Homily, Maundy Thursday
Thursday March 29, 2018, St Petri.
MATTHEW 26: 26-30
26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”
27 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the[a]covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
30 When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
Thomas, like many a person, is judged for one mistake. The mistake was not all together typical of him, but he did do it – he refused to take Jesus at his word. He refused to trust Jesus’ promises.
Thomas, like the others, was going OK. He was following and believing and listening, until that night, that table, that upstairs room.
“This is my body. This is my blood”, said the Rabbi. Jesus speaks of his immanent death, but that is not the hard thing to believe. There are many stories of good people dying unjust deaths for their cause. It is the words about rising from the impossible dead that are hard to believe.
This man of God raised the dead and defeated diseases and demons. I guess that is not totally unheard of either. Faith healers and witch doctors….. It is still special though. But not a special as coming back once dead? What was Jesus talking about?
This Easter, maybe we find ourselves not doubting the death either, but more the coming back from death? It is easier to believe that he died than to trust his words about resurrection from death’s dark pit.
Belief is hard. Maybe, like Thomas, we just do not want to be disappointed. What if we trust and the trust is betrayed? Maybe we are the teacher of that year 9 kid who hardly ever gets it right but puts her hand up anyway on this particular day to respond to his question in class. The teacher just cannot bring himself to give the girl the nod to speak her answer because he just doesn’t not want to be disappointed. So he overlooks. He stays silent. He moves on. Nothing is said or done…… Disappointment avoided.
But could it be that the risk of disappointment or embarrassment might be totally worth it? Thomas found that it was!
I’ll ask you, how does Jesus respond to Thomas’ doubt; our doubt, our fear of trusting his words?
He shows up for Thomas. He shows up for you. Jesus responded to Thomas and Thomas gets to see and hear what many doubters would love to see and hear. Thomas got that definitive evidence many say would make all the difference for them and their doubt, their cynicism, their unbelief. Thomas got to touch him, see him, smell him, hear him. “If only I could do that, then I would believe Jesus and name myself Christian” we think.
But Thomas says that this was not the MOST incredible thing about how Jesus responded to his doubt and fear. Jesus also had said earlier, the greatest miracle of a person coming back from the dead would not be enough for a person to stop doubting and believe. It takes more.
What could be more than actually witnessing Jesus dying and rising in those three days? What will be of even more blessing to the doubter, more calming balm for the fearer and hope for the troubled soul?
Thomas said it this way. “He came back for me”. Yes, the gospel writers agree. That is why the account of the doubter and the healer is included. It’s for all the doubters!
The fact that Jesus gave Thomas this opportunity, while he was lost in doubt, was the thing that brought the great confession of faith from the doubter, “My Lord and my God!”. Jesus came back! Jesus could have avoided disappointment; moved on, said nothing, done nothing…… But Jesus did and spoke and was there – all for the doubter.
Jesus comes back for you. Like a good Marine, he leaves no one behind. To be doubly sure that Jesus does not want to leave you in your doubt as he did not leave Thomas in his doubt, he sets up that room. It is the new Passover table around which he gathers us to remember, re-enact, re-live him. It is the word/meal – the enacted word, the word done to us and for us. It is a holy meal, a holy communion of great thanksgiving and joy.
He sets a table in the presence of your enemies, Doubt, Fear, Self-Righteousness, Pride, Unbelief. He speaks the new relationship of Faith, Freedom, His Righteousness into you. This new meal is the meal of the new relationship, the new era not founded on keeping the law of God but on the love of God for us in Jesus; in his body and blood, bread and wine.
And we smell, we touch, we taste, we see, and we hear him, “This is my body, broken for you; This is my blood shed for you”, for forgiveness ongoing, a real word, definitive act, as we eat and drink at the table together with this Jesus, the wounded servant now glorious and present for us.
He will complete the meal in that room and then ratify his commitment to this new relationship on the Good Friday Cross and Easter Day empty tomb. He will begin the new relationship with you based on his grace by the pouring out of his human blood on the altar of the cross for you.
This Servant King’s throne will be that cross, the cross of divine human love for all the doubters, the cynics, the executioners, the thieves, the grieving loved ones and detached onlookers.
We will all be there as Thomas was there.
Friend, he comes for you tonight. Again, he appears where two or three are gathered in his name. He calls you to the new communion, the new community, the new era of grace in Jesus by the Father’s will and the Spirit’s power. He calls you to believe.
Come to the banquet. There is a place for you.
Eat and drink for forgiveness and life. He is our life over death, faith over doubt, love over hate, grace over self.
He comes back.