Speaker: Tim Bollinger
Scripture: Matthew 26:17-30

From the series Holy Week & Easter 2024

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Good evening. It’s good to have all of you here on this Monday. Thursday. And those of you that are able to join us online and Monday, Thursday, it really is a special service. I know some of you we’ve probably already kind of aggravate you, haven’t we, by making you have to come up a little bit. Some of you you’re used to sitting in the last row and this is the closest you’ve ever sat before. And you’re like, what is going on? I just want you to know that’s intentional because there is something very special about Maundy Thursday. And to be honest with you, I wish more people attended Maundy Thursday. Out of all of our Holy Week services, starting with Palm Sunday through Easter Sunday. For whatever reason, it’s the least attended service and I believe those that missed this are missing out because if there’s anything Maundy Thursday teaches us, it’s to slow down, it’s to take a deep breath, it’s to put our faith and our spiritual life above everything else.

There was a lot going on today, and I don’t know if you know this or not, but baseball actually started today. And even right now, there’s these basketball teams called March Madness that are playing. And when, you know, even in this time right now that we’re gathered, there’s a Red Wings game going on and they’re supposedly a contender for the playoff. You have every reason to not be here tonight. And those of you that know the month that my family has had as our oldest son spent 12 days in the hospital. I am just I’m so thankful that my whole family is here tonight. And our son Henry is able to be with us tonight. But I say that knowing that there’s people that would be here tonight, family members of ours that aren’t here because they’re in the hospital. And Tom, Karen is still in the hospital. Tom’s here tonight and his wife currently can’t join us. If you didn’t know, Greg Mosely, a longtime member here, is also in the hospital. And he didn’t receive very good news this morning from his surgeons. And he and his wife, Kathy, they would always be here. 

Karen would always be here. You guys are part of the family. And so we need to continue to lift them up in prayer. But what I hope is we walk through the scriptures, which just, you know, on Monday, Thursday, you really have three options. As a preacher. You can focus on communion, you can focus on Jesus washing the disciples feet, or you can focus on Jesus with the disciples in the garden. Like if you’re going to honor Maundy Thursday, you’re kind of hitting one of those three things. My hope tonight is that you will see in the pages of Scripture how much God wants us in community with one another, and how so often we’ve kind of been led astray by this idea that we should go it alone and that we should all be self-sufficient and that we don’t need to rely on each other when in fact God has brought us into his family, into community, that we would bear one another’s burdens, that we would pray for each other, that, yes, we’d be there in those moments when we can celebrate what it is that God is doing in your life, but also those moments when you go through some of the darkest, most difficult times. And it’s kind of interesting when you think of Maundy Thursday, because what is Monday? 

Thursday centered around a meal. And have you ever noticed how much of our lives revolve around food? Some of you you love to grocery shopping cook, don’t you? Who are you out there on behalf of those of us like me who don’t like to shop or cook, we say thank you. But even in this, if you think about this, how what used to be just something that was so sacred to families and how important it was for families to sit around a table undistracted and to have time to talk and find out how their day when and to pour into one another and encourage one another. And now we find ourselves in a time, and my family included, when the meal is just to is to get food into the stomach so that we can get on to the next activity. Does anybody know what I’m talking about? And so instead of saying, Hey, how are things going and how is your day? And I want to hear about, you know, what it is that you found beneficial or exciting about your day, It’s usually this What is taking you so long?

Hurry up and eat. Hurry up and eat. We got to go. We got to go. We got to go. And again, on a night like Monday. Thursday. I don’t believe any of you were here by accident. Any of you that are able to join us online. And again, we look and we see what happened. She was on the first day of the week. All right. There we go. And there was a festival. What’s the festival’s name? then that Interesting. The disciples came to Jesus and asked, Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover? Hey, we know this festival that we’ve been celebrating for a long, long time. Hundreds of years. We want to know where you want this to take place. And he replies to them, Go into the city to a certain man and tell him. The teacher says, My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house. Now, those of you that were here on Sunday for Palm Sunday, this is the same exact thing he did with a couple of his disciples when he said, Go ahead and find this person and tell them that I need their donkey and their cult.

Do you remember that? So there’s a pattern here, right? He he’s always the one that’s orchestrating everything. He’s always the one that sets everything up. And so, of course, the disciples, knowing what he asked them to do on Palm Sunday, knew that this was a pattern, that there’s going to be a guy that was going to open up his house because that’s what Jesus does. He does things behind the scenes that sometimes we don’t even comprehend. And so they did is as Jesus had directed him and they prepared the Passover. But what is the Passover? Why are they celebrating this? What’s the significance of this? And you have to go all the way back to Exodus chapter 12, where you find the first Passover. And if this is your first Maundy Thursday service ever, this is so cool to watch it. How significant this is. And again, I want you to look for the elements of how God puts us in community and puts us and families together because it was God that said to Moses and Aaron, while they’re still in Egypt, you see God’s people have been enslaved for 400 years and God raised the leader up named Moses, and he gave him a brother named Aaron.

