Download or listen to Holy/Maundy Thursday: “Prepared” (Mark 14:12-26)
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Now everything is prepared. The plot. The Passover meal. The Lamb. The Sacrifice.
The leaders of Israel were preparing—plotting, really. They had their man within the circle of Jesus’ disciples; they were trying to figure out a way to kill Him without causing an uproar at the Feast of the Passover. And Judas was prepared to betray Him away from the crowds. Sin against God always tries to hide itself under the cover of secrecy and darkness. The plot is prepared.
Jesus’ disciples were preparing: “Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?” they ask Jesus. “You will follow a man with a water jar and he will show you a large, furnished upper room; prepare for us there.” And they went, and they prepared the Passover. Now the lamb, and the wine, and the unleavened bread, and the bitter herbs are prepared, to remember the salvation of God from ancient Egyptian armies—but to remember, knowing that that God is the same God who would one day deliver His people from slavery to themselves and their own sin. The Passover is prepared.
And what have we prepared? What have you prepared? What has Lent prepared in you? How quickly it goes by! We barely have time to wipe the ashes from our foreheads before we are here at the holy Three Days. Has Lent caused in us a renewed repentance? A renewed confession? A renewed faith? Have we even looked for such things? Or have we looked on it a some sort of abstraction; or, worse, a distraction? Something to bring us down when we feel too good? Has it caused us to prepare for the Holy Supper, which we celebrate tonight, on the night He was betrayed? “Fasting and bodily preparation are indeed fine, outward training. But that person is truly worthy and well prepared who has faith in these words: ‘Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins’” (Small Catechism, VI, Sacrament of the Altar). The Christian life, summed up in the motion to and from the Supper, is all about the preparation that the Holy Spirit works in you by the Word of truth rightly divided.
But how often we find ourselves unprepared, as if this was a test, and we had not studied; as if on trial and caught in a lie; as if shown, once for all, to be nothing by hypocrites and liars. I speak of myself, whom I know better than anyone else. You must speak of yourself. But our preparation, or the lack thereof, is not the only preparation going on. Just as the preparation of Judas and the disciples was not the only preparation going on that first day of the feast of the Passover. Nor was the plot of the chief priests the only plot. God Himself had prepared a Feast, a Sacrifice, a Lamb, and a Passover. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit had prepared a plot. Conspire means to breathe together, and there never was a conspiracy like that of the Trinity for your salvation. It required preparation from the foundation of the world, in the hidden will of the eternal God. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who…chose us in him before the foundation of the world…” (Ephesians 1:3, 4). That preparation involved a genealogy made up only of sinners, of liars and murderers and prostitutes and adulterers and hypocrites. It was a conspiracy thousands of years in the making, and there were prophets, and priests; sinners and sacrifices; fasts and feasts, all preparing the way and pointing to the fulfillment of every hope, every desire, every longing of every human heart which had been stirred by the promise.
And so, on that first night of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the preparation for the final Passover of God had been finished. The only thing left was to sacrifice the Lamb. And now, tonight, it has come to this for us, this participation in the preparation of God to show mercy to you. A meal. Unleavened bread. Wine. And the Lamb, sacrificed and shared among the ransomed people of God, body and blood hidden now behind bread and wine, but truly there nonetheless. He is still giving His Body, still pouring out His Blood for the life of the world, not on the cross, but from millions of altars around the world where His words are spoken. He has prepared this for you, for all who believe that this bread is the body given and in this cup is the blood shed on the cross. By this He keeps you in the New Covenant. By this He prepares you for life and for death and for the resurrection of your body and the life everlasting. For you, He took flesh; for you He was betrayed; for you He was crucified. And because you eat this Lamb and drink His blood, you are marked forever. God sees the blood of His Son on the doors of your heart and mouth. Death passes over, and you have a Promised Land that awaits you on the other side of this wilderness.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV). Amen.
– Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 4/4/12