The grace, mercy, and peace of Christ Jesus rest upon each and every one of you this day.
These past few weeks our Lenten theme has focused on eyes/seeing, specifically “focusing on Jesus.” We’ve looked at Christ’s suffering and Passion through the sleepy eyes of the apostles and the betraying eyes of Judas and the denying eyes of Peter. We’ve looked through the worldly eyes of Pontius Pilate, the Sanhedrin, and the Roman soldiers. Through it all, we’ve also looked at things from God’s perspective, seeing things through His eyes, and in so doing we’ve had to look the sinful reflection in the mirror square in the eyes and confess that we, too, have the sleepy eyes, the betraying eyes, the denying eyes, and the worldly eyes. Jesus died for sinners, and that includes each and every one of us.
It’s only fitting that our theme for this Maundy Thursday eve is: “More than meets the eye.” We think of the lamb’s blood smeared on the doorposts and lintils of the Israelite homes. There’s more than meets the eye, right? It wasn’t that it was “super blood” or blood from magic lambs or blood with magic powers. Nope. It was the ordinary blood of some ordinary little lambs. In fact, the blood of the lambs wouldn’t look any different than Egyptian blood or Canaanite blood or Israelite blood. What made the difference is almighty God attached His almighty Word of grace and deliverance attached to that lamb’s blood. Anyone who listened and obeyed God by smearing that blood on their doorposts and lintils; anyone who held fast in faith to His promise of deliverance attached to that blood would live. They would be “passed over” by the Destroyer. I’m sure the Egyptians (and even some of the more relaxed Israelites) thought it was all stupid and weird and gross. “Look at what those weirdoes are up to now!” Boy… there was more than meets the eye, wasn’t there?
Fast-forward 1400-plus years and we find ourselves in the Upper Room on the very night when Jesus was betrayed. It was a Passover Meal, so Israel’s deliverance from Egypt was in view, and the recently shed blood of Passover lambs would be fresh on the disciples’ minds. Surely they had celebrated this meal dozens of times with their families from the earliest of age on, and they knew the Passover liturgy by heart. They thought they knew what was coming as they celebrated it with Jesus, but there would be way more than meets the eye, when Jesus, the Lord of Israel Incarnate, revises the Passover liturgy.
St. Mark writes, “As they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them” (14:22). So far, so good; no surprises yet. Just like every other seder meal for the past 1400-plus years. But here’s the bombshell: Jesus then says over the bread, “Take and eat; this is My body” (v. 22). The disciples must have looked at one another with bewildered glances. “That’s not what we’ve always done.” Then another bombshell! Jesus takes the cup, give thanks, and says to them, “Take and drink, this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for the many” (v. 24). Or as I prefer to render the Greek: “poured out on behalf of the masses.” There is DEFINITELY more than meets the eye here!
By the power of His Word, the bread was now truly His body and the wine was now truly His blood, given to His disciples for the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. Furthermore, by His words “Do this,” He instituted the Lord’s Supper for His Church to proclaim His death till the end of time (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:26). And not just “do this,” but “as often as you do this, remember what I have said/promised it is.” There is WAY more here than what meets the eye! This isn’t just mere bread and wine. It isn’t just a mere little thing we do to help us remember Jesus in our hearts or feel closer to Him or show Him how much we love Him. “This is MY Body. This is MY blood, given and shed for the forgiveness of all your sin.”
This is precisely why St. Paul cautions the Corinthians (and all Christians to this day) about a right discernment, understanding, and reception of these holy gifts of grace. There is WAY more than meets the eye! Those who don’t eat and drink with a proper understanding/discernment of their Lord’s real presence and the purpose for which He gives these gifts of Himself—the forgiveness of sin and peace that surpasses all understanding—are actually communing to their condemnation. Well… that’s not good! And yet… since the heavens don’t rend and there’s no booming voice from heaven and brimstone and wrath, then the whole “condemnation” thing must just be an old LCMS policy, right? That’s just some cranky Lutherans trying to be elitist and run their country club. That may be how the world (and even some ignorant ‘Lutherans’) see things, but there’s WAY more here than what meets the eye.
Now, before we go any further and before I bring this to a close, I do need you to think about all this in light of the current trials/tribulations we find ourselves facing. Christ’s Word and Promise still holds true. “As often as you do this, remember what I have said. This is My body. This is My blood.” Folks: Your Lord does not socially-distance from you. “I am with you always….” Even here, in the midst of the shadowy valley of plague and death and fear, here is our Lord, right where He tells us to seek Him; right where He promises to be. I know I’ve said this many times over the past few weeks, but I’ll say it again: Your Lord will NEVER give you poison with His Body and Blood. Ordinary bread and wine are corruptible. Ordinary bread and wine can harbor germs and make you sick. BUT… when your Lord says “This IS My body and blood,” it is no longer mere bread and wine, is it? It is exactly what He says it is. It is forgiveness of sins. It is Life. It is Christ, who is incorruptible. There is no death in the Lord of Life! I know what man says about these things. But… man is NOT the lord of the sacrament! Jesus is! This is MY body. This is MY blood. All the germaphobia and calls to suspend the sacrament is nothing more than man trying to lord over the Lord of the sacrament. O ye of little faith…. “Fear not, for it is I (I am)!”
There’s so much more than meets the eye. In fact, this Christocentric reality will not be apprehended or understood by the eye of sinful man. It is only apprehended and understood through the God-given gift of saving faith, and faith comes through hearing; hearing the Word of Christ. And when our ears of faith are opened to hear the blessed Word and promise of Christ, the eyes of faith are also opened to recognize Christ, right where He promises to be; right where He dwells with us in our midst—in His Word and in His sacraments.
Folks: There’s so much more than meets the eye in these gifts of “Divine Service.” It’s so telling to listen to people nowadays. Their words give you a glimpse of what’s really inside. This—the Divine Service—is considered by many to be a “non-essential service.” The Divine’s service is non-essential?! Well… at least they’re being honest. What they truly believe is now finally being voiced and brought to light for all to see. No lip-service there.
My dearly beloved children of God: In the midst of all this sickness and plague and death and despair, here is Life. Here is the Lord of Life! Everybody is being commanded to sanitize and quarantine and distance from everyone else (and that’s not a bad thing when it comes to going to Walmart and eating in restaurants and all the ways in which people interact with each other on a daily and germ-filled basis). However… this isn’t like anything else! This is where heaven is being brought to earth. This is where our Lord is coming to us! Draw near! Draw near and receive the life-giving Body and Blood of Jesus, which delivers to us the forgiveness of sins and serves as the antidote to death—eternal death. For, as you come in faith to Jesus to feed on His body given and His blood shed for you, Jesus promises, “Whoever feeds on My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him” (John 6:54–56). There is so much more than meets the eye, and praise God that there is! In Christ’s name and to His glory… AMEN.
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