And he told Moses and Aaron that they were going to be the instruments that he would use to help them leave captivity, to be the ones that would be freed from 400 years of slavery. And so he goes to these two guys and he says, this month is to be for you for the first month, the first month of your year.

Tell the whole community, all the Israelites, that on the 10th day, these are very specific instructions of the month each man is to take away for his family, for one, for each household. Imagine having to communicate that. Listen to this. This is so cool. If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbor. Having taken into account the number of people there are and you are to determine the amount of lamb needed in accordance with what each person will eat. How many think this would be a fun exercise? You would love it if if Moses and Aaron came to you and said, Listen, we got this assignment and we need you to make sure that you can.

However, they did this to figure out that everyone gets fed. I find this fascinating that even if you’re in a small family or whatever your circumstances were, that God wanted to make sure that you were combined with others, that you were in community with others. And it also shows in the way in which they use their resource is how they didn’t waste anything. But again, coming together as a family, will the instructions go on? He says. Take care of them until the 14th day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at Twilight. I mean, that’s very specific instructions. Then they were to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and the tops of the door frames of the houses where they do not eat the lamps. See, some people forget this part of the account. They might remember the blood on the door post, but they don’t remember that God actually called them to a table that he called them to eat the lamb. And it’s amazing. And we don’t have time to get into it. But when you study these festivals and you study the traditions of the Jewish people, the intentionality that went into their family tables and how everything was so symbolic in the way in which they were not pressed for time, they would allow these things to unfold and they would invest in one another.

Well, it goes on to say the same night, it says, I will pass through Egypt, This is God, and strike down every firstborn of people and animals. And I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt, See God’s righteous wrath. His mercy had come to an end, and he said, This has to happen because they refuse to turn and to follow me and to listen to me. I am the Lord. And so this blood will be a sign for you on the houses. And when I see the blood, I will pass over it. And no destruction or plague will touch you and I will strike Egypt. And that’s exactly what God did on one day and one moment of time that God knew that this would be the last plague that would be sent, and that this finally was what would rattle Pharaoh as he would lose his son. And he’d have no other choice but to recognize the one true God and allow God’s people to be released. After all of those years, slavery. But what’s interesting as well is in these passages that he gives them commands to celebrate this moment in time. In fact, in verse 14, it says, This is a day you will commemorate for the generations to come. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord. 

Alas, setting ordinance, I have to be honest with you, sometimes as a pastor, I wish we had these kind of things in the New Testament. I wish it said in every monday-thursday Thursday, every Bible believing Bible following Jesus loving person must attend Maundy Thursday service. When have you called?

Monday. Thursday was as packed out as Easter Sunday, but that would be the law. And through God’s grace and mercy, it’s not a got to anymore. It’s a we get to experience this. We get to come to the Lord’s table. We get to come in to fellowship with one another. And think of this for those of you that have kids and those of you have kids tonight, I’m so proud of you for bringing your kids. Thank you for being here, because I think some of us wonder, will Monday, Thursday services be around in ten years or 20 years or 30 years? Here’s what they were commanded to do. And when your children say to you, Why do we have to go to a Maundy Thursday service? Or when your kids say to you, why do we celebrate the Passover Mom and dad? You shall say it is the sacrifice of the Lord’s Passover. This is God’s idea. 

This is his Passover, because he’s the one that passed over the home saying he’s the one that spared, asked and allowed us to be freed from captivity. Think of this again, this Passover, this holiday commemorating the exodus of the Jewish people, again, enslaved for 400 years, which again shows you the patience and the endurance of our God. Now, let’s fast forward back to the upper room. Between the time that they left captivity in Egypt to Jesus 2000 years ago, in the upper room is 1400 years, 1400 years later, you talk about passing a festival down, generation after generation after generation after generation. They all knew the account of what had taken place with Moses and Aaron and the children of Israel. And here these guys are just thinking it’s another Passover feast. This is just normal. This is what we do. We’ve been doing this for generations and this is what they’re going to pass down to their kids, into their grandkids. And it says while they’re eating, while they’re while they’re in this meal, this this sacred meal, and they’re conversing with one another and they’ve slowed down their lives long enough to be able to to recap their days and find out what’s going on in their lives.

Jesus, all of a sudden takes bread and then he gives thanks and he breaks it and he gives it to his disciples and he says, Take it. And then he all of a sudden decides he’s going to change what it means. He says, Take it, This is my body. And he calls, he picks up a cup and he gives thanks again and he gives it to him saying, Drink from it, all of you, This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. and by the way, what this is, is something unlike anything else you will ever experience in your life, because this will actually be tied to a physical real thing called the forgiveness of your sins, that Holy Communion has the power to forgive our sins. And again, I know so often here at Shepherds Gate, when we receive communion, it can feel a little bit like a hurried production, can it? I mean, when we come on Sunday mornings, there are so many of you and we have four communion lines and obviously we have a lot of people to get through to commune. And yet here we are, this simple thing that God has given us, and 2000 years later we’re connected back to one moment in time with Jesus, which connects us back to 1400 years before that. 

