Maundy Thursday – Mt 26:17-28 Jesus Feeds His Disciples It made sense that they would ask it. After all, he was the Lord, the teacher, and they his students. The time was right too – the 14th of Nisan, the “first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread”. The city surely hummed with that preparatory hurry – that seasonal tension of expectation, learned by a millennium of history, slowly unwinding with each passing sunset. Until finally: activity; the kind that followed a question like the one they asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?” It made sense that they would ask it. It made even more sense that Jesus would answer as he did – that he had prepared and planned already; that they should follow his direction. Because there, as they prepared a meal built on the tradition of a thousand years, the disciples found that Jesus had prepared a meal built on the love of countless years. All to show, to them and us, that Jesus Feeds His Disciples. The Passover was the most important feast of the Jewish year, arguably. This meal was one that God had established from long before. The first Passover, you’ll remember, came for those Jews enslaved in Egypt, on the night of their exodus. They ate lamb then, roasted, with herbs and bread without yeast – ready to make an exit from Egypt. And they had painted their doorposts red with blood from that lamb, because God’s destruction was coming for the firstborn of any house whose door was not painted. But it wasn’t just for their physical well-being. No, God said to them, “This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord—a lasting ordinance (Ex 12:14).” It was a lasting ordinance – lasted all the way until Jesus’ day. It was one of the many laws of God for them – for their spiritual good. They were to remember every year in just this way that by the blood of a sacrifice the judgment of God passed over them and they received freedom instead. At Passover, God fed his people a meal that reminded them of his love in spite of their sin. So, it made sense that the disciples would ask Jesus about preparing this meal. It was what Jews did on the 14th day of the first month. It was what Jesus the Jew did on the 14th day of the first month. Didn’t he tell his disciples to say to the owner of the house, “My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.” Didn’t he then, later that evening, keep the Passover, celebrate the meal just as God had directed his people to do? Didn’t he always keep exactly what God directed and prescribed? Jesus’ time was at hand, the time for the end of his life. As we celebrate that holy week, let us not forget that it’s only the end of a life of keeping God’s ordinances, God’s will in all its forms. Jesus Feeds His Disciples. He feeds us by keeping God’s covenant in the Passover - perfectly. He feeds us by keeping God’s law perfectly. He feeds us as we see that, like the Passover lamb, he stands between us and the judgment of God against sin – because he is pleasing to God and we are painted with his blood. It’s amazing to see this fulfillment of the Passover. This thousand-year old meal, just like every Jewish sacrifice, pointed ahead to Jesus. The fulfillment of all the Passover symbolism, eats the Passover with his disciples. As he did, Jesus said, “The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him.” And as he goes he fulfills the Passover completely because he dies as the sacrifice for sins. No more sacrifice is needed. No Passover need be celebrated ever again. Not the next year in the disciples’ lives, not now, not ever. In its place, having freed us from one meal of remembrance, Jesus feeds his disciples with another meal that is much better. The Passover meal had served well for a long time and Jesus’ new meal is similar to it. There is the shedding of blood for the forgiveness of sin – blood that averts the judgment of God. And there is a ritual in which that forgiveness is received – a meal. But the new meal Jesus institutes is very much different in this: he says very plainly that his body and blood are truly present with bread and wine, and are received by those who eat and drink. “This is my blood of the covenant,” Jesus said, “which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” His blood brings about a new covenant – a declaration from God that sin is forgiven by the sacrifice of Jesus, once for all. It is a declaration too that forgiveness is ours as we are connected to Jesus’ death. St. Paul said that’s what we do when we eat this meal: “whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes (1 Cr 11:26).” We proclaim his crucifixion on our behalf; his payment for sin in our place; his work and our benefit. Just like that Passover meal, this meal is important, and for many reasons: that Jesus instituted it, that he commanded it, that he is present in it, but maybe most important of all is that we need it. He doesn’t offer forgiveness for no reason. In fact, “if we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us (1 Jn 1:8).” There isn’t one among us who could say, “No, surely not I, Lord…Why give this meal to me? I don’t need forgiveness.” It’s why Jesus had to establish a covenant at all – our relationship with God was nonexistent – we were condemned by sin; daily still we struggle with it. Denying our sin and our need is not the attitude of Jesus’ closest friends. When he mentions to his disciples over dinner that one of them would sin by betraying him, they were sad over even the thought of such a sin. That instead, is our attitude, isn’t it? We recognize our need. We sorrow over sin, because we know a Lord who gave his own lifeblood to save us; who gives his own body and blood for our daily forgiveness. As his closest disciples we want to please him and to strengthen our relationship with him by eating this meal he has prepared. That idea of celebrating a meal isn’t foreign to us. People celebrate with meals all the time, don’t they? At Christmas, we open presents, but almost always we gather the family around dinner. At Thanksgiving, we sit around a bird bred to be larger than life and we eat to our hearts content. At Easter you might do the same. At weddings, at funerals, confirmations, graduations – we share meals together as we talk and relate and rejoice. God knows that about us. Seems it’s been true since time began. Is it any surprise that he should seek to communicate in that way? Let’s rejoice by preparing to eat this meal and to be fed by Jesus. Just like the disciples, we find that he’s prepared everything for us already. He’s made the sacrifice, he’s set the table, he’s offered himself, and he’s invited us. We are to come, to take and eat, to take and drink – because in his body and blood we have forgiveness that connects us to God and to one another as his people. And in preparation, we make certain that we believe what he’s said. As children, we watch and learn, we study and understand that it is an important meal our parents eat – and we wait with excitement to take it too. As parents, we share that truth with our children and with each other. As people of God, we long for these times when we can come together and receive our Savior’s forgiveness in a real and tangible way – vividly. We simply are happy to do as he directed and celebrate his love as he taught. Jesus here feeds his disciples with a meal that is fulfillment of God’s promises because he gave himself as payment for sin and he gives himself for continual forgiveness. Rejoice in his forgiveness, fellowship, and love – take and eat, take and drink – celebrate your Lord’s Supper because he’s prepared and planned for you to be spiritually well-fed.
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