Thursday, March 24, 2016

Maundy Thursday Sermon: "Behold, the Lamb of God"

+ Maundy Thursday – March 24th, 2016 +
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Series C: Exodus 12:1-14; 1 Corinthians 11:23-32; John 13:1-17, 31-35

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Holy Week begins with a procession. Crowds gathered. Palm branches waved. Jesus rode atop a donkey. And the walls of Jerusalem echoed with shouts of “Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the Name of the Lord”. All as Jesus makes his way to the temple. Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Every year, all the one year-old male lambs without blemish made the same procession. A Lamb for a household, the Lord said in Exodus. And so it was. The Paschal lambs, the suffering lambs, were shepherded from their flocks outside the city, through the gate, and up to the temple for the Passover sacrifice. Blood was shed. Blood was painted on the doorposts.

The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you. Then the Lamb was roasted and eaten. Death passed over once again.
For Jesus, Holy Week ends as it began, with a procession. Jesus gathered his disciples in the upper room. They ate the Passover together. Jesus prayed in Gethsemane. Judas led the soldiers to Jesus and the procession continued on to the temple courtyard, to Pilate, and finally outside the city walls, up the hill, onto the cross, and into the tomb. And unlike the thousands of Passover lambs slaughtered during the feast, this Lamb is slain and yet lives. All for you.

Truth be told, this procession is a long time in the making. This procession began long before Palm Sunday and the Exodus. It began in a garden with a betrayal. No, not Gethsemane, but Eden.

The serpent lied. Adam and Eve ate and disobeyed. And the procession that began in joy ended in dreadful curse, bitter tears, and the agony of death. Their eyes were open and they knew not only good, but evil. But the Lord did not lead them out of the Garden naked and ashamed. The Lord God made for Adam and his wife garments of skin and clothed them. Blood was shed. A sacrifice of mercy in place of their sin. In a way, this was the very first Passover. Was it a year-old lamb without blemish? Perhaps it was.

Behold, the lamb of God who covered the guilt and shame of Adam and Eve.

Many years later, YHWH promised Abraham that from his offspring would come the one who would bless all people. But then the Lord commanded Abraham to make a procession of his own. Take your son, your only son Isaac whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering.

Abraham and Isaac marched on to the mountain. Isaac carried the wood on his back. Abraham had the fire and the knife at the ready. Where is the lamb for a burnt offering?
God will provide for himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son. And he did. First on Moriah and then on Calvary.

Behold, the ram of God caught in the thicket, who gave his life in place of Isaac and the promised lamb to come.

God’s promise to Abraham came true. His offspring became a great nation indeed. But their procession was halted for hundreds of years in slavery in Egypt, until the Lord sent a lamb. It was the 10th and final plague. All the first born in Egypt would die, unless the blood of the Passover lamb covered the doorposts of the home. It is the Lord’s Passover. Israel ate in haste. They painted their doors with the sacrificial blood. And they remembered the Lord who was about to deliver them from slavery in Egypt.

Behold, the lambs of God who gave their blood so that death passed over Israel.

Centuries later the procession moved on from the wilderness to the kingdom of Israel. And once again, the Lord promised a lamb by the mouth of his prophet, Isaiah. Like the first Passover lambs, this lamb would be a suffering servant. Unlike the first Passover lambs, he would also bear the flesh and blood of Adam. A man of sorrows. One acquainted with grief. Despised. Rejected. Yet, he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities. Like a lamb led to the slaughter, and a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.

Behold, the Lamb of God who was stricken, smitten, and afflicted for you.

Tonight we also make a procession, not to our death. Jesus has taken care of that for you. No, tonight, we process to our life, to the one true Passover feast. Up to the altar. On our knees. It is a holy feast of holy food. The Lamb’s flesh is given to you. Take, eat. The blood of the Lamb is poured out for you. Take, drink for the forgiveness of all your sins. Tonight, death passes over you and onto Jesus.

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.”  For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.

Jesus is the Lamb without blemish. Jesus is without spot or stain. He is here for you. 

Behold, the Passover Lamb of God who gives his flesh and pours out his life-blood for you.

A Blessed Maundy Thursday to you all…

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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