Does that ever just make anybody just pause and go, This is incredible. Like, sometimes I get in all when I read this and how long these things have been passed down to us. But I also kind of flip that script and then I wonder, what am I doing? Am I doing what I’m supposed to be doing to make sure that I pass this down to the next generation and to my kids understand the significance of why we gather for worship, why we take communion so serious slowly here at Shepherds Gate, when Jesus says, This is my body and this is my blood, do you know that we believe him at his word? And maybe we don’t understand all the intricacies of what that actually means, but we believe that Jesus is actually present in and with the bread and the wine, that this isn’t just a symbol that that we’re gathered around that Christ, because he is our he is our savior, our Lord has the ability to be present in and with the elements of communion.Now, many of you know my background. I came from a church background where communion was viewed as a symbol and coming here to Shepherds Gate and and reading the Scriptures and hearing a different perspective and appreciating the way and at least my mind in my heart, the way that communion was brought to another level. And I know sometimes people will challenge, well, how do you know that Christ is present in communion?

Because he says he’s present in communion and people sometimes that push back on and say, no, it’s not possible for Christ to be president. Communion must just be a symbol. This is usually my response to that, especially as I’ve grown up in that kind of mindset or that kind of idea, is that so often we will allow God to be everywhere. Did you know that we will let God be anywhere and everywhere in all areas of our life? And then when it comes to communion, we tell him he can’t be present in communion. And for me, that doesn’t make any sense. If Jesus wants to be president, communion, I think Jesus can be president Communion. If Jesus wants to get a donkey and a Coke, he can go get a donkey anecdote. If he wants to tell the guy, I’m using your house for Passover, he can use the guy’s house for Passover. Do you ever notice nobody says no to Jesus, and I don’t want to be the one that starts and says, you said, this is my body, this is my blood. No, you can’t, but you can. And this is why we say these words. And, you know, this is what kind of has been the linchpin for this whole thing for us this year for Holy Week is going back to the words of the Apostles Creed.

Going back to the declaration of our faith, where we say these words, I believe in the Holy Christian Church that God, despite all the things going on in our world and despite the decline of morality that we see ourselves in, that God is still working through his Holy Christian church, and that it’s not just Shepherds Gate, it’s every Bible believing Bible teaching church that God has produced faith in the hearts, in the lives of the people, even people that may have a different view of communion. Just so you know, we believe that God is the one that works out those details. It’s the communion of saints that when we receive communion, do you notice that we don’t have you all even just come in one by one, that we do this in community, in relationship with each other, and of course, that we get to receive. We believe we receive the forgiveness of sins because that’s what Jesus said. Here’s what’s also so cool about communion is Hebrew word. Remember, it means that we relive the experience all over again, and specifically the way that this word was picked in the word, the way that this word is used is you remember you go back to what it is that Jesus did on the cross for us.

I mean, that’s why he gave it to the disciples. He wanted them over and over every time they gathered. That’s what we say. Every time you drink of this cup, you. You proclaim the Lord’s Death until you come, you go back to the cross. But do you know that you also over and over and over again you remember that you are a forgiving child of God and you could commit the same thing over and over and over again in God’s grace. And his mercy is so amazing that he will forgive you over and over and over and over again, and he will part them as far as the east is from the West, and he will remember them no more. That’s why sometimes I. I feel sorry for people that only show up on Christmas and Easter. Her people that sometimes they just they get out of the habit of coming to church because man, we are so much more simple than we realize, man. But man, we are so much more forgiving than we realize as well. That’s that’s the reality. And what does communion do? It brings us back to that reality. Reminds us of what it is that Jesus has done. And that’s why God tells us you want to stir one another on Don’t neglect meeting together. Come together, courage one another.

And think of this all the more as you see it. I love this. The day approaching. And what is the day? What is he talking about? The day Jesus comes back. Which family Tonight? On Monday. Thursday. This is what we’re going to be talking about. Saturday and Sunday, the day, the resurrection day, when Jesus gets instructions from God, the father to come back for his church, who wants and for all. And the older I get, the more I think this might actually happen in our lifetime. So anybody else with me on the how many of you would not like to not die and just meet them up in the clouds? All right. Get back to Monday. Thursday. I’m getting too much into Easter, but I want to end with this because this is honestly one of my favorite parts of the Maundy Thursday text is this is after he institutes communion, after all of those things take place and he washes the disciples feet, which we’ll be talking about that tomorrow for our Good Friday services. Check this out is so cool. It says that they sung a hymn together even after Judas had betrayed Jesus. And now there’s just the 11 disciples in Jesus. 

He wasn’t in a hurry. He didn’t rush out of the upper room. He didn’t say, Guys, quick, grab your sandals, grab your bags. We got to get to the garden because there is this attachment of soldiers and come get me. Every single thing that he did was so intentional to slow things down, to draw those disciples close to him, to remind them how much he loved them. And even though things were going to get difficult and things were going to get confusing and they were going to be scattered like sheep without a shepherd, that he was giving them exactly what they needed to get them through that time. And here we are today carrying that tradition. On remembering back how good and gracious our God is. Amen.