O loving and blessed Jesus, I come before You to meditate with true devotion of heart on Your bitter suffering. Lord, let Your woes, Your patience, inspire my heart with strength to vanquish every temptation and spurn every unworthy desire. This is what my heart would cherish most of all. What pain my soul’s redemption has cost You, O Savior! O Lamb of God slain in innocence! You suffered because of all my sins. Yes, the sins, debt, iniquities, unrighteousness, and wickedness of all people were laid squarely on You and You claimed them as Your very own, so that in the judgment of God You became the greatest sinner of all, yes, sin itself. And as our sins were all on You, so on You also came our punishment, overwhelming You like a flood. During Your public ministry as a teacher, Your lot was contempt, vilification, and blasphemy. But during Your Passion all these things were poured on You with multiplied force. Not satisfied with raising accusations against You and forcing You to stand trial in two courts, the spiritual and the secular, and suffering Yourself to be sentenced to death by both, You were also made to suffer the cruelest physical pains. Your holy body was wounded, scourged, torn, and suffused with blood.
Celebrating the Lord’s Supper is not an option. It is the Savior’s will. He instituted it. He commanded it. He said, “Do this.” This night gets its name, “Maundy Thursday,” from the Latin word mandatum, “command.” In the Upper Room, Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another” (Jn 13:34). It’s the night of our Lord’s commands: “Love”; “Do this.”
The Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is Jesus’ gift to His Church. He wants us to extend our hand to receive it. We disrespect Him, our Lord and Savior, when we turn away from His gift of love. It’s kind of like going to Grandma’s house for Thanksgiving dinner. If we don’t show up, she is sure to ask us why we weren’t there: “I prepared the meal for you, but you didn’t come.” It’s Grandma’s meal, prepared just for us, and we turned away from it.
Jesus, I will ponder now
On Your holy passion;
With Your Spirit me endow
For such meditation.
Grant that I in love and faith
May the image cherish
Of Your suff’ring, pain, and death
That I may not perish.
Lord Jesus, when You began Your bitter suffering for our sins amid great agony of soul, when Your soul was exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death, and drops of blood oozed from Your sacred brow, the eyes of Your disciples were heavy with sleep, so that You had to call to them: “Could you not watch with Me one hour? . . . Sleep and take your rest later on” [Matthew 26:40, 45].
Monday in Holy Week
Psalmody: Psalm 35:1–6, 9–10
Additional Psalm: Psalm 71, Psalm 143
Old Testament Reading: Exodus 9:1–28
Additional Reading: Lamentations 1:1–22
New Testament Reading: Hebrews 2:1–18
Prayer of the Day
Almighty God, grant that in the midst of our failures and weaknesses we may be restored through the passion and intercession of Your only-begotten Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. (L29)
The death toll mounts, and the very ground groans in travail. The waters die, the livestock dies, the vegetation dies, soon the light will also die—what is left? The people who suffered will also die. The firstborn sons will be taken, and all that is left will be sorrow and mourning. The cries of the Israelites were carried up to God in their distress and pain; now the cries of the Egyptians rise up, but they fall upon deaf ears. They have sinned against God and humankind; they have oppressed the holy, chosen people of God; they have reached out their arms and struck those whom God has ordained as His own. There are no ears to hear their cries, and the death toll mounts.
The smell of death is upon the land, and it would seem that the toll mounts uncontrolled, without reason. Enough is enough; will it not stop? Will there be anything left? Yet Pharaoh holds fast to his stubborn and wicked ways as the cries of anguish are heard throughout the land. So, the Lord God decimates the land and the Egyptians in order that they may no longer be a threat to His people. Everything is in His control, and He wields His sword mightily.
Even as the smell of death wafts across the land of Egypt, it does not drift into the land of Goshen. The death toll mounts, but the Hebrews are spared, for the Lord works His will and fights the battle for them. He is their champion upon the field as He sets the stage for the rescue that will soon come.
Death surrounds us; we walk through the valley of its shadow; we dwell in the very midst of this reality. All around us, the death toll mounts as the world ignores the One who gives life and preserves it. All around us, death swings his sickle and reaps his harvest, but the smell of death does not fill the nostrils of the children of God, for He has stopped it and stayed its power from our land.
Death is not an enemy that slinks easily away. Death must be defeated. Death must be conquered upon the battlefield and be chained, lest it return to take us to its dark valley. So the Champion who fought for the people of God of old also fights for the people of God today. Jesus Christ is the warrior strong to save. Jesus Christ is the One who has faced death and struck him down in defeat, even as He has chained him forever by His victory over the grave. He has fought and won the battle, securing the victory for His children.
Even though we are surrounded by death on all sides, we fear no evil, for God is with us. Even though the stench of death is strong upon the land of darkness, we are safe and secure in the redeeming arms of the One who faced down death in our place, bestowing upon us life—even life everlasting.
The Prayer of the Day is from Lutheran Service Book, Collects of the Day © 2006 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
From A Year in the Old Testament: Meditations for Each Day of the Church Year, page 112 © 2012 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
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