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The Eternal Serving of Jesus
April 13, 2017
This is the day of the Church Year that observes the central ritual of the Christian Church. All religions have their rituals and all have their core ones. The Sacrament of the Altar is the core ritual of the religion of Christianity. On this night that we call Maundy Thursday Jesus instituted this sacred act that He has commanded of His people to observe.
Ritual is a double-edged sword. Faithfully observing rituals brings about many benefits. At the same time, doing them over and over we can find ourselves taking them for granted or going through the motions. What we shouldn’t do is just do them for the sake of doing them. But we also shouldn’t necessarily get rid of them.
The Sacrament of the Altar is at the heart of the life of the people of God. What is it that our Lord has given us in giving us to observe this sacred meal? In the Old Testament reading God set up a ritual that His people were to observe perpetually. Each year they were to celebrate the Passover in which they would remember the saving acts of God in delivering His people from bondage. A lamb would be sacrificed, its blood shed, and the people of God would be reminded that they were delivered from bondage.
Jesus observed this sacred meal throughout His life. In the Gospel reading for today John tells us how Jesus approached this Passover meal He would be celebrating with His disciples. He knew His hour was at hand. In His ministry He had been pointing people toward this. The hour of His glory would be the hour of His being delivered up, much like the lambs that would be delivered up to the slaughter for the Passover meal.
John tells us that now that His hour was upon Him He would be returning to His Father. And while He was with His disciples, He loved them. John says He loved His own. The Father had given to Jesus these men who were disciples and who were to be apostles. He loved them with a love that never wavered, John says He loved them to the end. This was, after all, Jesus’ end; He would be delivered over on the cross the next day.
John says that Jesus knew that God had given all things into His hand. What John is showing us is that this meal that Jesus was observing with His disciples He was turning into something more than a ritual. He was instituting something new. Before He continued with the Supper, the Passover Meal, He got up from the table. He stripped from His robe and wrapped a towel around Himself. He got down on His knees and He served His disciples. He washed their feet, a dirty, smelly job.
The disciples probably didn’t have slaves of their own, but they sure knew that the task of washing feet was a job for the slave, certainly not the master. And yet here was their Lord, their master, doing the dirty work of serving them.
He even caught on to their surprise and even their opposition. Yes, I know, you call Me teacher and Lord, and yes, I am your teacher and Lord. But this is the kind of teacher and Lord I am. I am your servant. I have come not to be served but to serve. I am getting on My hands and knees not simply to wash your feet but to show you that I have not come to Lord it over you but to love you.
When in the Passover Meal then He gives them not just the bread and the wine of the sacred meal but something also new, they are shown that His serving of them is truly to the end. It is eternal in fact. In giving bread He gives also body, His very body to be exact. In giving them the Cup He gives them blood, in fact His own blood.
He had washed their feet. Their feet would need to continue to be cleaned. In giving His body and blood to them He was cleansing them of the filth of their sin. A slave serves. That’s what he does. He continues to serve in that capacity. This is exactly what our Lord has done in giving us not simply a ritual, but a sacred meal, a Sacrament. A meal in which He gets on His knees to serve us, giving us His body and blood.
He gave His life on the cross. His body was delivered over. His blood was shed. He delivered His people from their sin. His life was given as the sacrifice. Not just a lamb was sacrificed, the Lamb of God was sacrificed. And whereas in the Passover Meal the people would shed a lamb’s blood each year offered up to God, now Jesus was giving Himself in His Sacrament for us.
This is why Paul speaks as he does in the Epistle reading. Though the Lord’s Supper is certainly a ritual, he doesn’t speak of it as such. He simply speaks of it as what our Lord has given us to partake of. “For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when He was betrayed took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, ‘This is My body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.’ In the same way also He took the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’”
This is ritual and we are to observe it. But even more it is graciously and abundantly gift. It’s not just something we do, it is what has been given, what we receive, what we are blessed with. The God who has all things comes to us in a simple way to serve us. To give us Himself. To give us His life. To forgive us, strengthen us, bless us.
He serves and He serves eternally. The Passover was given so that God’s people would remember Him. The Lord’s Supper was given so that we would be brought into the life of Christ, His body and blood given us to eat and drink. He serves you in no greater way than in this Meal in which He gives you Himself. Paul goes on to say in the Epistle, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” When He comes again in glory, He will bring us into heaven where we will be in His presence forever. That is how He serves us and it is His eternal love and His eternal serving. Amen.