O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
The Lamb of God Who Has Mercy on Us
The Lamb of God Who Has Mercy on Us
Based on Exodus 12:1-7 and 1 Corinthians 5:7b.
--> Preached on April 13, 2017
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The text for the sermon this evening is the Old Testament lesson about the Passover in Egypt - And this one verse from the New Testament that St. Paul writes in 1 Cor. 5: Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world – have mercy on us. Not exactly a household word, that word mercy. It sounds a little outlandish in everyday speech, as in "mercy me!"...something your old-fashioned eccentric aunt used to say. But as words go, it gets very little airtime outside of the church. Of course, we use it all the time. "Lord, have mercy on us," we pray in the church's liturgy, echoing the blind men who sought their sight. We too, seek spiritual healing and recovery, but our blindness is a matter of the heart, clouded and scarred as it is by sin. Yet in that very cry for mercy at the beginning of the service, we acknowledge that we are waiting to welcome One who is capable of addressing our deepest inmost need. Mercy: the tender loving kindness of God who comes among us to dispense His healing and life.
Tonight, you've come to the right place to welcome Jesus, as He comes to dispense His gifts by Word and Sacrament. You've come to the right place to receive His mercy, since He has plenty of it to give, and He gives it to His beloved church in an exceptional way this holy night. Tonight we commemorate that night Christ founded the Sacrament of the Altar, in which He feeds us with His Body broken and gives us His Blood outpoured to drink.
This, then, is the night of our deliverance – as the Israelites had their night of deliverance. This is the beginning of our three-day journey with Jesus from His arrest in the garden, to Pilate's judgment hall, then out to the place of the Skull, through His cross and death to His glorious resurrection. Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, Easter Morning. It sounds like four days, but by biblical reckoning it's only three: for the Bible begins each new day at the setting of the sun. Anything that happens after sundown is part of the next day. By this calculation, then, it's a three-day journey that we commence this Maundy Thursday evening. And it all started with a meal.
We've heard the words so often we can almost recite them in our sleep: "Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night when He was betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it to give it to His disciples, and said: 'Take, eat, this is my Body which is given for you.
In a few minutes we will once again approach the altar, there to bend the knee and receive with our mouths the very Bread from Heaven. Under this bread we break and the cup we bless we will eat and drink the flesh and blood of Jesus. And when we do, we will follow His last will and testament: "Do this, as often as you eat it, in remembrance of me." In this Sacrament, the Lamb of God has left us a memorial of His mercy.
But this memorial is different, isn’t it? Different than every other. Visit the great battlefields of the world, and you will often find there elaborate monuments to celebrate the valor and yes, the sacrifice of the soldiers who died. But these are all memorials to the dead. Not so our Lord’s memorial. The Lord Jesus is the Lamb who once was slain but now is alive forever. And the memorial He instituted is not a monument, but a meal. In this eating and drinking we actively recall, recite, and rehearse His saving mercy. You actually participate in this memorial meal – and so does He.
"What good is that?" we ask. "Give me something I can use, Jesus. I could use some pointers on how to get along in this world; I could use some advice on how to be happy and successful; I could use some instructions on how to find my way through a lot of confusion and turmoil, since my life has become a mess. But mercy? What good is that?"
You see, that's our problem right there. God sends us His gifts and we keep trying to mark them "return to sender," - or take them back ourselves and exchange them for something we like better.
But dear ones, there's nothing better than mercy. It's in His mercy that God opens up His heart to the world, sending forth the pure and holy Lamb of God to be slaughtered in our place — that's mercy in action - that you and I do not receive the penalty we deserve, but that God's own Son took it upon Himself instead. (slow) That substitutionary gift of Jesus and His death is at the heart of the New Testament meal, the Sacrament of the Altar, the remembrance of God's mercy to end all other remembrances.
