Summary: Maundy Thursday--My most favorite Church service of the Year
Maundy Thursday 2007
Tonight believe it or not is probably my most favorite Church service of the year. To me, in this one special evening, through the Scripture readings, one can see most clearly the Hand of God at work throughout the history of the world.
Tonight we recall the history of the Passover in which God’s hand leads the Hebrew people out of the bondage of slavery through the blood an unblemished lamb. Tonight we recall the history of the Last Supper in which God’s hand leads the disciples/you and I out of years of slavery to sin and evil through the body and blood of another spotless Lamb—the Lamb of God—Jesus the Christ!
Tonight is one Holy Night when the Sacraments—the mysteries of God’s working Hands—come together in the Holy Communion/Passover and Holy Baptism/The Washing of Feet.
However, just remembering does not do justice to the events of the Passover and the washing of feet during the Last Supper—saving events—that have ongoing, present significance for us believers right now today.
The passages of Scripture assigned for Holy Thursday press beyond recollection of what happened, to re-presenting them to the searchers of Jesus Christ today. They are not elaborate instructions to simply serve as reminders of the past. They are real events that have new and fresh meaning to each and every generation, now and in the future.
That is the daunting task that lies before me this evening—to re-present the Hand of God’s work, and re-create the event in a new and meaning manner, so that the occurrence may become real, and you too will actually experience freedom from the slavery of sin and darkness.
First we need to travel back some 4000 years to a time much different than today, and yet not so different. The Hebrews a small insignificant nation of sinful people had fallen into slavery due to circumstance.
They had lived in slavery for so long—400 years—that some probably had no idea things could be any different and just figure this was the way it was supposed to be. Others may have desired a freedom of some type but it had been so long—if there was a God they had heard about from their ancestors—this God must have forgotten about them, or worse yet—didn’t care.
But God did not forget about them—and more importantly—God did care. Slavery and bondage was not the way life was supposed to be—sin and evil are against God. So God’s hand sets in motion dramatic action to provide freedom from this sin and evil. God sends Moses nine times to the Egyptian pharaoh demanding to set the people free.
Each time God sent miraculous plagues on the land from turning the Nile River into blood—to millions of grasshoppers throughout the land. In some weird sort of way these plagues could be called Sacraments—mysteries. They were mysteries that could not be explained, but contained the work of God’s hand leading to freedom from sin and bondage. Anyway, each time the pharaoh said No!
Before Moses’ 10th and final visit to pharaoh, God tells the Hebrew slaves to be ready to move quickly. They are to eat unleavened bread because there would be no time for it to rise. They are to kill a blemish free lamb and then smear the lamb’s blood above the door of their house.
That night, after pharaoh said “no” again, an angel of death passed through Egypt and the next morning the oldest male in each household was found dead—except in those homes where the lamb’s blood was over the door—here the angel of death “Passed Over.”
The Hebrews are released from the bondage of slavery, pass to safety through the waters of baptism, and set out for a new life of freedom with God’s commandments in hand. Now through the celebration of the Passover, the bread and blood of the Lamb become symbols of promised freedom from sin and evil. The work of God’s hands is revealed.
Now we fast-forward 2000 later and 2000 years ago, where the work of God’s hands in the Passover is re-created in a spectacular manner. Here the spotless, unblemished Lamb is the Son of God.
It is now the hands of Jesus that take the bread, break it and offer it as his body. It is now the hands of Jesus that hold the cup, bless it and share it as his blood. Because it is the last night before those beautiful hands have nails driven clean through them for our sake and for the sake of a broken world.
As the youth sing: He’s got the whole world in his hands—he’s got the whole wide world in his hands.
It is these loving pierced hands of Jesus Christ offering you and I his body and blood through the bread and wine—promising you and I deliverance from the bondage of sin and darkness.