Maundy Thursday: “Delivered”
April 5, 2012
Text: Psalm 116; Catechism: What is the benefit of this eating and drinking?
“For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling” (Ps. 116:8; ESV). The LORD delivers His people. That is what it means that He is our Savior. He saves us. He delivers us from bondage and affliction. We see this in the history of God’s people, Israel. They were slaves in Egypt. For 400 years they had cried out to God for deliverance. And the LORD heard their voice and their pleas for mercy (v. 1). He sent Moses to lead His people out of bondage in Egypt through the baptismal waters of the Red Sea. You remember the history of the ten plagues the LORD inflicted upon Egypt when Pharaoh would not allow God’s people to go free. The tenth plague was the most severe. God sent the angel of death to kill the firstborn of all Egypt. Pharaoh’s own son was a casualty of this plague. But God delivered His people Israel from death. They were, each family, to kill a lamb, and paint that lamb’s blood upon the doorposts and lintels of their dwellings. The blood of the lamb would save them. The angel of death would pass over, thus the Jewish feast, Passover. Safe inside their blood-stained homes, the families of the children of Israel would eat the flesh of that sacrificial lamb, along with unleavened bread and ceremonial wine, and bitter herbs as the symbol of the tribulations from which the LORD here delivered them. Fully dressed, they would eat in haste, ready at any moment for their exodus, their deliverance from bondage by the almighty hand of the LORD.
The LORD delivered the children of Israel by a lamb that was slain and a sacred meal. The lamb, the meal, are a foreshadowing, a type, a picture of our true Passover Lamb, our Lord Jesus Christ, who was slain on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. He frees us from our slavery to sin and death and the power of the devil. His blood is painted upon the doorposts and lintels of our hearts, so that the angel of death passes over us. In this blood-stained house we eat the bread that is His true body, and drink the wine that is His true blood, even as He delivers us from our bitter tribulations in this life. We eat fully dressed in the garment of Baptism, Christ’s righteousness, ready at any moment for our exodus from this fallen world, for the LORD to call us home, be it in our death (for “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints” [Ps. 116:15]) or in His coming again to judge the living and the dead.
The LORD delivers His Israel, His Church, you, by a Lamb who has been slain, even our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, and by a sacred meal, the Lord’s Supper, in which Christ feeds you His body and gives you to drink of His blood. Here He gives you the greatest of all gifts: His very self. Why? Why do you come to this meal? Or, as Luther phrases it in the Small Catechism, “What is the benefit of this eating and drinking?” Beloved, please turn to the inside front cover of your bulletin and recite this with me: “These words, ‘Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins,’ show us that in the Sacrament forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given us through these words. For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.” Why do you come to this meal? Because here you receive the forgiveness of sins. All that your Lord Jesus won for you in His sacrificial death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead, here distributed to you by our Lord Jesus Himself in His body and blood. Because He says so. “This is my body… This is my blood… for the forgiveness of sins” (cf. Matt. 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19-20; 1 Cor. 11:23-26). And, as Luther notes, if you have the forgiveness of sins, you also have eternal life, which is to say, you will go to heaven when you die, and be raised from the dead in your body on the Last Day. And if you have the forgiveness of sins, you also have eternal salvation, which is to say, your enemies: the devil, the world, your own sinful flesh, these can no longer make a claim upon you. They cannot hurt you anymore, for Jesus has delivered you from their power once and for all.
The LORD delivers you by His Lamb who has been slain to take away the sin of the world, and by a meal wherein you eat that sacrificial Lamb. You eat the body of Christ. You drink the blood of Christ. It is the very body given into death, the very blood poured out from the cross, for your forgiveness, life, and salvation. What are we to do with this? “What shall I render to the LORD for all his benefits to me?” (Ps. 116:12)… The Psalmist gets it right. “I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD” (v. 13). We praise the LORD not by doing something for Him, as if there’s anything He needs that we could possibly provide. We praise the LORD by lifting up the cup of salvation, receiving the gift He here gives us in His body and blood, and believing what He says of it, that it delivers forgiveness, life, and salvation to us. And we call upon Him in prayer, praise, and thanksgiving. Then we go out from this place and love and serve our neighbor, as the Lord Jesus taught His disciples on this night in the upper room when He stooped down as their servant to wash their feet. We go and do this, not to repay the Lord. We could never do that. But because His benefits are so wonderful. Because He is so good to us. And then we return again and again and again to His Table to be fed and nourished by His Word and Supper. This do, says Jesus. Often. He does not say how often. He says often. Because it is impossible to do it too often. And the gifts that flow from His wounds to you in the Supper can never be extinguished.
So, beloved, let us do this. Let us lift up the cup of salvation and call on the Name of the Lord. Come to the Supper. For “Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; our God is merciful” (v. 5). He has delivered our soul from death, our eyes from tears, our feet from stumbling (v. 8). He has heard our voice and our pleas for mercy (v. 1). His answer is Jesus. His blood now marks our door. Faith points to it, death passes o’er. And Satan cannot harm us (LSB 458:5). Nor can anything else in all creation. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
 The theme and many of the points made in this year’s Lenten series are from God’s Gift of Forgiveness (St. Louis: Concordia, 2011).
 Luther’s Small Catechism (St. Louis: Concordia, 1986).