Sermon for Maundy Thursday – 4.14.22
+ Maundy Thursday – April 14th, 2022 +
Beautiful Savior Lutheran
“He Prepares a Table”
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion.”
These were the words of the Israelites during the dark days of the Babylonian exile. In Isaiah 49, eighth century BC Isaiah is speaking to sixth century BC Israel. And it appeared that Israel was a lost cause. Already in the eighth century, Isaiah knew that the days were coming when Israel would have no temple, no Jerusalem, no Davidic king, no annual pilgrim feasts, no commercial or political significance, and no hope!
In Isaiah 49:9–12, the message of redemption announces the Servant’s release of prisoners. He will gather them from all directions. While the specific word shepherd does not appear in these verses, the words graze, pasture, lead, and guide make it clear that the Servant is the good Shepherd. He leads His flock to find food on barren heights, and in the hottest of weather He gives His sheep unlimited water. Their path is straight, compared with the normally hilly country where it is difficult to graze. This Servant has the ability to tend to a huge number of sheep that are drawn from great distances. He even promises in our text, “They shall not hunger or thirst.”
And when the Lord calls his people sheep, it’s not always a compliment. Sheep aren’t exactly intimidating creatures are they. Nor are they particularly smart. They graze on the same hills until those hills turn to desert wastes, polluted with disease. Sheep bend down to drink from a pond, get too close, allow the water to absorb into their wool, fall in, and drown! Sounds a lot like our sinful nature doesn’t it.
Sheep are dirty. Their wool is like a magnet. It attracts mud, manure, maggots. It becomes caked with dirt, decay, disease. Sheep absorb the filth around them. We aren’t like that, are we?
Sheep are defenseless. They turn over on their back to rest, but then they can’t get up. Canines, coyotes, and cougars all know that a cast sheep is a sitting duck! But we aren’t like that, are we?
Israel had been just like that. (Isaiah 1:3 states), “The ox knows his master, the donkey his owner’s manger, but Israel does not know, My people do not understand.” Israelites were dirty. (Isaiah 64:6 states), “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” And the people were defenseless. (Isaiah 1:6 states) “From the sole of your foot to the top of your head there is no soundness, only wounds and welts and open sores.” We’re not like that, are we?
But we are, aren’t we. “We all like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way.” And what is the result? “By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion” (Psalm 137:1). We’re not all that different from Old Testament Israel. All too often we find ourselves in exile, in a fallen world, and in our fallen flesh; we are exiled—so far from the Father’s will and ways; so far from bearing each other’s pain and burdens; so far from spouses, children, sisters, brothers.
So what’s the Good Shepherd to do? He becomes a Lamb. But not any ordinary Lamb; “A virgin will conceive and bear a Son and you will call His name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). “His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (9:6). This is no ordinary Lamb; “He was led like a Lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so He did not open His mouth” (53:7).
On Maundy Thursday, events began to unfold that wouldn’t lead Him to green pastures. Rather spit and blood would be caked to His cheeks. There would be no quiet waters; in fact, there was no water at all. His lips would be cracked and swollen and His throat parched from the hot Palestinian sun. He would pass through the valley of the shadow of death as pain twanged her morbid melody. There would be no rod or staff for comfort. The cup would overflow, as He drank from the cup of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. Surely goodness and mercy would be twisted and perverted in the most inhumane way.
Reflecting on this great love, Peter writes, “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1 Peter 2:24–25).
Today, Jesus, the Good Shepherd quenches your thirst with His body and blood—in the bread and wine. Today, when you come to this table, you receive forgiveness, mercy, and salvation. Today, in these gifts in the Holy Supper, you will never hunger or thirst again! Jesus the Good Shepherd prepares his table for you. Eat. Drink. You are forgiven by the body and blood of the Lamb.
When you are lost and exiled, Jesus your Shepherd leaves the ninety-nine and runs after you. When you are confused by the voices of demons and devils, He calls you by name and you know His voice. When you are dirty and full of filth, He is the Lamb of God who takes away your sin. Jesus is your Shepherd who gathers you safe in His arms carries you forever.
A blessed Maundy Thursday to each of you…
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.