Maundy Thursday is a very Lutheran day; it's all about the gifts of Christ given to you through Word and Sacrament. In the Old Testament lesson (Exodus 12), we hear of the Passover of the Israelites in Egypt. "Now 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; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the Land of Egypt" (12:13). In the Epistle (1 Cor. 11), we receive the Words of Institution as delivered by Paul. We get to the "Maundy" (from "mandate," "command") of Maundy Thursday in the Gospel lesson (John 13). After Christ washes the disciples' feet, He gives them the "new command" to love one another.
The blood on the doorposts in Egypt marked the houses that God would spare from the plague. The body and blood of Christ is given and shed for you on the cross that you would be spared from the wrath of God. You are given a different kind of sign. The sign of the holy cross on your forehead and on your heart that marks you as one redeemed by Christ the crucified.
The very body and blood of Christ - given and shed for you on the cross - is delivered to you in the Sacrament of the Altar. The words of Christ show that the body and blood are truly given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. In Luther's Small Catechism, "given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins" becomes the refrain of the sixth chief part. These words of Christ mean that there can be no doubt that these gracious gifts of forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given to you.
At the Feast of the Passover Jesus washes his disciples' feet. Peter reacts in a way that many of us also would, by protesting Jesus doing the work of a servant. When Jesus tells him that Peter has no part with Him unless He washes him, Peter's mood changes quickly and he wants his head and hands washed. Peter had already been washed as you have been washed in Baptism. We are dipped back into that water as we are daily drown in Baptism and as we receive absolution.
Later on in John 13, the Lord gives the New Command to disciples -- that they love one another. Love flows from Jesus. It is given to you in Word and Sacrament. You love your neighbor in Baptism. Daily the Old Adam is drowned with all sins and evil desires and a new man arises. A new man that can't help but love his neighbor. Love extends from Baptism as you absolve your neighbor and forgive him when they sin against you. As we pray multiple times a day in the Lord's Prayer, "And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us," we are reminded that we are constantly in need of forgiveness for our sin. In His mercy, Christ takes the punishment for the sin upon Himself and in His grace grants us forgiveness. We too can then forgive our neighbor and do good to them.
Maundy Thursday is all about the gracious gifts of God given to you in Word and Sacrament. Outside of the word, outside of Baptism and absolution, outside of the Sacrament of the Altar that grace won for you on the cross is never delivered to you. That is where the Lord has promised to be for you. And that's where you find Him on Maundy Thursday -- the same place that He is the rest of the Church year. The gracious gifts of God are delivered to you in the read and proclaimed Word. Forgiveness of sins is found in the water and Word at the font. As the sixth chief part's refrain says, the body and blood of Christ, under the bread and the wine, is "given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins." And where there is forgiveness of sins there also is life and salvation.
Jonathan Kohlmeier is a member at St. Paul's Lutheran Chapel and University Center in Iowa City, Iowa. He is also Webmaster for Higher Things. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Created: March 24th, 2016