Sermon: “My Time is at Hand”
Lectionary Series A; Maundy Thursday
Thursday, April 9, 2020
Gospel Reading: Matthew 26:17-30
Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
So much of our life is affixed to time. We have watches, fitbits, smartphones, clocks, and even maybe someone in our congregation has a sundial that directs them to what time it is. We waste time and we spend time. We are told that “Time flies” and “Lost time is never found again” and that “Time waits for no one.” The book of Ecclesiastes says that “There is a time for everything.” Time is on our minds…all the time.
As we have now reached Maundy Thursday, the time is here. The time is now, because on that night that Jesus was betrayed, Jesus said, My time is at hand. All of Jesus’ time on earth was building up to this very time.
It was the time of the Passover. And the disciples followed Jesus’ instructions and made their way into the city and found the certain man they had been told about. They gathered in the upper room of that man’s house and they began to eat. It was just as had been done ever since that first time the Passover was celebrated all those years ago in the land of Egypt.
We heard about it in our Old Testament Reading from the book of Exodus. On that night, the people of Israel gathered in homes with the blood of the lamb upon their doorposts and lintels as they awaited the angel of death to pass over them. It was the tenth and final plague that God would subject Egypt to as He demanded through the prophet Moses that the Pharaoh let His people go.
As they waited for the time to pass, the people of Israel ate lamb without blemish, unleavened bread, and bitter herbs, and they did so in haste. For it would not be long and the time of their freedom would be at hand. And ever since that day, this meal had been a memorial feast commemorating that great and glorious day when their time of bondage in Egypt came to an end. (Pause)
So there in that upper room as they celebrated the Passover, nothing seemed out of the ordinary, until the time of the betrayer came to pass. And as they were eating, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me” (Matthew 26:21).
They could hardly believe it. Questions filled the room, “Is it I, Lord?” They all wanted to know. That is, everyone except for the one who already knew. His deal had already been done. Arranged with the religious leaders before they gathered in that upper room, Judas played along and asked the same question nonetheless: “Is it I, Rabbi?” And allowing him to convict himself, Jesus responded “You have said so.”
The time of the betrayer was at hand. It would not be long, and Judas would gather his mob with clubs and swords and they would haul Jesus away from the Garden of Gethsemane to be tried and unjustly convicted and condemned. It would not be long and the time of Jesus’ death would be upon them. But before that time came to pass, there was one very important thing that remained for Jesus to do before they left that upper room.
For the first time, the Lord’s Supper was celebrated. There at that Last Supper for them to gather together, Jesus spoke words that had never been spoken at any Passover prior. The words are familiar for us, but are no less profound today.
Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom” (Matthew 26:26-29).
We have heard these Words of Institution countless times, but for those disciples, this time of the Passover was unlike any other. They had never heard Jesus speak this way. Little did they know at that moment, but He was directing them all to the time that would take place the very next day. Jesus was pointing them and us to His death.
One has to wonder as they witnessed what took place in the next twenty-four hours, did these words of Jesus echo in their minds? Did they connect that ‘body’ that He was talking about as He held that bread in His hand was His own? Did they connect that the ‘blood’ poured out for them that He was talking about as He passed the cup was actually His blood that He shed upon the cross? Perhaps they thought about it, but no doubt it wasn’t until after the resurrection when Jesus opened their minds to the Scriptures that they truly understood and appreciated what took place in that time they gathered there in the upper room.
We, however, worship in a time where the church has been celebrating this Sacrament of the Altar for two thousand years. This is part of who we are as Christians each time we gather together in the house of the Lord. And though this practice has been put on hold for a time during this stay-at-home order that is in place, it will not be long and we will gather once again to receive this holy supper as a body of believers.
We who have had the Scriptures opened to us by the Spirit given to us in our baptism, know just how important this meal is. We know from the very words of Jesus that every time the pastor speaks those Words of Institution, that Jesus is, in fact, giving us Himself: This ‘is’ His very body and blood that He gave to us on cross for the forgiveness of our sins.
For all the times we have sinned, every time we have failed to do what we know we should have done, for all the times we have done what we know we shouldn’t have done, for every time we have betrayed God in thought, word, or deed, this time here tonight is for us sinners to be welcomed into the presence of Jesus as He comes to us in His Word and be forgiven.
So, in the confidence of Christ’s forgiveness, we examine ourselves as our Epistle reading tonight from 1st Corinthians directed us to do so. We take time to review the Ten Commandments, and we ask of ourselves the questions that are up on the screen week in and week out for our benefit:
- Have I confessed and repented of my sins? (1 Jn. 1:9)
- Do I believe that I am receiving the actual body and blood of Christ, with the bread and wine, into my mouth for the forgiveness of my sins? (Mt. 26:26-28)
- Do I share in the confession of faith (doctrinal beliefs) of this congregation? (Eph. 4:2-6)
- Will I, with the Lord’s help, amend my sinful ways? (Rm. 8:12-15)
These questions help us to take seriously the very gift that is given at the table of the Lord, while at the same time recognizing the great extent Jesus went to in order to provide us such a gift.
For it was only a matter of hours after Jesus gave that gift to His disciples there in that upper room that He would be giving the gift of His life. In a moment fixed in time for us as Christians, darkness would cover the land from the sixth hour until the ninth hour. As each second ticked by, Jesus’ holy and precious blood poured forth from His body. And when His time was at hand, Jesus breathed His last breath before He died, and His body was placed into the grave.
And one day, that time of being placed in the grave will come for us as well. But we whose times are held in God’s hands, will not be left forsaken. As forgiven children of God who have the body and blood of Jesus in us, the time will come and the clouds will part, Jesus will descend, and our bodies will be raised. The sin and darkness of this world will be no more.
This is what we have to look forward to each and every time we gather at the table of the Lord. And I can’t wait for that day to come again! What a celebration it will be for us to partake of the Lord’s Supper, and once again join in proclaiming the Lord’s death until He comes again! What a joy it will be to gather for the foretaste of the feast to come!
In the meantime, as we hear God’s Word, we set our sights on Jesus and the future He has promised to us. It won’t be long and we will gather with all the saints who have gone before us, and we will always be with the Lord.
So, let us pray: “Come Lord Jesus, and come quickly!” In Jesus’ name. Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.