Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday (B)
April 9, 2009
Text: Ex. 24:3-11

“For the life… is in the blood… it is the blood that makes atonement” (Lev. 17:11; ESV). “Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Heb. 9:22). “In [Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace” (Eph. 1:7). So it is in our Old Testament lesson that Moses takes half the blood of the burnt offerings and peace offerings and pours it in basins, and half he throws against the altar, thus sanctifying the altar. The sacrifices are types, picture prophecies if you will, of our Lord Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross for the sin of the world, for your sin and mine. The blood of the sacrifices is a type of the blood of the once for all sacrifice for sin, Jesus Christ. The life is in the blood. The blood makes atonement. The blood sanctifies. Moses reads the Word of the Lord, the whole Book of the Covenant, in the hearing of the people of Israel. And the people say, “Amen!” “All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient” (Ex. 24:7). The people want to live in covenant relationship to God. They do not want sin separate them from the God who brought them up out of Egypt. They want the life God gives. They want His atonement. They want to be sanctified. Thus Moses takes the blood from the basins and throws it on the people. It is a bloody mess. Their clothes are stained. The place stinks. The people now stink like blood. But the life is in the blood. “Behold the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words” (v. 8).

Of course, the people could not begin to do all that the Lord had spoken. They could not begin to be obedient. Even a cursory reading of the first five books of the Old Testament, the whole Old Testament for that matter, finds the children of Israel ensnared in disobedience, idol worship, and the sins of the pagans again and again. This is why the blood is so necessary. This is why the people need the blood. This is why Moses showers them with it, throws it at them, soaks them with the blood. Because the life is in the blood. The blood makes the atonement. The people cannot make atonement by keeping the Law. The people cannot merit the life of God by keeping the Law. They cannot keep the Law at all. They are by nature sinful and unclean. They have sinned against God in thought, word, and deed. Life and atonement must come from somewhere else, from something outside of the people, in fact, from God Himself. The blood covers the sins of the people. The blood sanctifies the people for fellowship with God.

But it is not the blood of bulls and goats that does this in and of itself. It is rather that to which the blood of bulls and goats points that has all the power. I am speaking, of course, of the blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The sacrifices of the Old Testament people of Israel had to be made again and again for the sins of the people. The sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, upon the cross of Calvary is the once for all sacrifice, for all the sins of all the people, not just of the Jews, but of all people, including all here present this evening. The blood of Jesus Christ covers ours sins. The blood of Jesus Christ sanctifies us for fellowship with God.

The people of God in the Old Testament received the benefit of the blood of Jesus Christ, the blood of the covenant, sacramentally through the sacrifices. For them, the blood of bulls and goats brought forgiveness, life, and salvation because God said so in His Word. He connected His promise with those sacrifices. The life is in the blood. The blood makes atonement. The blood makes pure. Even though our Lord Jesus had not yet been born into the flesh, the Old Testament believers received all the benefits of His sin-atoning work on the cross through the sacrifices, because God said so.

But we are New Testament people. We no longer make sacrifices of bulls and goats. So what about us? Even though Jesus has already been born into the flesh, suffered, and died for our sins, how are we to receive the benefits of His sin-atoning work? It’s not as though we can go to the cross. The cross doesn’t exist anymore. We are removed from the cross by thousands of miles and two thousand years. No, we cannot go to the cross, beloved, and even if we could, even if somehow the cross of Jesus Christ had been preserved, it wouldn’t do us any good. It would only be a useless relic. When we need the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation, we do not go to the cross, but to the place God has promised to give us all the benefits of the cross, to the Word, to Baptism, and to that upon which our meditation especially is directed tonight, the Lord’s Supper. Just as the people of God in the Old Testament received life and atonement and purification through the blood of the sacrifices, we receive the same sacramentally through the bread and the wine in the Lord’s Supper. But this is no mere bread and wine that we receive. It is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, in, with, and under the bread and wine, because our Lord Jesus, God in the flesh, says so. It is the very body and blood of our Lord Jesus given and shed on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. In this sense, it is over and above the Old Testament sacrifices. For the blood in the Old Testament only symbolized Christ’s blood. The sacrifices only symbolized the sacrifice of Christ. They were not Christ Himself. Here in the Sacrament of the Altar, however, we have the very body of Christ, the very blood of Christ, really here present, so that we actually receive it in our mouths. We know we have it because of the promise. Christ says of the bread, “this is my body” (Mark 14:22). Christ says of the wine, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many” (v. 23).

Like the people of God in the Old Testament, on our own we cannot begin to do all that the Lord has spoken. On our own we cannot begin to be obedient. Experience itself tells us this, and the Word of God teaches us that we cannot keep the Law of God. That is why the blood is so necessary. “In [Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace” (Eph. 1:7). “(T)he blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). The life is in the blood. The blood makes atonement. On the altar this evening we receive the blood of the covenant the Lord has made with us in accordance with His Word, the covenant written in Jesus blood, that on account of Jesus Christ His Son all our sin is forgiven, we are set free from death and from our bondage to the devil, we are God’s own children.

After the events of our text, a very bloody Moses and the priests, Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up on the Mountain of God. They saw the holy and righteous God sitting on His throne, and they lived to tell about it. They were covered by the blood of the covenant, and they ate and drank in the presence of God. This evening and every time you eat this bread and drink this cup you have an encounter with the living God and you live to tell about it. Because the life is in the blood. You eat and drink in the Lord’s presence, and you do not die. For you are covered with the blood of the covenant, even the blood of the sacrificial Lamb of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. That blood is placed upon your lips and flows into your body to purify you. It is the blood of Christ that makes atonement. Therefore come, O Christians, to the altar of God. Come and eat and drink in His presence. Come and taste and see that the Lord is good. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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