This isn’t the first memorial meal, is it? The night that Jesus was betrayed He had gathered there in that upper room with His disciples to commemorate something: The exodus of God's people Israel from their slavery under Pharaoh. It was the LORD'S Passover. In our text we heard how God had given elaborate instructions to His people for the preparation of this feast. The entrée was lamb, and that not any ordinary lamb, but a lamb without blemish or defect.
Every time they ate that meal, they ate it in remembrance of the LORD and His mercy. It was a meal full of hope and promise, but hope and promise under the very threat of death. That first night in Egypt when God set His people free, it was in the midst of imminent danger. For the angel of death was there - passing over the houses; in every household in Egypt the firstborn of man and beast would die, except where the blood of a sacrificial lamb marked the door. At those houses the deadly plague passed over, sparing all within.
On the night of their deliverance, God's people Israel ate that first Passover with mixed emotions: with gratitude and joy, to be sure, but tinged with dread — for just overhead the angel of death was passing by. Imagine a banquet given in your honor but with live ammunition whizzing over your head while you eat. These people got it. They knew they had received mercy. They had been miraculously delivered from sure and certain death.
So it is with us. For Christ, our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed. And His blood has been spread upon the wooden doorpost of the cross. Shielding all of mankind. He, too, was a Lamb without blemish or defect. He had no sins of His own, but borrowed ours so that He could die to bring down the ancient curse of death and to end the Father's wrath against all sin and every sinner. He stepped in - to rescue us from slavery to Sin and Death. Slaughtered at twilight – as when darkness came over the land in the middle of the day. And just as God’s people huddled in their homes eating the lamb – we eat this Lamb’s flesh and drink His blood for the forgiveness of sins and the salvation of our souls.
And so at the Lord's Table this night you and I are given yet again a front row seat in the great drama that won our salvation. The old song "Were you there when they crucified my Lord?" is a sweet thought, but the plain fact is that you and I weren't there. But tonight the cross comes to us. While we cannot go to Jesus, He comes to us. First at our baptism and now repeatedly in this holy Supper, the Lamb who shed His blood that we might live says to us: "Take, drink — this cup is the new testament in my blood which was shed for you for the remission of your sins." In this sacred memorial meal, He does more than ask us to remember Him. He Himself actively recalls and gives us once again the fruits of His love and all the benefits of His saving death as He says to us: "Take, eat, This is my Body which was given for you."
Those two little words, "for you" are your confidence and consolation in this hour. For God's love is no shadowy abstraction, some sort of warm fuzzy feeling. No – it is concrete reality. This is for you. Now is overcome sin, death, and hell, since Christ, our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed for us. Now we may know for certain that we are not alone in this world, that all the burdens and sorrows of life which threaten to overwhelm us can never rob us of the love of God in Christ our Lord.
His love is big enough. It is big enough to include the whole sorrowing, hurting world, but it is exact enough – “for you” enough” - to address each and every one of us personally and individually. God's love is not a general "to whom it may concern" message, some sort of vague "have a nice day" bulk mail flyer or electronic spam memo, but in this supper His love has your own name on it.
In this supper the Lord of heaven and earth hands you His love on a platter. He doesn't give you just a symbol or emblem of His love, but the true substance of His love, the very flesh once offered on the cross, the Lamb without blemish or spot who freely laid down His life so that you might live. His is a love you can sink your teeth into in this Supper. His blood, which cleanses you from all sin, He gives you to drink in His cup of salvation.
Mercy. That's what we need, and that's what the Lamb of God brings us now in His banquet of our salvation which He spreads before us and which we eat in His remembrance. For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes.
So take heart this night. Death and destruction may loom and lurk on every side, but everything that troubles you and all that robs you of your joy is eclipsed tonight in this banquet feast of love. Heaven intersects with earth at this altar and in this eating and drinking we have a foretaste of the feast to come, the wedding banquet the Lamb and His beloved bride. "Surely, I am coming quickly," He says.
"Amen, Lord Jesus," we reply. "Quickly come." Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world. Have mercy on us. ...In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr