Holy Thursday, occurring on the eve of our Lord’s crucifixion, culminates the Lenten period of preparation for Christ’s Passion and Resurrection, and is a service of restrained joy. The Service of Corporate Confession and Absolution signals the end of the Lenten preparations with the absolution and peace of Christ. The Service of the Word focuses upon Christ’s sacrificial service demonstrated in His washing of His disciples’ feet, a servanthood enacted on the cross and whose benefits are bestowed in His means of grace. The service culminates with the Lord’s ministry to His people through the Sacrament of the Altar. The depth of Christ’s servanthood is demonstrated as the altar is reverently stripped in preparation for the Church’s observance of Jesus’ death on Good Friday.
During this Lenten season we have heard our Lord’s call to intensify our struggle against sin, death, and the devil – all that prevents us from trusting in God and loving each other. Since it is our intention to receive the Holy Supper of our Lord Jesus Christ on this night when He instituted this blessed meal for our salvation, it is proper that we complete our Lenten discipline by diligently examining ourselves, as St. Paul urges us to do. This holy Sacrament has been instituted for the special comfort of those who are troubled because of their sin and who humbly confess their sins, fear God’s wrath, and hunger and thirst for righteousness.
But when we examine our hearts and consciences, we find nothing in us but sin and death, from which we are incapable of delivering ourselves. Therefore, our Lord, Jesus Christ has had mercy on us. For our benefit He became man so that He might fulfill for us the whole will and law of God and, to deliver us, took upon Himself our sin and the punishment we deserve. So that we may more confidently believe this and be strengthened in the faith and in holy living, our Lord Jesus Christ took bread, broke it, and gave it to His disciples and said: “Take, eat; this is My body, which is given for you.” It is as if He said, “I became man, and all that I do and suffer is for your good. As a pledge of this, I give you My body to eat.”
In the same way also He took the cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying: “Drink of it, all of you; this cup is the new testament in My blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” Again, it is as if He said, “I have had mercy on you by taking into Myself all your iniquities. I give Myself into death, shedding My blood to obtain grace and forgiveness of sins, and to comfort and establish the new testament, which gives forgiveness and everlasting salvation. As a pledge of this, I give you My blood to drink.”
Therefore, whoever eats this bread and drinks this cup, confidently believing this Word and promise of Christ, dwells in Christ and Christ in him and has eternal life.
We should also do this in remembrance of Him, showing His death – that He was delivered for our offenses and raised for our justification. Giving Him our most heartfelt thanks, we take up our cross and follow Him and, according to His commandment, love one another as He has loved us. As our Lord on this night exemplified this love by washing His disciples’ feet, so we by our words and actions serve one another in love. For we are all one bread and one body, even as we are all partakers of this one bread and drink from the one cup. For just as the one cup is filled with wine of many grapes and one bread made from countless grains, so also we, being many, are one body in Christ. Because of Him, we love one another, not only in word, but in deed and in truth.
May the almighty and merciful God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, by His Holy Spirit, accomplish this in us.
(From Trinity Lutheran Church, Gillette, WY Maundy Thursday service)