26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
Theme: The High Priest Gives to us the Sacrifice
Dear fellow redeemed,
Sacrifice. Again and again. Year after year. Killing. Blood. Offering. Sacrifice. This was a key part of the work of the Old Testament High Priests. For nearly 1,500 years this continued. For 1,500 years the High Priests offered sacrifices to God on behalf of the people. As they did this, they waited; they waited for the coming of the promised Lamb of God who would make the once and for all sacrifice to take away our sins. Their sacrifices to God were but a foreshadowing of that sacrifice. Finally, the Lamb of God came. The High Priests would offer the sacrifices to God, and Jesus the High Priest and the Lamb of God gives the sacrifice to you.
Sacrifices are a powerful visual of guilt. Forgiveness requires the shedding of blood. This is how awful, how ugly, our sin is. In our sin, we can so easily misjudge these things. How often have we committed sin and simply shrugged it off? Gone on with our day as if we had done no wrong or been annoyed with the person we sinned against for being upset… How often have we undervalued Christ’s gifts in His Supper? The twinge of annoyance when we realize the service is going longer than normal due to Holy Communion… the moment of frustration when we realize it’s a Communion Service and our guest is going to have to learn about the practice of closed communion… the times of failure to prioritize it as vital rather than treat it as optional. Yes, we need a sacrifice for our many sins.
That first Maundy Thursday, Jesus and His disciples were celebrating the Passover. When God’s people were enslaved in Egypt, He sent Moses to deliver them. After Pharaoh refused one opportunity after another to listen to the LORD, the LORD sent one final plague upon Egypt. The first born of every house was struck down. But, the LORD protected His people from that death; He instructed them to kill a lamb and put its blood on their door frames and then their homes would be passed over and no harm would befall them.
The Passover thus was the remembrance of how God led the people out of Egypt. Eating the Passover lamb was part of that celebration. A lamb was sacrificed. There were numerous other sacrifices as well, some of which only the High Priests could offer. All of the sacrifices pointed ahead to the Great High Priest who would offer His own life as the sacrifice for our sins.
Jesus’ passion took place in this context. That first Maundy Thursday, Jesus instituted something new; He instituted Holy Communion. “Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’ And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’”
Jesus would give His body and blood as the sacrifice to cleanse us from our sin. He is the spotless Lamb of God – the one who has no spot or stain of sin. He is the great High Priest – the one who makes the once and for all sacrifice to pay for our sin. That’s what He would do on Good Friday. One, perfect sacrifice.
That sacrifice was offered up to the Father to turn away His anger from you, and it has done that. And, that sacrifice is brought to you. The body that was hung upon the cross is brought to you. The blood that was shed upon the cross is brought to you. You depart the Communion rail in peace, in the confidence that your sins are forgiven for you have received the body and blood that bought your forgiveness.
Martin Chemnitz, one of the early Lutheran pastors, once explained the connection between Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and Holy Communion this way: “The sacrifice which was once offered on the cross for our redemption and for the sins of the whole world – the body and blood of the Lord – is present, is dispensed, offered, and taken in the Lord’s Supper, so that the power and efficacy of this offering, once made on the cross is applied and sealed individually to all who receive it in faith.”
Dear friends, here, with the bread and wine, Christ Jesus gives to you His very body and blood. Though imperceptible to the senses, they are truly given to you to eat and drink. That body and blood won your forgiveness, so in giving them to you, you are brought forgiveness and assured of forgiveness. Recognize Christ’s body and blood here. Trust in Christ’s sacrifice for you. Come in repentance and faith to the Lord’s altar. The High Priest gives to you the sacrifice. Amen.