Holy Thursday/Good Friday – The Center of the Christian Faith

tFor some people, it is Christmas and Easter that are the centerpieces of the Christian faith. For me it is Holy Thursday and Good Friday. True, the popular holy/holiday days celebrate important milestones in the history of mankind. However, the significance of Christmas and Easter is that the first launches our faith (the Son enters the world and humanity) and the second validates what happens at the Last Supper (Holy Thursday) and the Crucifixion (Good Friday). While the first two are important, without these the Cross and the Eucharist there is no Christian faith, or Christian Church, or Body of Christ.

Fixing the Problem of Sin

It is Jesus’ death on the cross that pays our debt to sin, a debt we have no way to pay. Nothing in the lives of men and women can wash away the stains of sin, first Adam’s original sin passed down to all of us and then our own sins, which mount up, act upon act and failure upon failure. The water of our life begins dirty due to Adam is forever dirty  by our own acts and we have no means of cleansing it; we are fundamentally broken and we cannot fix ourselves.

Jesus explained this when he told Nicodemus that a man must be born again. Surprised at the statement, the learned Pharisee could not understand how that could happen. He could not see that being washed with the blood that will drain from the cross the man in front of him would be hanging on today would bring about the cleansing from sin and new birth that Jesus was spoking of.

Sustaining New Life

New life is fundamental, but it needs nourishment to sustain the life that has been reborn. In John 6, the beloved apostle records Our Lord’s words that explain the source of that sustenance.

31Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘HE GAVE THEM BREAD OUT OF HEAVEN TO EAT.’” 32Then Jesus said to them, “I assure you and most solemnly say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. 33For the Bread of God is He who comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.” 34Then they said to Him, “Lord, always give us this bread.” 35Jesus replied to them, “I am the Bread of Life. The one who comes to Me will never be hungry, and the one who believes in Me as Savior will never be thirsty.”

The Bread of Life

Jesus reveals that He is the Bread of Life. He is our true sustenance and source of continued life, the life that his blood gave us on the Cross of Calvary. He then goes on and is very explicit about its importance.

51I am the Living Bread that came down out of heaven. If anyone eats of this Bread, he will live forever. And the Bread that I will give for the life of the world is My flesh…I assure you and most solemnly say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life in yourselves. 54The one who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink.

56He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood remains in Me, and I in him. 57Just as the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, even so the one who feeds on Me will also live because of Me. 58This is the Bread which came down out of heaven. It is not like the manna that our fathers ate and they died; the one who eats this Bread will live forever.”

The Ongoing Problem

Few hearing him that day could accept his words and many left him. The reaction has been the same down throughout history. Even today, there are those who relish the reality of the blood and the new birth, but shrink back from the truth that the bread of life sustains them.

When the Hebrews sacrificed the Passover Lamb and they used its blood to protect the Israelites from death, they ate the lamb for the life which that blood of sacrifice offered them. The two events go intimately together. That is why at the last supper, Jesus told his disciples that the wine is his blood and continues its power to wash us and cleanse us from sin and the bread is his body, the fundamental nourishment that sustains us in the life his blood continues to give us. They are both necessary for living out the Christian life.

Conclusion

For me Holy Thursday and Good Friday are the keystones that hold up the protect arch of my faith. The events of these two days tell me that Christ makes me clean and alive by the blood of the Cross and continually nourishes and sustains that life in the Eucharist he initiated for me that night. So yes, I will eat of his body and drink of his blood, knowing that it is not a mere memorial. I will not shrink back and desert him like those who did so the first time he uttered the necessity along with those who have done the same throughout history. Instead, I accept his hard words and the truth they reveal. I embrace the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist, his body and blood, and will embrace the path he has laid out for me, now and forever. Amen.

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