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“The Miracles of Lent: The Last Supper”
Luke 22:7-13, 1 Corinthians 10:16


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Maundy Thursday—April 5, 2012

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

For our sermon series this Lenten Season we have been looking at “The Miracles of Lent.”   This evening on Maundy Thursday we consider a minor miracle, a major miracle, and an ongoing miracle.

The Gospel of Luke recounts the events of the first Maundy Thursday: “Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed.  Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, ‘Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.’  ‘Where do you want us to prepare for it?’ they asked.  He replied, ‘As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, and say to the owner of the house, “The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?”  He will show you a large upper room, all furnished. Make preparations there.’  They left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.”

This is the minor miracle of Maundy Thursday.  Jerusalem normally had a population of about 50,000, but, much like the famous rally in Sturgis, South Dakota, each year as pilgrims flocked to Jerusalem to commemorate the ancient Passover feast, for one week the population swelled five times to over 250,000.  As the Lord tells Moses in this evening’s Old Testament Reading, “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.”  

When we first moved to South Dakota we made the mistake of thinking we might vacation in the Black Hills the first week of August.  When I checked on the Internet I couldn’t figure out why every single hotel room for a hundred miles was already booked months in advance.  That’s how it was in Jerusalem during Passover week.  The wealthy found accommodations inside the walled city, but hundreds of thousands camped on the hillsides all around Jerusalem.  Tradition dictated that all these pilgrims had to eat the Passover meal at least within sight of Jerusalem, preferably within walls of the holy city.  So, like Sturgis during rally week, every square inch was jammed, and every room was taken long ago.

So, there is a note of perplexity, even panic, when on the afternoon of Maundy Thursday Jesus tells the disciples “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover” and they reply, “Where do you want us to prepare for it?”  “Are you crazy, Jesus?  What do you mean, ‘Go and make preparations for the Passover’?  Don’t you know that every room is taken?  We’ll never find a place now!  You should have planned better and made reservations for us a long time ago.”

But, in a minor miracle, Jesus demonstrates his divine omniscience and his omnipotence.  Omniscience means that Jesus knows everything, as the disciples told him a few hours later at the Last Supper, “Now we can see that you know all things. . .  This makes us believe that you came from God.”  “Jesus sent Peter and John, saying. . . ‘As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters.’”  No one else could have possibly found an empty room in Jerusalem that night, but by this minor miracle of divine omniscience Jesus knows exactly where to send his disciples.

Omnipotence means Jesus is all-powerful, as he declared, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”  “Say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’  He will show you a large upper room, all furnished. . . They left and found things just as Jesus had told them.”  The disciples were panicking, but Jesus had it all taken care of.  By this minor miracle of divine omnipotence he had arranged for everything to be ready in the Upper Room for them to eat the Passover.

That is the minor miracle of Maundy Thursday, Jesus miraculously directing the disciples to the Upper Room for the Last Supper.  The major miracle of Maundy Thursday is our Lord’s institution of the Sacrament of Holy Communion: “Take, eat; this is my body. . .  Drink of it, all of you; this is my blood.”

Our Lord does not call upon his followers to explain this miracle, but in simple faith to believe it, to receive this gift, and to accept his promise, “This is my body. . .  this is my blood.”  The Formula of Concord of the Lutheran Church puts it this way: “We believe, teach, and confess that with the bread and wine the body and blood of Christ are received . . .  the words of Christ teach this clearly . . .  in accord with the simple words of Christ’s testament, we hold and believe in a true, though supernatural, eating of Christ’s body and drinking of his blood, which we cannot comprehend with our human sense or reason. Here we take our intellect captive in obedience to Christ . . . and accept this mystery . . . by faith . . . as it is revealed in the Word.”

That is the major miracle of Maundy Thursday, the institution of the Sacrament of Holy Communion.  And with his command, “This do in remembrance of me,” Jesus establishes also for us the ongoing miracle of Maundy Thursday.  St. Paul puts it this way in this evening’s Epistle Reading:  “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? . . . For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”  The ongoing miracle of Maundy Thursday is that until the Lord comes, whenever his followers eat this bread and drink this cup according to his command, we receive from him his very body and blood, for the forgiveness of sins.

Martin Luther explains the benefits and blessings of this ongoing miracle in the Large Catechism: “[Christ says,] ‘This is my body and blood, given and poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins,’ which means that we go to the sacrament because there we receive a great treasure . . . the forgiveness of sins. . .  Therefore, it is appropriately called the food of the soul . . . There are so many hindrances and temptations of the devil and the world that we often grow weary and faint, at times even stumble. The Lord’s Supper is given as a daily food and sustenance so that our faith may refresh and strengthen itself and not weaken in the struggle. . .  In this sacrament [Christ] offers us all the treasure he brought from heaven for us, to which he most graciously invites us . . . when he says . . .  ‘Come unto me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.’ . . .  If you are heavy-laden and feel your weakness, go joyfully to the sacrament and receive refreshment, comfort, and strength.”

On Maundy Thursday we remember a minor miracle, Jesus miraculously directing the disciples to the Upper Room for the Last Supper; a major miracle, the institution of the Sacrament of Holy Communion; and tonight we celebrate an ongoing miracle, for whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup you receive your Lord’s body and blood, in, with, and under the bread and wine, for the forgiveness of sins, to strengthen you in the true faith until life everlasting.

Amen.

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