Maundy Thursday

Preached: April 9, 2009

His Love Ignites Our Love
John 13-17; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

Welcome to St. John's Ev. Lutheran Church as we go with Jesus to the Upper room tonight and to Gethsemane. John 13:1 says, “Before the Festival of the Passover Jesus knew the time had come for Him to leave this world and go to the Father. He loved His own who were in the world, and He loved them to the end” (NET). Tonight we witness his great love for us expressed in words and actions. We listen to his words of love recorded in John 13-17 and we receive the amazing testimony of his love through his body and blood in the Lord's Supper. His unsurpassed love for us ignites our love. His love moves us to love God above all and to love one another. We love because God first loved us and gave his Son as the atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Opening Hymn 136 “'Twas on that Dark, that Doleful Night”


A. His love humbly serves

As Jesus and his disciples gathered to celebrate the Passover, their feet were dusty from the city streets. Yet washing guests feet was a lowly servants job. The disciples were more interested in arguing which of them was the greatest.

So Jesus got up and took off his outer cloak. He wrapped a towel around his waist and poured water into a basin. He washed those filthy feet, even Judas' feet, whom Jesus knew would soon betray him ; twelve filthy feet washed by the Lord. As he had told the disciples earlier, he did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.

For your Lord, dear friends, washes away from you and me what is far filthier and stinkier than Jerusalem's dust stuck to pilgrims' feet. He washes away from you and me the stench of our sin. As in those disciples, pride attacks our hearts. Rather than humble ourselves, especially if I'm in the right, we argue the point or we silently carry our grudges. Why should I take the first step? Why should I apologize? Why should I work to restore a friendly relationship? How that sinful pride must reek in God's nose!

But look! Your Lord washes away your stink. He washes you clean in his blood. For he came not to be served but to serve you, to ransom you. That's the promise the water of Baptism brought to you. Jesus has washed you clean.

Now that his love has done such great things for us, does that not ignite love in our hearts, love that goes beyond nice words, love that humbles itself to serve? To love even as Jesus loved us. And what a service of love we do as we humble ourselves to love in Christ-centered peace with one another, united in God's Word, bearing each others burdens, rebuking, correcting, encouraging, forgiving, even as in Christ God forgave you!

John 13:12-17; 33-35

Hymn 120:1, 2 “What Wondrous Love Is This”

B. His love brings peaceful comfort

Soon the disciples would face the greatest trauma of their lives. Their hopes and dreams not only for this life but for eternity were all in Jesus. But soon those hopes would turn to despair. Despite Jesus' repeated teaching, the disciples did not grasp that Jesus must die and rise again. So as the events of that night and Good Friday unfold, all seems lost. For Jesus, who is their hope and salvation, dies.

Jesus speaks words to strengthen and comfort them for the ordeal that lay ahead. Jesus speaks these words for you as well. His love comforts you and brings you peace as you take to heart these words. Believe them, hold on to them, let them fill your heart and life. For when Jesus commands us to trust in him, the only proper way to obey is to believe, to trust, to lean on his words as our only strength and support. Then, no matter how great the trauma you face, Jesus' words are stronger. For through faith in Jesus' words, you are part of his Father's family, you are a child of God whose home is with God. Believe this Good News, even as Jesus has commanded.

John 14:1-6, 15-19, 25-27

Hymn 120:3, 4 “What Wondrous Love Is This”

C. His love connects us to him

We were aliens and foreigns. We were cut off from God as his natural-born enemies. We were anything but children of God. Rather we were children of this world, children of the prince of this world, Satan's willing slaves. And all that we did ; our words, our thoughts, our actions ; were corrupted by sin, rotten to the core. We could not produce anything acceptable to God. We were barren, fruitless branches.

But Jesus gave himself up on the cross to connect you to himself. Like branches connected to a vine, so you and I are connected to Jesus, as his word remains in us. Our life and strength flow to us only through him. All this he brings to us through his Word, so that we bear much fruit.

Stay connected to Jesus. Keep his word in you. For then even though the world hates and rejects you, you have life in Jesus, a life that bears much fruit in the sight of God.

