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Private Confession: By Appointment

What Comes Next?

April 9, 2020 Pastor: Rev. Dean Kavouras

Verse: Matthew 26:29

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Christ Lutheran Church
Cleveland, Ohio
April 9, 2020
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras

Maundy Thursday
What Comes Next?

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. 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." And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” Matthew 26:26-30

In this holy gospel given to us by St. Matthew we learn the blessed events that took place in our Lord’s life immediately prior to his passion. The Lord gave us a Sacrament that night in which the entire Christian religion resides. The forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. In short the entire Christ and all his promises and blessings are concentrated in this priceless sacrament.

It is the only form of worship that Jesus left his church. It is called the New Testament not only because it is New, but because it renews the Old Testament. It brings it to life and shows its logical end which is the Christ we encounter in tonight’s gospel and the Sacrament he institutes. For, you see, every Lamb ever slaughtered in the Old Testament for the remission of sins. Every grain offering, wine offering and any other offerings that ever were commanded by God, awaited this one Great Sacrifice and Sacrament.

Think of it as a mystery story where you are given any number of clues along the way but you read right past them. Then at the end, when the plot is revealed, the seemingly unimportant details suddenly are filled with meaning.

When Jesus told the Jews in John 8:56 “Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad,” they were outraged, for Abraham had lived and died 1800 years earlier. What could this mean? It means that Abraham and Jesus had met before, a meeting in which Jesus showed Abraham what the future held. Not the sacrifice of Abraham’s own son, that was but a preparatory liturgy. But the sacrifice of God’s Son for the sins of the world, which no angel would stop, and no ram be given to save. Jesus himself would be bound, carry the wood of the sacrifice up the hill as did smiling Isaac, but he would not return like Isaac did. Until the third day, that is.

Once the new has come the previews that were the Old Testament are subsumed by the New Testament. That is why St. Paul taught people that salvation comes now from Christ alone, and that the Old Testament methods of atonement that they had staked their lives on, that were commanded by God … could no longer justify us before God.

This became a serious controversy in the early church that caused great division and the shedding of much Christian blood.

Also being that it is Maundy Thursday let us be reminded that This Cup … IS … the New Testament”. Said another way the celebration of this sacrament constitutes and defines us as Christians.

Why do we say this? Because in our day more than a few Christians think of the Lord’s Supper as an accessory to Christian worship; rather than the essence of Christian worship itself.

But of all the things our Lord says in tonight’s gospel most intriguing is verse 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."

Most people when hearing that verse assume the Lord is speaking of a the Messianic Banquet that will take place in heaven at the end of the age. And that might be the right interpretation.

But there is another one, a better and truer one. Namely that the Lord would again eat this meal with his disciples upon his resurrection from the dead. And so he did. Many times. And will eat it again in heaven as well, but in a wholly different way than we do it here on earth.

What we hear of tonight might be termed “The First Holy Communion” and so it is. But it was only the first of many. Many!

The second Holy Communion took place on the Road to Emmaus on the evening of the resurrection when Jesus approached two of his followers on the road, and begins to discuss with them on the things that had just occurred.

In that talk he opened the Scripture to them so that they could now understand that what the Old had predicted, namely the suffering and death of the Christ, the New Testament perfected so that all was now accomplished.

As the encounter was closing they urged Jesus to stay the night. St. Luke tells it like this: “When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight They said to each other, "Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?"

Scripture records yet another post-resurrection Holy Communion in John 21 when Jesus calls to his disciples from the shore and prepares a meal of bread and fish for them. It is different than the others. But still a post-resurrection meal with Jesus in the Kingdom of God. John understood what it was when he says to Peter: It is the Lord! And so it was.

And there was yet another post-resurrection, Kingdom of God, Holy Communion when Jesus met the disciples in the upper room, gave them absolution for their unfaithfulness and made them his Eucharistic ministers.

And was a week later when Thomas arrived. Faithful Thomas, that is, not doubting Thomas. He was only willing to believe what Jesus had established, a communion with his own flesh and blood. And Thomas received it that night.

But that isn’t the end of the story either because we read in Acts 1:4 that for the forty days after the resurrection, and before his ascension, he “ate the sacrificial meal with them”. And it was in the context of these daily Eucharistic celebrations that the post-resurrected, pre-ascended Christ “spoke to them about the Kingdom of God” and gave them their final instructions that would be in effect till the end of the age.

What comes next? The entire New Testament era. Jesus still celebrates this meal with us in the church which is the Kingdom of God on earth. Here we still obtain his precious and life-giving flesh, and his death-defying blood. Here we still receive all that the eternal and omnipotent Jesus is and does. Nor will we ever have to worry about shortages because this Sacrament, like the Lord who gave it, is eternal.

God will continue to provide THIS daily bread for us until the end of the age when we the Liturgy of the Sacrament will bloom to a new level.

Then we will no longer need bread or wine, nor Christ’s minister to consecrate it to us. For we will see Jesus with our own clear eyes, and touch him with our newly perfected hands, and hear him with ears sanitized from all the pollution that entered them in the world.

Then Jesus will be the only thing. And “we shall be like him,” says St. John,
“for we shall see him as he is.” There is nothing better than that. And so in the words of the Bernard Cluny Hymn:

Strive, man, to win that glory;
Toil, man, to gain that light;
Send hope before to grasp it,
Till hope be lost in sight.

There is nothing greater to live for. There is nothing greater to die for. Amen.