Sermon for Maundy Thursday 2022 “This is the New Covenant”

*“This Is the **New** Covenant”*

Luke 22:1–46 (22:7-20)

*Sermon Outline*

What Began as Just Another Passover Meal Would Become the Lord’s Supper,
the Fulfill­ment of the Passover.

I. Judas was at the “last Passover,” the first Lord’s Supper, but later
he wouldn’t be given the forgiveness of sins.

II. The Passion Narratives are read within the liturgy, not merely as a
reenactment of the Passover.

III. For as the fulfillment of the Paschal Meal, the Lord’s Sup­per isn’t
acting, but truly gives forgiveness.


“Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called the Passover”
(v 1).

So begins St. Luke’s account of the Passion of our Lord. As the Passover
was drawing near, the chief priests and scribes were preparing to kill
Jesus, the Twelve were preparing to kill the Paschal lamb, Satan was
preparing Judas, and Judas was preparing to betray Jesus. And they all
succeeded. The chief priests and scribes, Satan, and Judas succeeded in
killing Jesus, killing God. The Twelve succeeded in a celebration of the
Passover that surpassed anything they could have imagined. The Passion
Narrative ends in chapter 23 with the women preparing the dead body of
Jesus for a proper burial.

This Passover began like any other Passover that the apostles had observed
year after year since their childhood and the Jews had observed for
hundreds of years. But

What Began as Just Another Passover Meal Would Become the Lord’s Supper,
the Fulfillment of the Passover,

a new covenant in his blood for the forgiveness of sins. The Son of God
would soon go to his death as the uncomplaining Passover Lamb, shedding his
divine blood for the sins of the world. Fulfillment before the disciples’
eyes. The Lamb on the table has become the Lamb reclining at the table,
hosting the meal and soon to be the sacrificial Lamb on the cross.


Judas was at the “last Passover” and the first Lord’s Sup­per. Precisely
when he left and whether he actually received the body and blood is
unclear, though intriguing to contemplate. What is clear is that Jesus ate
with sinners throughout his ministry; he ate with sinners on the night in
which he was betrayed; and he hosts sinners at his table today with the
same invitation: “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the
covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Mt

It is also clear from Scripture that after the meal Judas went out and
hanged himself. What is so tragic is that it didn’t have to happen. Yes, he
did the wrong thing in betraying Jesus; it is possibly the worst thing
anyone has ever done since the fall of Adam and Eve. Yet it ended up being
the “right thing,” in the sense that, as a result, Jesus died on the cross
for our sins. Therefore, it didn’t have to end that way for Judas. Matthew
tells us: “Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he
[was seized with remorse] and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to
the chief priests and the elders, saying, ‘I have sinned by betraying
innocent blood.’ They said, ‘What is that to us? See to it yourself.’ And
throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and went
and hanged himself” (Mt 27:3–5).

Judas went to the temple and confessed his sin. The temple was precisely
the right place to go. It was where you go for the forgiveness of sins. But
the priests refused to hear his confession and absolve his sins. Imagine
that you’re a pastor and someone comes to you with deep remorse and
confesses a heinous sin, and rather than absolving him, you say, “What is
that to me? See to it yourself,” and you send him away without absolution
to despair and hopelessness.


The Passion Narratives are read in church, within the liturgy. They are not
merely heart-moving stories or examples that inspire personal kindness and
good works. When Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper on the night in which
he was betrayed and the Holy Ministry with Confession and Holy Absolution
on the evening of his resurrection, he also gave the Church contemporary
worship. Contemporary because he is present with us *now*, bestowing upon
us the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. All true liturgy is

The Passion Readings are not a script for a morality play or tragic drama.
Granted, Passion plays have been around since the Middle Ages and continue
in many places, from Oberammergau to South Dakota. Hollywood has also
adopted the genre, producing films like *The Greatest Story Ever Told* and,
more recently, Mel Gibson’s *The Passion of the Christ*. Religious drama
has its salutary and beneficial place. It is, however, another thing to
introduce theater into the liturgy. In some churches, the pastor and elders
dress up in costumes like Jesus and the apostles and reenact the Last
Supper to make it “more meaningful.” I’ve heard people respond, “It made me
feel just like I was really there.”

When I was a parish pastor, several neighboring congregations celebrated
the Lord’s Supper within the context of a Jewish Seder. A member of our
congregation asked me what I thought about this. So I, in turn, asked the
opinion of one of our church members who was an Old Testament professor at
Concordia Seminary. He replied, “Why would you want to do that?” That’s all
he said: “Why would you want to do that?”

Comparing the reading of the Passion from the Gospels to watching a chancel
drama or a movie like *The Passion of the Christ* is like comparing an NFL
football game to a lecture on brain surgery at a medical school. One is
exciting. One is dry and intellectually challenging. One causes brain
damage, the other can save your life from a brain injury. Both have their
place. Sports and movies are for entertainment. They are watched in a group
or alone and with popcorn and a cold drink in hand. The Bible was written
by and for the Church. It was written to be heard with others. It can and
should be read at home (if you can read and afford a Bible), but its
primary home is the liturgy. It doesn’t stand alone. It shapes the liturgy
with the living Word and presence of God. The appointed readings do far
more than simply establish the theme for the day. They bring the living
Lord Jesus and the *viva vox Christi* into the service. They tell us what
Jesus has to say to us today by letting him say it, and then through the
liturgy we enter into the text, or rather, the text enters into us and
takes us into the presence of the living God.


One does not reenact the Passover while celebrating the Lord’s Supper. The
Lord’s Supper is the fulfillment of the Paschal Meal. Neither the Passover
nor the Lord’s Supper are intended to be reenacted. Prayer and liturgy are
not acting. The art of acting is a sophisticated craft involving convincing
pretense before an audience that comes to see a play. In worship, one comes
into the very presence of the Lord God. Religious plays are best conducted
alongside, that is, outside of the liturgy in a theater or church
fellowship hall.

And so we may have a lengthy Passion Narrative read by several readers. But
they aren’t actors. They wear liturgical vestments, not costumes. Beautiful
music is brought into the reading, but it’s not a musical. It is something
very different from a musical performance. It is liturgical song, a sung
prayer and confession of the text, that is, a contemporary participating
with the living Word and living Lord God.

This week, in the Divine Service, you will come as Peter, as the Gentile
soldiers, as the crowds in Jerusalem, as religious leaders, and as Judas
who came to the temple and said, “I have sinned.” You will say, “I, a poor
miserable sinner, confess unto you all my sins and iniquities with which I
have ever offended you and justly deserve your temporal and eternal
punishment.” And I promise you, the pastor will *not* say, “What is this to
me? See to it yourself.” Rather, the Lord’s pastor has been given the
command and authority to say—in fact, he is under divine orders to say—“I
forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”
And he is not acting. In the name of Jesus. Amen.