John 15:1-8, 12-19, 26, 27

Hymn 385:1, 2, 5 “Chief of Sinners Though I Be”

D. His love turns sorrow to joy

The Apostle Paul told the new Christian congregations in Galatia: “We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). Our life of following Jesus will have its shares of sorrows and hardships. We live in a world that hates our Lord and works against his will. We bear the heat of that hatred.

But Jesus went through Gethsemane and Calvary to bring you joy. Jesus bore the burden of our guilt and shame to bring you joy. Jesus endured the agony of the cross and there suffered the god-forsakeness of our hell to bring you joy. That joy shines out from the Easter tomb, for our crucified Savior has risen from the dead!

That joy is yours right now through faith in Jesus. But as we walk the roads of this life, it is a hidden joy. Like a dank fog, the sorrows and hardships of life and the hatred of this world block us from clearly seeing this joy. Often our hearts are heavy and grief shrouds us. But take heart! Jesus has overcome the world. He gives you the victory. Eagerly anticipate the victory celebration in heaven where you will see Jesus with your own eyes. Nothing will dim our joy there.

John 16:19b-22, 33

Choir: “How Beautiful”

E. His love prays

As Jesus words of love to his disciples come to a close, he prays. He prays first for God's glory. For the work Jesus is about to complete glorifies God as it brings eternal life to those who know and believe in Jesus, whom the true God has sent.

He prays for the disciples that he leaves behind and for the work that they do as they spread his word of truth. And he prays for you and me. As his word of truth works in our hearts, we have fellowship with the Father and the Son and with one another. What a unity!

John 17:1-6, 11b, 14-26

Confession of sins

F. His love gives his Supper

As you well know, Jesus and his disciples were celebrating the Passover on this night. Many of the words we've heard from the Gospel of John were spoken during or after that meal.

The Passover had been celebrated by the people of Israel for about fifteen centuries. It recalled the Lord's mighty deliverance that freed them from slavery in Egypt. It pointed ahead to the even greater deliverance the Lord would accomplish to free sinners from slavery to sin and death.

At the Passover the people rid their homes of yeast. The bread they ate that night was made without yeast. They had lamb, roasted whole, without breaking the bones. On that first Passover the blood of the lamb was painted on the door frame as a sign that the angel of death would pass over them, as he put the first born of the Egyptians to death.

The blood of Jesus, the Lamb of God, marks the door frame of your heart. What a beautiful picture of faith! And what a setting for Jesus to give us his last will and testament. For that is what the Lord's Supper is.

Just as a will and testament promise an inheritance at the death of the person who made the will. So also the the Lord's Supper is Jesus' promise to you of your eternal inheritance. His death has put this promise, his last will and testament, into effect. This is the new covenant, the promise of forgiveness. For where there is forgiveness, there is also life and salvation. What an inheritance!

“This is my body.” “This is my blood.” This is not a will written on yellowing paper, forgotten in some safety deposit box. This is his living testament. This is an ongoing miracle. He gives you his real, true body to eat. He gives you his real, true blood to drink. For he want to erase all your doubts.

“Did Jesus really carry away my sins in his body and sacrifice himself for me on the cross?” Yes, he certainly did. For he gives you his body to eat. How could he make it any clearer? “Did Jesus really mark the door frame of my heart with his blood so that eternal death passes over?” Yes, he certainly did. For he gives you his blood to drink. Could he make it any clearer?

So come with believing hearts, and witness the greatness of his love for you.

1 Corinthians 11:23-26

Communion Liturgy p. 21-23

Distribution Hymn 135 “The Death of Jesus Christ, our Lord”

G. His love suffers all for us

After that Supper of love, after those words of love, Jesus now puts the full extent of his love into action. We symbolically follow him to Gethsemane. As the altar is stripped, we recall how Jesus was abandoned by his disciples. He alone would carry the sins of the world.

There is no blessing to close tonight, for our service continues tomorrow. The abandonment at Gethsemane was just the beginning. How cruel the injustice, the agony, the shame yet to come! Tomorrow we see our Savior forsaken and abandoned by the Father. For he became our sins for us.

Ponder these truths as you see the altar stripped. But anticipate as well, our Savior's glorious resurrection on Easter Sunday.

Hymn 98 “Jesus, I Will Ponder Now”

Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313