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Maundy Thursday, 03/24/2016

Sermon on Exodus 12:1-14, by Samuel D. Zumwalt

Exodus 12:1-14 © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers


12 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt,“This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you. Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers' houses, a lamb for a household. And if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his nearest neighbor shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats,and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight.“Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted, its head with its legs and its inner parts. 10 And you shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. 11 In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord's Passover. 12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. 13 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 no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt. 14 “This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast.




            Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

            We have come to the Triduum, the three days unlike any other at the end of this week unlike any other. These are the days in which we remember by participating in the great mystery of our Christian faith: the passion, death, and resurrection of God’s incarnate Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Following the Old Testament pattern established in Genesis 1:5 (“there was evening and morning, the first day”), the Triduum properly begins at sundown on Maundy Thursday. Thus, the three days are actually Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Answering a common query, the Bible does not teach Jesus was in the tomb 72 hours. He was in the tomb either part or all of each day.

            We have assembled for many actions in today’s liturgy including a corporate confession of sins, individual absolution, the washing of feet, and, at the end of tonight’s liturgy, the stripping of the altar. Primarily on this day, we celebrate the institution of the Lord’s Supper. St. Paul, the earliest New Testament writer to record the words of institution, states he received the words directly from the Risen Lord (1 Corinthians 11). He scolds the Corinthians for selfish practices which make a mockery of the Lord’s Supper. Matthew, Mark, and Luke also include these words in their books as they describe Jesus’celebration of the Passover meal. John’s gospel, having recorded a lengthy discourse on Jesus the Bread of Life, does not include the words of institution in his extensive account of the Last Supper, which is not the Passover but a meal the night before Passover. Earlier in John 1:29, John the Baptist had described Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. After the death of Jesus, John 19:31 reports Jesus was actually killed on the day of Preparation when the Passover lambs were being slain.

            It is important and commendable that we assemble each of these 3 days, walking with our Lord Jesus, true God and true man, through His rejection and abandonment, His suffering and crucifixion, His death and burial, and finally His rising from the dead, because we are not merely recalling these things in the way we recall the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4th. We are participating in this holy mystery which Christ our Lord has chosen to undergo for us and our salvation! When we speak and sing of the (agape) love of God in these days, we are speaking of Jesus’ conscious choice, an act of will, and not about His being driven by emotions.

            Yes, our Lord felt deeply the emotions associated with all that He suffered. He is truly human and truly God, but the love that drove Him to do these things was not about feelings. And, yes, our participating in these three days is indeed often quite emotional for us as we find ourselves moved to tears and even sorrowful for our sins which the Lord bore in His own body on the cross. The familiar words and actions of these days touch us deeply and, after fully participating in these days, lead us to profound joy rather than the kind of general, seasonal happiness of those who merely gather for the rites of spring in new clothes on Easter Sunday. But our remembering – our participating – is a call to follow Jesus in humble service unto death.

            Agape is not sympathy for those who are worse off than we. Agape is not affirming those who have massive needs for the world’s approval and adoration, the kind of narcissism typical of candidates for public office, of the glitterati of the entertainment industry, and of those whose self-image is built upon being victims for life. Agape is defined by whom Jesus is and what He does – namely His kenosis (self-emptying) and His utter devotion to His Father’s good and gracious will to redeem the world from bondage to that unholy trio of sin, death, and devil.

            How do we remember? This day we are remembering by participating in the Meal where the Lord Jesus promises to abide with us as the Friend of sinners. We do not merely recall that He is the Passover Lamb without blemish who died once upon a cross on a Friday afternoon. We are actually participating in His death into which we were baptized, participating in His death by which the Lamb of God actually takes our sins upon Himself through an act of sheer unshakeable will. We are actually receiving Jesus, the medicine of immortality, and participating in the eternal life and love that the one true God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) share. We have Jesus’ blessed assurance that our pending and indefinite death date cannot ever separate us from the Holy Trinity’s eternal life and love!

            Baptized into Jesus’ death and resurrection, we are washed in the Blood of the Lamb. Yes, His Blood has been spread over the doorpost of our lives in Baptism, so that when the Lord of death comes as He must to all people everywhere because of our sin, He will pass over those marked with and clinging to His holy cross. And we shall surely live eternally with Him even when these mortal bodies have drawn their last mortal breath and turned to dust and ash.

            This day we are not eating the Passover. We are eating and drinking the true Body and most precious Blood of Christ our Passover Lamb. Like Israel who had been enslaved in Egypt, we, who are born in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves, will eat this meal in haste. Unlike them, our rescue will not be from a pharaoh who thought himself a god but rather from the lies of a fallen angel who furiously rages because he can never be God and can never submit to God!

            The Lord God is not accompanying us in the way He once accompanied Israel through the wilderness of this world: a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. No, hastily filled with Christ’s true Body and most precious Blood, we go, not as we will to go, but instead we go with our Lord who has re-membered, re-joined, and re-connected us to Himself in this Holy Meal. Now we will go to be Christ’s Body in the world, called to be His, guided and directed by Christ our Head, seeking to do His Father’s good and gracious will and not our own! Yes, we eat in haste today, because we have feet to wash, a conscious choice to give our lives away with Jesus even unto death. And we must go, hastily driven by the Holy Spirit, who in Word and Sacraments will continue to call, gather, enlighten, sanctify, and keep us united with Jesus Christ in the one true faith throughout this life. And on the last day, He will indeed raise us and all the dead and give to us and all believers in Christ imperishable bodies filled with the real life of the Triune God that goes on forever. This is most certainly true!


            In the name of the Father, and of the +Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Pastor Samuel D. Zumwalt
Wilmington, North Carolina USA
E-Mail: szumwalt@bellsouth.net