Maundy Thursday

Holy Thursday.22 “Into My Remembering” Luke 22:7-20

We need to talk about the Lord’s Supper. First of all, about when it’s best celebrated. We see in our Gospel that Jesus instituted the Holy Supper on the day of Unleavened Bread, the Passover Feast of Israel. Passover was the night Israel was delivered from 400 years bondage in Egypt. God told them to take a lamb for each household, sacrifice it, eat the flesh and paint the blood over their doorposts so the Angel of Death who was killing all the firstborn in Egypt would pass over the houses where the lamb’s blood covered the doorway.

And this did not take place on a Thursday evening for Jesus, but first thing Friday. For Jews, the day began at 6:00 pm in the evening and ended at 5:59 pm the next evening. The Supper is the first thing Jesus did on Good Friday, there is no “Maundy Thursday”! Since Jesus and his disciples lived by the Jewish calendar (not the Roman!) this is the first of many things moderns get wrong about the Holy Supper…

Old Lutherans would never have a “Maundy Thursday” evening service, nor did the early Christians. Their way of celebrating  the Paschal Feast was the Triduum, the service of the “Three Days” which began around noon on Friday with a festival divine service and the reading of the entire Passion story and included always the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. Because the Friday Jesus died, April 6 30 AD was the Passover. And that’s when Israel ate the flesh and painted the blood of the sacrificial lamb over their doorposts so that the Lamb’s Body and Blood would cause the Angel of Death to Passover us who eat this holy meal…

It’s Calvinism that has wrecked Christianity in America, it must be said. European Lutherans like Hermann Sasse clearly saw this and warned us against getting swept up in Calvinist nonsense, beginning with our worship (and including our bible translations which we’ll address in a moment!). I’ve long wanted to eliminate Maundy Thursday and keep with the old Lutheran Triduum and seriously, it’s something we should think about. You like Maundy Thursday because it’s the way you remember it done in America in your lifetime. But it’s not the way it’s done in the church catholic and that’s all we should really care about.

I guess we could go on Jewish time, set our clocks ahead so that this is the 1st hour of Good Friday, then I could sort of put up with it. But really: it would be better to go back to the old Lutheran/Early Church way of celebrating the Feast.

The real problem with Calvinism [which has infected all the Protestant churches of America and even Rome and the East] is that adamantly denies that Jesus is God the way the Father + Spirit are. Calvin insists: “the finite is not capable of the infinite!” which means that God can’t fit all of Himself into a human body. Jesus can’t be fully God because God is either too big, or Jesus’ body is just too small…

This directly contradicts what St. Paul says in Colossians 2:8-9: “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to he elementary principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily…” Philosophy [Greek Neoplatonic philosophy] is precisely what took John Calvin and all his followers [and many bishops of Rome and Constantinople] captive in the 16th century and later. Only Luther said a big, loud, proud “No!” To Aristotle and Plato and branded the denial that all the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily in Jesus as what it is: Arian denial of the deity of  Christ—the worst heresy of them all, which the Nicene Creed was written to stamp out.

So all Reformed, Roman, and Orthodox bishops captured by Greek philosophy (an empty deceit I can tell you having studied philosophy for years in college and grad school—complete nonsense, really) deny the Lord’s Supper is the true Body and Blood of God Himself, deny thereby that Jesus is fully God whose death is our Passover sacrifice. Instead, they make it a “memorial meal” like a reenactment of an old battle or play. This is another thing I don’t like about Maundy Thursday services. It’s like the only real value of the Lord’s Supper is in recreating something that’s merely historical, like there is nothing Really happening right now.

You think Rome is with us on the Real Presence? Well, think again! In the 13th century Thomas Aquinas denied the Real, bodily Presence of Jesus in the Supper with his doctrine of transubstantiation—in which (following Aristotle!) Thomas says the “substance” of the bread (some made-up “shtuff” that makes bread bread) gets sucked out of it, and is replaced with the “substance” of Christ’s Body. Same “trans” shtuff with the blood. The 16th century council of Trent made Aquinas’ transubstantiation teaching official Roman dogma, trading the actual Presence of Jesus’ body and blood in the bread and wine for a merely “substantial” affair—some imaginary philosophical nonsense that isn’t Real!

Calvin was simply reviving the original teaching of Thomas Aquinas with his “spiritual” rather than bodily presence. Patriarchs of the Eastern Orthodox church officially embraced Calvinism in the 16th century! It’s spread everywhere—like the original Arian heresy did in the 4th century, as Athanasius and Jerome lamented.

All English translations of the Bible are heavily Calvinist influenced. And there are two words in Luke they all badly mistranslate. The first is ευχαριστησας which gets translated: “give thanks”. But the Greek is a compound of two simple Greek words eυ meaning “good” and χαρις meaning “grace”. [It’s not a verb, here, but an aorist particle] literally, Jesus is “good gracing” the bread… that is, making it something much more…

The other word they don’t translate correctly is a simple preposition, εις which is “into” not “in”. And this changes the whole sentence! Jesus doesn’t have us “do this in remembrance of me” (as our way of remembering him) but rather the Greek is literally “do this into my remembering”, that is to say: as Jesus’ way of remembering us! Quite opposite land from Calvin’s “memorial meal”!

So, Jesus isn’t saying “thanks” to the Father for a nice little memorial meal. The Supper’s not about “gratitude”. The Eucharist is a supernatural divine act of God’s creative grace, turning bread and wine into His Body and Blood, a heavenly, holy Supper. In the same way, God’s grace in Christ turns sinners into saints and mere mortals into eternal sons and daughters of God! Which doesn’t happen by our remembering Him, but only by His remembering us.

The Lord’s Supper is not a passion play, not some work we perform to virtue-signal God. It is a pure gift, a Passover Feast by which death passes over us; it’s sharing Jesus’ dying by eating his body and drinking his blood, to become one Body with him, conquering sin, death, and the grave, now and forever…

And we do this as often as we gather in His Name. Not just on Holy Week or on some special Sundays, but every time we gather as His Church, we receive Him bodily so that death, sin, and Satan will flee our bodies like a burning building…(!)

In the Eucharist, God does a new thing, His main thing: making dead sinners like us into new creations. This is the ultimate transformation. This changes everything! Because Jesus can erase from His mind those who deny Him and His Word. The people late to the Feast who knocked on the door He’ll tell: “Go away. I do not remember who you are.”

Here Jesus remembers us by making us One Body with Him. Believe Him on this; and watch sin, death, and all devils pass right over you. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

About Pastor Martin

Pastor Kevin Martin has served six Lutheran congregations, beginning in 1986 as a field-worker in Trumbull, Connecticut, and vicarages in Arlington, Massachusetts and Belleville, Illinois. He has been pastor of congregations in Pembroke, Ontario and Akron, Ohio. Since 2000, he has served as pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church, Raleigh. Pastor Martin is a lifelong (confessional!) Lutheran (even though) he holds degrees from Valparaiso, Yale, and Concordia Seminary St. Louis. He and his wife Bonnie have been (happily) married since 1988, and have two (awesome!) adult children, Bethany and Christopher. Bonnie is an elementary school teacher. The Martin family enjoy music festivals, travel, golf, and swimming. They are also avid readers and movie-goers.

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