Maundy Thursday – Vicar Schleusener

Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

There are times when the parallels between something of the Old Testament and something of the New Testament are profound. Today, there are many such parallels between crucial aspects of each Testament that appear in our texts. Specifically, in the blood of the testament and the word associated with it. And to be clear, I’m using the word testament rather than covenant because for both the Hebrew and the Greek, “testament” is a better translation whenever the relationship is between God and man.

There are also two additional points of Greek translation that we need to touch on briefly before getting to the core parts of our Old Testament and Gospel readings. First, “bless” is more of a euphemistic translation of a word that literally means “good word.” Second, the idea of giving thanks is at best a shallow and badly limiting translation of a word that literally means “good grace.” I don’t have time tonight to explain in detail why this matters so much, but it definitely matters, and I wanted to give you a bit of warning before I provided a more literal translation of words you’ve heard translated differently your entire lives.

And now that we’ve covered the language issues, let’s move on to the central portion of our Old Testament reading for today. “Then [Moses] took the Scroll of the Testament and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, ‘All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.’ And Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people and said, ‘Behold the blood of the testament that the Lord has made with you on all these words.’”

In contrast to that, we have the words of our Gospel reading. “And as they were eating, [Jesus] took bread, and after good wording it broke it and gave it to them, and said, ‘Take; this is my body.’ And he took a cup, and when he had good graced it he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, ‘This is my blood of the testament, which is poured out for many.’”

And now that we’ve set the texts alongside each other, parallels practically leap off the page. To begin with, blood is central to both texts, which really shouldn’t be as surprising to us as it probably is. After all, a testament in this context means very much the same thing as we mean by the word when we say things like, “last will and testament.” And a testament only takes effect after the one who gave the testament dies. And since God tells us that “the life of the flesh is in the blood” in Leviticus (17:11), it shouldn’t be surprising that an outpouring and transferring of blood, that is to say, a removal of life from one for the sake of transferring that life to another, would play a role in these Testaments.

The blood of the Old Testament came from animals, which should have been a clear indicator that it wasn’t ever intended to be God’s final Testament. After all, the blood of animals isn’t the same thing as the blood of God, so the very use of animal blood to seal a testament given by God was already a pointer to the day when God Himself would take on flesh so He could offer His own blood as the seal of a New, a Final Testament. And that shedding of God’s own blood was indeed what happened, nearly 15 centuries after the blood of the Old Testament was sprinkled on the people.

The blood that was sprinkled. That is to say, the blood that was applied externally. That covered them. That hid their sins from the eyes of God, but made no fundamental changes to the people. In contrast to that, the blood of the New Testament is given to us to drink. To receive internally. To receive the life of God Himself within us, and to be transformed from the inside out by the power of that life-giving blood of God Incarnate.

And so we see that while blood is central to both, the blood is different, and the effects of that blood are different. The Old, earthly blood gives way to the New, heavenly blood. But what about the word associated with each Testament? Moses told the people to “Behold the blood of the testament that the Lord has made with you on all these words.” What words? The words that were on the scroll of the testament. The words that God had been speaking to him, including the Ten Words that today we normally refer to as the Ten Commandments. The words that the people heard and responded to by saying they would do and obey them. Those were the words that served as the basis for the Old Testament. But what about the New Testament? What’s the word associated with the blood of the Testament that Jesus offers? Jesus good words the bread, but what about the cup? Well, the word associated with the cup, with the blood, and with the Testament, is the Incarnate Word of God. It’s Jesus Himself. He who is the good Word in the bread is also the rich and abundantly good grace of God in the cup.

And so we see that while the word of the Old Testament is a word of grace, a Testament given by God to sinful people simply because He loves them, it’s also a word of command. There are things that they’re expected to do in order to remain the beneficiaries of that Testament. The Word of the New Testament, on the other hand, is a Word of pure grace. The Word that came in response to our sin. That saw the state our hatred for, and rejection of, God had brought us to. That knew our weakness and inability to keep even the simplest of His commandments. But came anyway, taking into Himself our mortal nature. Taking upon Himself our sin. Giving to us His own blood to be the blood of the New Testament.

And while the blood of the Old Testament allowed for a handful of the leaders of Israel to eat a meal in the presence of God, the blood of the New Testament allows for each and every believer to come. To eat in the presence of God. And to eat not just any meal, but a meal that is God Himself. To eat His flesh and drink His blood. To receive His life within you. To have His life cleanse you of all of your sins. To see the glory of God as He reveals Himself as the God who gives Himself to you.

And so this New Testament abounds with life in a way the Old Testament didn’t. The wonderful gift of the Old Testament is swept away by the far more wonderful gift of the New. The Testament that is the complete, final, and last Testament of God, attested to and sealed by His own blood. A Testament made permanent and unchangeable by virtue of His own death. A Testament enforced by Himself as the risen Lord of all things. So that you could be His people forever. And may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and your minds through faith in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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