In Nomine Iesu
Pastor Thomas L. Rank
March 24, 2005
Text: Psalm 111:1
Praise the LORD! I will praise the LORD with my whole heart, In the assembly of the upright and in the congregation. 2 The works of the LORD are great, Studied by all who have pleasure in them. 3 His work is honorable and glorious, And His righteousness endures forever. 4 He has made His wonderful works to be remembered; The LORD is gracious and full of compassion. 5 He has given food to those who fear Him; He will ever be mindful of His covenant. 6 He has declared to His people the power of His works, In giving them the heritage of the nations. 7 The works of His hands are verity and justice; All His precepts are sure. 8 They stand fast forever and ever, And are done in truth and uprightness. 9 He has sent redemption to His people; He has commanded His covenant forever: Holy and awesome is His name. 10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever.
THESE ARE YOUR WORDS, HEAVENLY FATHER, SANCTIFY US BY YOUR TRUTH, YOUR WORD IS TRUTH. AMEN.
Dear fellow redeemed in our crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ,
This evening we commemorate the events of the night Jesus was betrayed. Especially we focus on that great institution, the Supper of our Lord, the Sacrament of the Altar.
It was the time of the Passover, when the Old Testament people of God remembered the great deliverance from slavery God provided. God brought about the deliverance through His power that brought death to His enemies, and yet provided safety to those who believed in Him. The safety was found in blood, the blood of a pure, male lamb. Wherever that blood was painted on the door, there death would not go. Wherever that Passover meal was eaten, there was life and salvation.
Psalm 111 recalls the great meal of the Lord at the Passover, calling it “the food given to those who fear Him.” This food was a wonderful memorial meal done each year. But on the night He was betrayed Jesus began a new meal. This meal surpasses the old meal as much as the sun outshines a 15 watt light bulb. For in this meal we do not have the blood of a male lamb, but we have the Son of God, who gives us His body and blood for the forgiveness of sins. And if the Lord’s name was holy and awesome because of that deliverance from slavery in Egypt for the people of Israel, how much more awesome is His name because of the greater work of Jesus, who goes not against a Pharoah and Egyptian army, but against the hosts of hell, against sin, against death itself. The Old Testament Passover, as wonderful as it was, could only be a mere shadow of the great work of Jesus, and the wonderful Supper that commemorates that death of Jesus.
The psalm teaches us that God “has made His wonderful works to be remembered.” And what does Jesus tell us about His Supper? “Do this in remembrance of me.” Through St. Paul we are taught “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.” The death of Jesus is the wonderful work of God that is to be remembered, proclaimed, treasured, as long the earth remains. For there will be no greater event in the history of the world than that precious death of Jesus until He returns again on the Last Day.
Why? Why all the fuss about this Supper of the Lord, or about His crucifixion and death? What makes this so special? Why should it be something that 2000 years later we are still talking about? The reason is that this is the work of God, and it is a work we desperately need.
Israel in the Old Testament was in slavery for centuries. They had left the promised land of Canaan about 1800 BC. Four hundred years later, almost twice as long as the history of the United States, Israel remains slaves to Pharoah. Pharoah had been killing the baby boys of Egypt, a sure way to attack God himself and the promises given to Abraham. How so? Because through Abraham there would be a special baby boy born one day that would bring blessing to all the nations of the earth. If all the male descendants of Abraham are slaughtered in Egypt, the attack of Satan against God’s promises would have succeeded. Therefore God does not allow such satanic work to go unchecked. He promises and provides deliverance for these people through His servant Moses. The slaves are freed, and the line of descendants that will one day lead to Mary giving birth to Jesus in Bethlehem goes on.
This history of Israel, and the life of Jesus which goes to the cross, and which includes the blessed Supper of the Lord, communion, none of this will be of much value to us unless we have come to realize more and more the situation we are in without it. Earlier we answered the last question from the catechism. “But what shall a person do if he is not aware of such trouble and feels no hunger and thirst for the Sacrament?” In other words, what if you don’t think you are sinful, or do not need the death of Jesus and His body and blood for the remission of sins? What then? We then said:
To such a person no better advice can be given than that, in the first place, he put his hand into his bosom, and feel whether he still have flesh and blood, and that he by all means believe what the Scriptures say of it….
Secondly, that he look around to see whether he is still in the world, and keep in mind that there will be no lack of sin and trouble….
Thirdly, he will certainly have the devil also about him, who with his lying and murdering, day and night, will let him have no peace within or without….
Our bodies are troubled by the sin that clings to us as long as we remain in this world. The world itself is a burden to us in that many temptations and trials arise from it that leave us exhausted and worn out, frustrated and discouraged, as we battle them day in and day out. And finally the devil who so desired the death of Jesus, now desires your death in such a way that you do not receive the gift of eternal life in heaven.
These are why the death of Jesus on the cross is proclaimed. This is why this wonderful meal from Jesus to you continues to be offered regularly at this congregation. The Psalm says, “The LORD is gracious and full of compassion.” No where is this more apparent than in this Sacrament of the Altar. Martin Luther noted:
if you are afraid to go to the Sacrament, and your conscience frightens you, as if you were unworthy, put this verse into your heart and on your lips. Then you must hear and feel how sincerely He calls and invites you. He is here and is waiting for you with hands and heart wide open, for you to take and receive grace and mercy. He does not want you to flee and shy away from Him but to flee to Him and with full confidence go to Him. Here is called nothing but this: the gracious and merciful Lord….What is the suffering of Christ but pure grace and mercy, offered, given, and imparted to us through the Sacrament? It is grace that He shows us all the benefits and by his blood brings us from sin to righteousness, from death to life, and from the devil to God. It is mercy that He unceasingly forgives our sin and spares and endures our ingratitude and all wickedness in which we are still bound as long as we live in the flesh. All this He earned for us, once and for all, by His suffering, and daily offers and gives us by His remembrance and Sacrament, actually driving us to it with sweet and gentle words (LW 13, 374-5).
“The Lord is gracious and full of compassion.” As we hear and mediate on the great events of Holy Week, let this phrase from Psalm 111 be our constant guide to the meaning of it all. It is about the grace of God and His compassion for you, that you be saved, that you receive life eternal, that you be forgiven all sin, and be confident of that through faith in the gracious word of your Savior, Jesus Christ. “The Lord is gracious and full of compassion” – for you. Amen.