St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

A New Covenant Replaces The Old

Maundy Thursday Sermon on Luke 22:7-20

Text: Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. 8 Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.”
9 “Where do you want us to prepare for it?” they asked.
10 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, 11 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?’ 12 He will show you a large room upstairs, all furnished. Make preparations there.”
13 They left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.
14 When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. 15 And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”
17 After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. 18 For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”
19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”

There were three festivals that brought the Jewish people to Jerusalem. They were the Festival of Weeks or Pentecost, the Festival of Tabernacles, and the Passover. The people that sang Jesus’ praises as he entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday were on their way to celebrate the Passover. As Jesus gathered with his disciples on Maundy Thursday evening, they celebrated the Passover according to the traditions of the day. That evening served to bridge from one covenant to another. This evening, as we observe the events in the upper room, we see that A NEW COVENANT REPLACES THE OLD: 1. The Lamb That Was Offered, 2. The Deliverance That Was Promised, and 3. The Meal That Was Celebrated.

Our text begins with events that took place earlier on that Thursday. “Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed.” (Verse 7) It was customary to take the lamb that had been selected to the temple to be slaughtered. Its blood was offered in the temple and then the lamb would be taken home to be prepared for that evening’s meal. The lamb was an especially important part of the Passover observance. It reminded the people of the first Passover, that is recorded for us in Exodus 12. God had sent nine plagues on the Egyptians, so that they would let the people of Israel go. Despite the hardships brought upon the people, Pharaoh refused to let them go. God told the people that he was gong to send one more plague. In this plague, God would go throughout the land of Egypt and strike down the firstborn male in every household. To mark his people, God told them, “Go at once and select the animals for your families and slaughter the Passover lamb. Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it into the blood in the basin and put some of the blood on the top and on both sides of the doorframe. None of you shall go out of the door of your house until morning. When the LORD goes through the land to strike down the Egyptians, he will see the blood on the top and sides of the doorframe and will pass over that doorway, and he will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down.” (Exodus 12:21-23) God also gave instructions about the lamb that was to be chosen, “The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect.” (Exodus 12:5) On the night of the first Passover, the angel of the LORD went throughout Egypt, carrying out this death sentence. However, he passed over the houses when the blood of the lamb was put on the doorframes. The blood of the lamb saved God’s people.

The theme of this year’s Lenten meditations has been “A Lamb goes uncomplaining forth.” The Passover lamb is a wonderful picture of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. Just like the Passover lamb, Jesus was perfect. During his trials before the Jewish Sanhedrin and Pontius Pilate, many charges would be brought against Jesus. However, Jesus was not convicted of any of them, because he was innocent. He wasn’t just innocent of any of those trumped-up charges; he was completely innocent. He was innocent because he had not committed a single sin during his lifetime. He was the sinless Lamb of God, whose perfect blood would save all people. Just as the blood on the doorframes of the Israelite houses saved the people who were dwelling there, Jesus’ blood that he shed on the cross has saved us. His blood has washed away all sin. We do not need to fear death, whether physical or eternal, because the innocent Lamb of God was sacrificed for us.

God gave special instructions to the people of Israel as they ate the first Passover: “This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover.” (Exodus 12:11) They were to eat this meal, because, before the night was through, they would be set free from their land of slavery. They were to be ready to go at a moment’s notice. Though they weren’t free yet, they ate the Passover in anticipation of the deliverance that God promised them.

As Jesus ate the Passover meal with his disciples, he refers to a future event. In verse 16, as he was eating the meal, he said, “For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” Later, as he passes the cup of the Passover, Jesus said, “For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” (Verse 18) Jesus points ahead to a future time when he would celebrate with his followers in the kingdom of God, namely, heaven.

The Passover commemorated the deliverance from slavery in Egypt. We have a greater deliverance waiting for us. We will be set free from all that makes life so difficult here on this earth. We know how tiring life can be. There are so many things that weigh us down. There are troubles and heartaches. There is sickness that can ravage the body. We have so many tasks that seem to be like cruel slave masters, hounding us at every turn, never giving us any rest. Just as the people of Israel, we cry out to the Lord for deliverance. How thankful we are that, through this new covenant, we have an assured deliverance. We will be set free from all those things that weigh us down, that frighten us, that sadden us. We eat the meal that is placed before us in eager anticipation of our deliverance in heaven. The people of Israel were looking forward to going to the Promised Land. God promised in Exodus 3:8, “I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey.” As wonderful as the Promised Land was, it will never compare to the place where our Lord will take us as we are delivered from this earth. The apostle John wrote in Revelation 21:3-4, “I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Israel’s deliverance didn’t last forever. They would be enslaved throughout their history. The deliverance that God promises us will never end.

There were special foods that were put on the Passover table. Of course, there was the lamb, reminding the eaters of the lamb of the first Passover. There were bitter herbs that were eaten to remind the people of the bitter suffering that they endured at the hands of their Egyptian masters. There was unleavened bread, or bread made without yeast, just as the original Passover celebrants would have eaten, because they were to eat in haste, not waiting for bread to rise. There was a sauce made with apples, nuts, cinnamon, and wine that symbolized the mortar for the bricks that the Israelites were forced to make. It may have been that this was what was in the bowl that Jesus dipped the bread into and gave to Judas. There was wine that symbolized freedom. All of these foods were to serve as teaching tools. Moses told the people, “When you enter the land that the Lord will give you as he promised, observe this ceremony. And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.’” (Exodus 12:25-27) All of the foods on the Passover table had rich symbolism to pass down to the generations to come.

Jesus used the occasion of the Passover meal to give a new meal to his disciples, that was to be handed down to generations to come. Jesus told his disciples, “Do this in remembrance of me.” (Verse 19) Every time that this meal is observed, the recipients were to think of what Jesus has done for them. They were to think of his life, death, and resurrection. However, the food that is offered is more than just a symbolic telling of Jesus’ love. As Jesus gave the bread, he said, “This is my body given for you.” (Verse 19) When he gave them the cup of wine, Jesus said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” (Verse 20) Note the word “is.” The word is not “represents,” but “is.” As his disciples of then and now partake of this meal, which we call the Lord’s Supper, they are not just receiving a symbol in the bread and wine that makes them think about Jesus’ suffering and death. When we partake of the Lord’s Supper, we are actually receiving Christ’s body and blood together with the bread and wine. The food on the Passover table was there to serve as a reminder. It did no more than that. The meal that we receive from our Savior’s hand accomplishes a miraculous thing. Jesus said in Matthew 26:28, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” The Lord’s Supper doesn’t just symbolize what Christ has done for us. In it we receive the blessings of what he has done for us. As we eat the bread and drink the wine, our sins are actually forgiven. As we receive this meal, Jesus comes to each one of us, individually and tells us that we are forgiven. We thank our loving Savior for having given us this wonderful meal.

As Jesus gathered with his disciples that Maundy Thursday evening to celebrate the Passover, he told them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” (Verse 15) Jesus was looking forward to this meal to celebrate this momentous occasion in Israel’s history. He was also eager to give his disciples a new meal that would celebrate the culmination of his rescuing work. Jesus comes to you and me this evening as we prepare to receive his body and blood with the bread and wine and says essentially the same thing. I have eagerly desired to give you this meal. Take and eat. Take and drink. Receive the blessings that I want to give you. We thank our Lord for the new covenant. The old covenant, the Passover meal, had great historical significance. It recalled the great deliverance God worked for his people Israel. In this new covenant, which Jesus offers in his Supper, we receive a greater deliverance, the forgiveness of sins. Come to your Lord’s table. Your loving Savior greatly desires your presence. Amen.