Holy Thursday Worship

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Watch the livestream beginning at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday. After the livestream is finished, the video will be available to watch at any time.

First Lesson: Exodus 12:21-30 (NIV)
Second Lesson:  1 Corinthians 10:16-17 (NIV)

Gospel: Luke 22:7-20  (NIV)


  • Hymn: CW 416 “When You Woke That Thursday Morning”
  • Psalm 116 A “I Will Lift Up the Cup of Salvation”
  • Hymn: CW 667 “Lord Jesus Christ, You Have Prepared”
  • Hymn: CW 670 “I Come, O Savior, To Your Table”

Maundy Thursday              March 28, 2024
Luke 22:7-20                      Pastor Wolfe

God on Trial: We find a moment of respite

Dear disciples of Christ. Outside the walls of an upper room in Jerusalem, the enemies of Jesus are getting ready. The chief priests and teachers of the law have wanted him dead for a long time. Their desire has grown even as Jesus’ popularity has grown. His triumphal entry into Jerusalem has added urgency to their scheming, but they haven’t been able to do anything because of all the people around him during the Passover Festival. But now they have Judas on the take, and their opportunity could come at any moment. Somewhere out there in the city, they lurk and conspire.

Soon it will all come to a head: their plot—and God’s plan. The next 24 hours will be a whirlwind—the arrest in Gethsemane; the trials before Annas and Caiaphas, Pilate, Herod, and Pilate again; the crucifixion and death on Calvary; the burial in the tomb.

But not yet. Not here. For a few hours in this second-floor room, it’s just Jesus and his disciples. How he has longed for this moment!

This time with his disciples is precious to him. As their brother in the flesh, Jesus loves to be among his Father’s family. During his ministry, he often looked for time alone with his disciples. Later this Thursday evening, when Jesus prays in anguish in the garden, he’ll bring three disciples along and insist that they watch and pray with him—and he’ll be disappointed when they can’t. No, outside this upper room his enemies lie in wait, but inside Jesus is with his disciples.

It’s more than that, of course. Jesus and his disciples are not just hanging out. They’ve gathered to celebrate the Passover—to remember the night the Lord rescued the Israelites from Egypt. You might know the story: The Lord commanded his people to celebrate a special meal: to slaughter a young lamb without defect; to roast and eat it; and to brush its blood on their doorframes. That night when destruction came to the firstborn of every house in Egypt—death to people and animals—the Lord passed over the houses of the Israelites. Protected by that blood and gathered around that special meal, God’s people were safe in their homes—and the Lord led them out of slavery.

Every year, God’s faithful people—Jesus and his disciples included—celebrated that meal. It was a chance not only to remember what God did for his people in the past but also to look ahead. That flawless lamb was a picture of the perfect Lamb of God, the Christ, who would be sacrificed for his people, whose blood would protect them from God’s wrath, and who would give them freedom from their slavery to sin and death. This meal had been celebrated every year for over a thousand years. But this Passover was special, for now the true Passover Lamb of God was there in the flesh to celebrate with them!

Even so, we haven’t hit on the best part of this evening. What Jesus does with his disciples isn’t a new twist on an old tradition; it’s the introduction of something never seen before. On this night for the first time, Jesus gives to his people his real body and blood, the very things he’ll give in death the next day. On this night, he gives a down payment on the new covenant, the new contract, God will make with sinners – a promise of forgiveness through faith – sealed with Jesus’ blood just as the old covenant with Moses was sealed with the blood of a bull. In this room, Jesus institutes a meal that will be celebrated not just every year but every week and more for the next two thousand years and counting. In this meal, he gives his disciples something to strengthen them for the dreadful events they’re about to experience and the work they’ll carry out the rest of their lives. No wonder Jesus has been eagerly desiring to eat this meal with his disciples before he suffers!

Yet even as Jesus has been looking forward to this moment, he is also looking beyond it. He tells his disciples he will not eat this meal again “until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” He adds that he “will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” The kingdom of God is the rule of God in and with his people—in grace in our hearts now and in glory forever. The Old Testament prophets and Jesus himself spoke of the relationship between God and the people of his kingdom as a meal, a feast. This restored, reconciled communion is made possible by Jesus’ life and death. It culminates in what the Bible describes as a heavenly banquet, an eternal feast of joy and peace where no enemies will be found, just God and his people forever. How we long to take our places at that table!

Right now, though—for now—enemies are everywhere around us too. Outside the walls, plotting and accusing. We’ve talked all these weeks about how people put God and his people on trial. They stand in judgment over God’s good gifts. They ridicule the words God has given and conspire to prevent those words from influencing our culture or our children. They judge us to be out of touch and are happy to exclude us, or they do all they can to include us in their sin. But worst of all is our archenemy, the devil, with his evil allies – always prowling and crouching around every corner, ready to pounce. All around us, hostile forces lurk and conspire.

Which is why it’s so good for us to be in this room, in God’s house, with God’s people!

Not that we don’t bring sin in here with us. Those doors aren’t some kind of airlock that keeps spiritual contaminants out. Where there are sinners, there is sin. Sin was in that upper room too in the hearts of the twelve men who dined with Jesus, including one who would betray him. We drag our guilt in here with us for all the times we’ve been easy prey for our greatest enemy. We carry in our doubts and fears.

Which is why we need to be here all the more! In this room, Jesus gathers us together to assure us that his blood covers our sins and shields us from God’s anger. He reminds us that the kingdom belongs to him—that he has perfect control over all events and power over all enemies. When you hear God’s Word in this room, Jesus is speaking to your hearts just as if he were sitting across the table from you.

But Jesus doesn’t just speak across the table; he invites you to the table. Here he gives you the very body that he took on when he came into this world, the body in which he served his Father perfectly, the body he gave into death on the cross. He gives you the blood he shed, the blood that established a new covenant. This isn’t like the two-sided covenant the Lord made with the Israelites at Mount Sinai, sealed with the blood of bulls. That was a contract that the people broke. This is an unbreakable pact, a promise of forgiveness through faith, sealed with the blood of the Lamb of God. And every time we commune Jesus signs that contract again with his own blood of assurance, saying once again, “Yes, you ARE forgiven.”

Tonight, Jesus gives you this invitation: “Come with me to a quiet room. Come, recline at my table. Let’s celebrate a special meal together. There’s nothing you need to do. The food is ready. The drink is prepared. It’s my body, my blood. Let me serve you. Let me strengthen you for the struggle of tomorrow.” So let our enemies rage all around; here, in this moment, at this table, it’s just you and Jesus.

Of course, it’s not just you individually but all of you, all of us, together. Here we also enjoy communion with one another. As Jesus gathers us to himself, he gathers us together in one body. To your right and your left, here at Jesus’ Table, are your brothers and sisters, who are fighting alongside you, facing the same enemies, needing the same divine strength, and receiving the same forgiveness. If the perfect Son of God in the flesh valued fellowship with his people, how much more do we treasure it!

For weeks we’ve imagined God on trial. If this life is like a courtroom where the world puts God and his people on trial, think of this Supper as a recess, a respite. Jesus ushers us into a quiet room where there are no accusations, no prosecutors, no hostile witnesses—only faithful supporters and the promise of victory in the end. This is the blessing of Holy Communion. How eagerly we desire to eat this meal! Here we find peace. Here we stand in the presence of God. Here we are surrounded by his people. Here at the table, we find a moment of rest. A bit of heaven, right here at God’s Table. Amen.

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