The Rev. Paul J Cain
Nothing But the Blood of Jesus
Holy (Maundy) Thursday, 5 April 2012
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, WY
In the Name of Jesus. Amen.
This is the night on which He was betrayed. Jesus’ Last Will and Testament proclaims: Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.
Tonight, we will sing, “O precious is the flow That makes me white as snow; No other fount I know; Nothing but the blood of Jesus.” That is the well-known refrain of “Nothing but the Blood,” a hymn by Robert Lowry, absent from Lutheran Service Book. Why? For all the Gospel comfort it extols, the text fails to concretely locate the forgiveness of sins. Tonight, the night on which Jesus was betrayed, the Sacrament of the Altar provides the perfect context for locating the forgiveness of sins where Jesus has promised that we will find it!
Dr. Luther writes, “So that our readers may the better perceive our teaching I shall clearly and broadly describe it. We treat of the forgiveness of sins in two ways. First, how it is achieved and won. Second, how it is distributed and given to us. Christ has achieved it on the cross, it is true. But he has not distributed or given it on the cross. He has not won it in the supper or sacrament. There he has distributed and given it through the Word, as also in the gospel, where it is preached. He has won it once for all on the cross. But the distribution takes place continuously, before and after, from the beginning to the end of the world. For inasmuch as he had determined once to achieve it, it made no difference to him whether he distributed it before or after, through his Word, as can easily be proved from Scripture. But now there is neither need nor time to do so.
“If now I seek the forgiveness of sins, I do not run to the cross, for I will not find it given there. Nor must I hold to the suffering of Christ, (as Dr. Karlstadt trifles), in knowledge or remembrance, for I will not find it there either. But I will find in the sacrament or gospel the word which distributes, presents, offers, and gives to me that forgiveness which was won on the cross. Therefore, Luther has rightly taught that whoever has a bad conscience from his sins should go to the sacrament [of the altar] and obtain comfort, not because of the bread and wine, not because of the body and blood of Christ, but because of the word which in the sacrament offers, presents, and gives the body and blood of Christ, given and shed for me. Is that not clear enough? (Luther, M. (1999). Vol. 40: Luther's works, vol. 40 : Church and Ministry II (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther's Works (213–214). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.)
12 And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, [Jesus’] (his) disciples said to him, “Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?” 13 And he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him, 14 and wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 15 And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us.” 16 And the disciples set out and went to the city and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.
Because of the shed blood of the perfect lamb on the doorposts of a house when the Israelites were in Egypt, the Angel of Death was able to “pass over” that home. A sacrifice of atonement had been made. This is Jesus’ Passover. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world once and for all.
What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
17 And when it was evening, he came with the twelve. 18 And as they were reclining at table and eating, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” 19 They began to be sorrowful and to say to him one after another, “Is it I?” 20 He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the dish with me. 21 For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.”
The meaning of the question “Is it I?” does not mesh with the words of Jesus we so often hear this week: “You have said so.” Reword the disciples’ question this way: “It is I?” Take away the question mark and you have a confession of sin. We all have betrayed our Lord. We all are in need of the cleansing forgiveness of the Lord’s Supper.
For my pardon this I see: Nothing but the blood of Jesus. For my cleansing this my plea: Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
22 And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” 23 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. 24 And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. 25 Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”
These are the Words of Jesus’ Testament, the new Testament in His blood, poured out for you. We are not saved by the good we have done. We are saved by Jesus. We are credited with the good He is and has done in our stead and by His Words of Promise.
Nothing can for sin atone: Nothing but the blood of Jesus. Naught of good that I have done: Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
26 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
Scholars tell us they likely sang Psalms 113-118. Psalm 116 is part of Divine Service Settings 1 and 2 in Lutheran Service Book. We rightly praise the Lord for hope, peace, and righteousness in Jesus Christ!
This is all my hope and peace: Nothing but the blood of Jesus. This is all my righteousness: Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
To summarize Dr. Luther: “Christ has achieved [the forgiveness of sins] on the cross, it is true. But he has not distributed or given it on the cross. He has not won it in the supper or sacrament. There he has distributed and given it through the Word, as also in the gospel, where it is preached. He has won it once for all on the cross….If now I seek the forgiveness of sins, I do not run to the cross, for I will not find it given there. Nor must I hold to the suffering of Christ…in knowledge or remembrance, for I will not find it there either. But I will find in the sacrament or gospel the word which distributes, presents, offers, and gives to me that forgiveness which was won on the cross…”
Refrain: O precious is the flow That makes me white as snow; No other fount I know; Nothing but the blood of Jesus. Amen.
In the Name of Jesus. Amen.