests were plotting, and Judas was contemplating betrayal, Mary, the sister of Lazarus, anointed Jesus’ feet, prompting Jesus to say, When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. Having set the stage, on Thursday, the first day of the Passover feast, the day that the lamb is sacrificed and the ritual meal eaten, Jesus sent Peter and John into the city with a prophecy, As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you.  Follow him to the house he enters and say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’  He will show you a large upper room, all furnished.  Make preparations there. Luke writes, They…found things just as Jesus had told them. Then, that night, when the disciples were gathered with Jesus, John says, Having loved His own who were in the world, He now showed them the full extent of His love….  Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under His power, and that He had come from God and was returning to God.

Such care, such planning, such preparation.  What happens next is no accident, no minor event, nothing to be blown by on our way to crucifixion and resurrection.  We know this because Jesus tells us.  Before taking up some of the bread and wine on the table and performing a miracle, Jesus says, I have eagerly desired to eat THIS Passover with you before I suffer. Then Jesus does what He had intended to do during this Passover:  Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”  Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

Take awe-struck note of what Christ your Lord does for you on the night He was betrayed.  And beware of the awful indifference that is the devil’s greatest temptation.  Take note of what Jesus said to do:  eat and drink bread and wine.  This meal is not to be divided, as Rome divides it.  It is not Christ’s meal when only eating happens.  It is not Christ’s meal when the bread is paraded around to be worshiped and adored.  Nor dare we discard this as is done by much of Protestantism.  It is not to be relegated to some yearly or quarterly event.  It is not to be pushed out of the Divine Service because of some imaginary stumbling block to evangelism that it causes.  Nor is it to be stared at by us as others go forward.  As Luke and Paul write, Do this in remembrance of me.

Take note also of what Jesus says this is:  This is my body.  This is my blood. This is a miracle.  In His hands Christ holds bread and wine, just as we place on our altar.  But by the power of His creative, divine Word, that bread and wine is at the same time His true, real, body and blood.  In the natural, physical way of eating, we digest bread and wine.  In a miraculous, supernatural way, we receive the sacrificed body and blood of our Savior.  We have no right to remove the bread and wine from this meal, as the Catholic Church does with its teaching on transubstantiation.  We have no right to remove the body and blood from this meal as most of Protestantism does by calling this symbolic, a memorial meal, a representation, for Christ always speaks the truth and His apostle affirms it, when he writes, Anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.

Take note of when Jesus says this:  On the night he was betrayed. Here, in the last hours of Jesus’ life, He has something important for us.  He calls it the new covenant in my blood. Matthew doesn’t use the word new, but Luke and Paul do.  Jesus makes a solemn promise.  At the most solemn moment of His life.  These are, in effect, His last words, His last will and testament.  And so, the writer to the Hebrews says, How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. Don’t forget what this meal is, when it came about, and why.

Take note of the significance of this meal:  poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus longed to eat THIS Passover meal and give THIS gift before He gave the gift that filled the meal with significance.  He gave us a means by which we receive the blood that purifies us from sins, so that through faith in this blood we are declared righteous.  The body given for the world, the blood shed for the world, is held out to you as your seal and token of that forgiveness, preparing you for heaven’s meal with Him, as Isaiah writes, On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine— the best of meats and the finest of wines. On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever.

When the time had fully come. That certainly describes Christmas.  It also describes Judgment Day.  But this Advent, remember that it also describes this meal, the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ under the bread and wine, instituted by Christ himself for us Christians to eat and to drink. As we sang, He comes to us in bread and wine to give himself – and gifts divine.  Oh, praise him for this sacrament, redeeming love’s great testament. Amen.

 

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