Promised Treasures - Water and Blood
Topic: Biblical Verse: 1 Corinthians 11:23–32
April 6, 2023
1 Corinthians 11:23-32
“Promised Treasures – Water and Blood”
The name for this day, Maundy Thursday, is a strange one, at least to our ears. This evening, the forty days of Lent come to a close as we enter into the most sacred mystery of our Christian faith that unfolds over these next three days: Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection. These three days lead us from Maundy Thursday evening into Good Friday, and then to the Great Vigil of Easter and finally to the joy of Easter Sunday itself. These three days are to be understood as one seamless unit; each flowing into the other. Our Lenten series, “Promised Treasures,” continues this evening as we focus on water and blood. May the Lord’s rich and abundant blessing rest upon the preaching, the hearing, and the living of his Word for Jesus’ sake.
The word “Maundy” comes from the Latin word mandatum, meaning mandate or command. This comes from the mandatum novum, the new command, of Jesus as we hear in tonight’s Gospel reading (John 13:1-17, 31b-35). During the Passover meal, Jesus assumed the role of a servant and washed the feet of his disciples, and having done so, he instructed them: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” This is one of two themes for this Maundy Thursday: the new commandment to love as Jesus has loved us, which began with Jesus’ washing the disciple’s feet. But there is a second theme for Maundy Thursday, and that is Jesus’ institution of the Lord’s Supper, which we heard in the Epistle lesson (1 Corinthians 11:23-32). Whenever we have the privilege of celebrating this holy Supper, we do so with the Words of Institution: “Our Lord Jesus Christ, the same night in which he was betrayed…” (1 Corinthians 11:23). The unleavened bread and the wine of the Passover meal are repurposed and reinterpreted by Jesus, who is true God and true man, to become the Lord’s Supper that convey his very Body and Blood, received by faith and for faith
Water and blood – the water of the footwashing and the blood of the Passover lamb, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). These are the precious treasures that are before us on this Maundy Thursday evening. The service this evening will conclude in an unusual way with what is called the stripping of the altar. This act, done only at the close of the Maundy Thursday service, serves to remind us that Maundy Thursday leads to Good Friday, when the Lord Jesus was stripped of his clothing before going to the cross where he would offer his life as the sacrifice for our sins. Recorded only by John’s Gospel, we are told that water and blood flowed from Jesus’ side after it was pierced by the soldier (John 19:34). In his first Epistle later in the New Testament, John also adds these words: “This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree” (1 John 5:6-8). The early Church Fathers all agreed how to understand these words: the water that poured forth from Jesus’ side signifies the water of Holy Baptism that claims us as God’s own beloved children and cleanses us from all our sins. The blood that flowed from Jesus’ pierced side signifies what we celebrate tonight: Jesus giving us his very body and blood in his own Holy Supper. It is the Holy Spirit who uses the water of Baptism and the body and blood in the Lord’s Supper to strengthen us in faith. These are the precious treasures that we receive from the Lord Jesus.
Having received the precious treasure of Baptism into Jesus’ own death and resurrection, tonight we have the great privilege again to receive the precious treasure of Jesus’ own Body and Blood in the Sacrament of the Altar. And so let us come, trusting not in ourselves, but in Jesus and all that he has done for us. Let us come with repentant joy to receive what he alone can give: forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and salvation. Amen.