Online Worship for Maundy Thursday April 1, 2021
Sermon for Maundy Thursday 2004 – Miracles, Signs and Wonders
Calvary/Marquette ● Soli Deo Gloria
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who washed us from our sins in His own blood, to whom be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
31 Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. 32 Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who was crucified with Him. 33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. 34 But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. 35 And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe. 36 For these things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled, “Not one of His bones shall be broken.” 37 And again another Scripture says, “They shall look on Him whom they pierced.”
In the Name of Jesus Christ,
Dear Fellow Redeemed by His Blood –
I must tell you, I really wanted to put that moment behind me. I didn’t even want to drive the car anymore. I was on my way back to Immanuel for my Senior year in High School when my parents let me drive and promptly both fell asleep. I couldn’t wait to get back to school to see my friends again, so I drove faster than the speed limit.
When the police officer pulled me over to give me the ticket, my parents woke up. I felt horrible. I felt guilty. I wanted to forget, to put the whole episode out of my memory. I still can’t.
I sometimes wonder if it was partially their own guilt that moved the Jewish Leaders to move so quickly to be rid of Jesus body. The Lord was nailed to the cross at 9am, and died 6 hours later, about 3pm.
The tremors of the earthquake had hardly stopped when they asked Pontius Pilate that the bodies not remain on the cross past 6pm (the beginning of the Sabbath) but that their legs might all be broken and their dead bodies removed.
Now their request was according to the Law of Moses, which stated in the 21st chapter of Deuteronomy (22-23):
22 “If a man has committed a sin deserving of death, and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, 23 his body shall not remain overnight on the tree, but you shall surely bury him that day, so that you do not defile the land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance; for he who is hanged is accursed of God.
Still I wonder if for some of them it was a matter of getting rid of the evidence, of being rid of the reminder of what they had done to Jesus. I wonder if some of them just wanted everything to get back to normal.
Whatever their motivation, our Heavenly Father used the circumstances to complete promises He made through the Prophets years before. We consider this evening another wonder, how according to the Scriptures Jesus bones were not broken. Then we will gather at this altar to receive His body and blood in a miraculous fashion – according to His Promise.
May God strengthen our faith through these words. Amen.
Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.
Now, from our point of view, 6pm Friday evening isn’t an hour particularly close to Saturday. For us, Saturday (or the Sabbath) begins at midnight, but for the Jews the Sabbath began at 6pm Friday evening.
Since it was unlawful to work on the Sabbath, all preparations had to be done before 6pm Friday night. All cooking, cleaning and purchasing would have to be done before the Sabbath.
It was the Preparation Day. Moreover, the Sabbath that followed Good Friday was an important one, as it began a weeklong festival known as the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
Therefore, the Jewish Leaders asked that Pilate have the legs of the crucified broken and bodies taken down from their crosses.
The legs of crucified men were often broken. It was a cruel and brutal way of hastening death.
If the shock of shattered bones wasn’t enough in itself to kill an exhausted man, then the crucified would simply suffocate under the weight of his own body.
The Romans ordinarily left the bodies of criminals on the cross until they rotted or were eaten away by animals, except if relatives came forward and asked for the body.
In Palestine, it seems the Romans made an exception because of the Law, to avoid any uprising.
Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who was crucified with Him. 33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs.
While they were sent to break Jesus’ legs along with the two criminals, they found it unnecessary to do so because – He was already dead.
The Gospel of Mark tells us that when they told Pontius Pilate Jesus was already dead, he was surprised (Mark 15:44). Death by crucifixion wasn’t meant to be a quick execution – it often would drag on for days. But after just 6 hours, Jesus was dead.
Crucifixion was a horrible way to die, and crucifixion was the cause of death for Jesus. Still, we remember that Jesus gave Himself to death.
Death didn’t take Jesus. Jesus took death.
For the Lord said beforehand (John 10:17-18):
“Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. 18 No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.”
This is also evident in the way that John describes Jesus’ death (John 19:28,30):
“After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst!”…So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.”
When Jesus had completed all that was necessary for our salvation, He laid down His life. After having lived the perfect life God demanded of us according to the Law and after having died to pay for our sin-guilt.
Jesus gave up His spirit into the Father’s hand. Since Jesus was already dead, His legs were not broken.
Do you understand this wonder?
On the previous day, Jesus and His disciples celebrated the Passover, during which they ate roasted lamb, bitter herbs and unleavened bread.
When the Jews celebrated this meal, they were to remember how God had delivered the Israelites from Egypt through the blood of the Passover Lamb, painted on the doorposts of their houses.
Now that lamb was to be with blemish or spot, without any physical defect, nor were any of its bones to be broken (Exodus 12:46). This is important to us because Jesus is called our Passover (Lamb – 1 Corinthians 5:7).
The Apostle John also explains that this wonder occurred for yet another reason:
…these things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled, “Not one of His bones shall be broken.”
Instead of breaking Jesus legs, one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, to make sure He was dead. When he did so, the flow of blood and water proved that Jesus was dead.
This too was done, John tells us to fulfill the Scriptures:
And again another Scripture says, “They shall look on Him whom they pierced.” And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe.
John saw it with his own eyes, and has recorded this eyewitness account. Jesus body was not broken, but His blood was shed. Yes, and these remarkable testimonies are recorded so that you may believe, so that you may be sure that Jesus really died, that He shed His blood --- and that to pay for your sins.
These things, though seemingly unimportant serve to strengthen our faith in the Word of God.
This evening, you will come forward to the altar of the Lord and you will receive unleavened bread and grape wine. The sacrament may seem unremarkable to anyone who sees it from the outside.
Still, in this Sacrament Jesus also gives to you His body and His blood, which He gave and shed for you on the Cross.
Jesus didn’t have to do this. He doesn’t have to confirm our faith by coming to us in the Words of Institution to tell us: “This is my body which is given for you…this is my blood of the new covenant, shed for you for the remission of sins” – but He does.
Jesus didn’t have to promise to give us that body and blood in a miraculous way along with the bread and wine, but He assures us that this is indeed what happens.
In this way, Jesus again lays His Sacrifice before our eyes and makes it personal to each of us. He confirms that He did all of this for you and me. He laid down His life, gave his body and shed His blood so that we could be forgiven…for all the times we have sinned in thought, word and action.
Imagine that, yet another miracle, a sign, a wonder – to strengthen our faith in Him and His willing sacrifice for us. May God so strengthen your faith. Amen.