After staying with some friends in the town of Bethany, Jesus and his disciples made their way up to Jerusalem. The yearly springtime pilgrimage to Jerusalem was cause for celebration. As green blades of spring burst from the cold earth and birds begin their springtime song, the whole earth seems to join in the joy of the Passover feast, the deliverance of God’s people.
The days ahead would overflow with hymns, feasting, and recalling the promises God made and fulfilled. As the Passover meal was shared, Jesus and his disciples would recall the wonders God performed in Egypt, their deliverance, and the saving blood of the lamb on their doorposts that first Passover night.
After the first Passover and exodus from Egypt, God made a covenant with the people by the mountain of Sinai. He would be their God, and they would be his people. He promised to bring them to a good land prepared in advance for them (Ex. 23:20). After proclaiming this new covenant, the Lord sealed it with blood.
“And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all the words (Ex. 24:8).”
If there’s one thing bloody thing we learn from the covenants of the Old Testament, it is just that: covenants always involve blood. Where there is a covenant, where there is covering of sin, there is always blood. God provided a way of rescue for his people, but it always involved blood.
Israel’s deliverance from slavery, the gift of the promised land, and the covenant God made at Sinai was all was cause for celebration. As the sun rose that spring morning on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, the disciples looked to Jesus to direct them to a place in which they could prepare to eat the Passover meal together (Mark 14:12).
“Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing, it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’ And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘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’” (Matt. 26:26-28).
This was new. Of all the Passover festivals they had celebrated together with Jesus, this was different. Jesus spoke these new words at the feast. But what does this mean? It means that the words of the prophet Jeremiah had come to their fulfillment:
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke…For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jer. 32:31-32, 34).
You are bloody forgiven of all your sins with the holy blood of Christ shed and given for you.
Instead of the backdrop of Mount Sinai, Jesus institutes this new meal, this new covenant, with the backdrop of Mount Calvary. Covenants in the way of the Old Testament always involved blood, often the blood of the lamb and this covenant would be no different. This covenant, however, would be sealed once and for all with the blood of the true Passover Lamb, the holy Lamb of God, Jesus.
This Holy Week, we ponder the work of Christ for us. We meditate on God’s Word and celebrate the glorious resurrection of Christ, who was crucified for us, for our sin.
And today, Maundy Thursday, we receive the feast of Christ’s true body and blood for us, for the forgiveness of our sins. All of them. Not one of them past, present, or future left behind. You are bloody forgiven of all your sins with the holy blood of Christ shed and given for you.
In this feast we take Christ’s words, and, as Martin Luther would say, “let Christ Himself be responsible for them.” But, how can this ordinary bread be his true body and ordinary wine be his true blood? How can there be forgiveness for all my sins found in such ordinary means? We respond in like as Mary responded after asking the angel, “how will this be,” with “let it be to me according to your word.”
As we receive this feast of salvation given for us, we respond in thanksgiving with, Amen!
The Lord has saved us from our bondage to sin, death, and the devil. The Lord has forgiven all our iniquities and the blood of Jesus, our Passover Lamb has marked us as his own.