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Is It I?

March 29, 2018 Pastor: Rev. George Fyler

Verse: Mark 14:12–14:26

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Mark 14:12-26 ~ Is it I? … It is I!- Maundy Thursday, 3/28/2018 – CELC, Cleveland, OH

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They began to be sorrowful and to say to him one after another, "Is it I?"Mark 14:19 ESV

In the name of the Father and of the (X ) Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen

Dear beloved of the Lord:

            Is it I? …So, asked all twelve. Each in his own turn. Not one of the disciples is really sure of himself. It couldn’t be him … could it?However, what Jesus spoke of “the one” would turn out to be true of them all. Judas Iscariot was “the one” who would literally hand Jesus overto those who would crucify Him.  But which among them would not betray Him in the hours that followed? They all would—by denying, running away and abandoning Jesus. There was plenty of guilt to go around. They were all dipping their bread into the dish with Him. So, if we can say that Peter was the first among equals, perhaps we could also say the same in the opposite way … Judas also was the first among equals.

            Tonight, we join the twelve and ask.Is it I?You know the answer. It is as we confessed:“I a poor, miserable sinner.”To sin is to betray our Holy God. It is to hand over the holiness He has given us … to unholiness. It is to hand over faith … for unbelief. It is to fear, love, and trust someone or something more than He … for my life … for my happiness … for what I need. It is I!It is you!It is us! Like the disciples that night, there is plenty of guilt to go around in this room, too.

            But there is another present tonight whospeaksforgiveness to sinners, He changes the sinner’s question: Is it I? into His gospel Word and action saying:“It is I”.  This One’s innocence far exceeds our guilt. It is, in fact, the answer to our own sinful self-importancewhen Jesus took the bread, gave thanks, broke it and gave it to His disciples and said: It is I, “take eat,this is My Body given for you. And then when He took the cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them and said:“It is I, all of you drink if it,this is My Blood of the new testament shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”With those simple statements we receive a profound truth: Jesus gives His perfect body and blood for our sinful body and blood. The perfect body and blood He gives to eat and drink are the very same body and blood that will soon hang on the cross in the place of our sinful body and blood.In so doing, He takes our Is it I? and gives us His It is I. He takes our guilt and gives us His life.

            Before Jesus is handed over to death, He hands Himself over to us.  Our guilt is met with gift and the two are not equal. His gift overwhelms and far outweighs our guilt. It is the way of God, as it has been since the very beginning. In the Garden, when Adam and Eve sinned, guilt was met with gift—the promise of a “seed” that will satisfy the father’s judgment and redeem the sinner from a sentence of guilt.Continuing through the years of patriarchs and prophets—guilt was met with gift. When Jesus walked through the towns and villages, eating with tax collectors, prostitutes, and sinners—guilt was met with gift. In someformer Christian communities, it happened on Maundy Thursday that the formerly ex-communicated, but now humble repentant who hadconfessed their sin, amended their life and received Absolution,were received back into the community—their guilt being removed by the gift.And so too for us. Not only tonight, but especially tonight, we rememberaright the gift given, in Jesus’ substitutionary sacrifice on Calvary’s cross.We come, crushed by our failures and sins, with our broken lives, in all our woeful inadequacy to be called children of God.  So that our guilt is met with His perfectrighteousness. So that our guilt is washed away in the flood of Jesus’ blood. So that we hear again the grace-filled words: “your sins are forgiven … depart in peace!”

            This is the perfect gift.Always joined with the body and blood of our Lord is the promise attached—the promise of oneness with God in the forgiveness of our sins.  This is the gift of a promised eternal life in the presence of our Heavenly Father with angels and arch angels and all the company of heaven singing “Holy, Holy, Holy” to the One and Only God Almighty.

            By faith alone we receive these promises.  Though you come to this altar, an Adam, a Judas, a Peter—a betrayer, a sinner, a repeat offender, with nothing to offer God—your guilt is met with gift and you leave a saint. That is, a sinner made holy through the blood of the new testament, a sinner set free by the blood of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

            Tomorrow, we will once again recount the slaughter of that Lamb.Jesus goes to the cross as it is written of Him—willingly in love for you. In His Supper we receive that Lamb, eating His body, drinking His blood, and as St. Paul said, we become one in Him; one as His body, as His bride, as His restored community, showing forth His death till He come.

            Tomorrow we recount not only His crucifixion, but ours as well. That joined to Him and one in Him, His death becomes our death, His resurrection our resurrection, and His life our life.  Our participation in the body and blood of Christ is our participation in His passing through death and into life eternal.The old sinner in us is slain, and the new man arises.  Even though that old Adam, that old Judas, that old Peter in us continues to live on, and continues to lead us where we do not want to go, and do that which we do not want to do, and plunges us into sin—we do not fear, or despair, but know that greater than our guilt is His gift.

            His one gift will never run out, the loaf will always provide for more and the cup will never run dry.  Tonight, we have adopted the disciples’ question as our own …Is it I?We do so not to practice a false shame, but to receive the gift that is here for the truly guilty—the forgiveness of our sin given in our Lord’s body and blood.

            An ancient father of the church (John Chrysostom)wrote of another gift of the eucharist as follows: “The blood [of Christ] is the salvation of our souls.  By it the soul is washed, is beautiful, and is inflamed!  This blood causes our understanding to be brighter than fire and our soul more beaming than gold.  This blood was poured forth and opened heaven.  Heaven opened!  That means God’s steadfast love, redemption, restoration and acceptance of His children rained down upon you.

            So,as you come to His altar and receive His true Body and Blood, look up to the opened heaven. And by receiving, see. Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.It is He, here for you.