June 6, 2021 The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Cycle B)
The tie in between today’s readings: Blood seals the deal.
A lot can happen in a short time. Not so long ago, the Almighty’s astonishing power liberated the children of Israel with the plagues of Egypt and the Passover. It’s already three months after their Red Sea rescue and the Lord is providing for them with manna in the desert, not to mention bringing them though their first major battle with the Amalekites. Yes, it’s been a wild ride, but today’s reading in Exodus 24:3-8 tells us that it’s not over yet, because now, the pillar of smoke by day and fire by night has parked them at the base of Mt. Sinai where they will meet their God. Thunder! Lightning! Earthquakes! Darkness! All announce the presence of the Lord as He descends to the mountain’s peak. The fearful people are all too willing to stay away and let Moses go to the rendezvous alone. He returns with the first instalment of the ordinances of God, which he reads out loud to the people. The congregation, to a man, vows to obey everything that the Lord has commanded. The next day is a time of burnt offerings and sacrifices. Moses takes half the blood and sprinkles it on the alter. He turns and reads the book of the covenant once again. The people respond by saying, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do and be obedient.” Moses takes the other half of the blood and sprinkles it on the people while saying, “Behold the blood of the Covenant, which the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.” At that time, when it came to covenants, testaments, and contracts, blood always sealed the deal. Not too many days later, Moses goes back up the mountain and continues to receive God’s rules for worship. He’s been gone a long time, long enough for the people to forget all about the ten plaques, the Red Sea, the manna, and their swear to God blood oath. Yes, Moses has been gone long enough for them to fashion a golden calf and trash everything their great adventure with the Lord has stood for. There is definitely a problem here.
The heart of today’s reading in Mark 14:12-26 places us at the moment Jesus is distributing the bread and wine as His body and blood of the New Covenant. After which, the Lord cryptically states that He will not drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when He drinks it new in the kingdom of God. They sing a hymn and go to the Mount of Olives. There Jesus, drenched in His own blood sweat, passes His Gethsemane ordeal by drinking the cup the Father has prepared for Him and commits to the cross. It’s all too real now: the agony, the shame, the victory, and the glory as the sacred Lamb of God willingly dies to take away the sins of the world. Once again, earthquakes, darkness, and the temple veil rips in two, the New Covenant is in effect and once again blood sealed the deal.
The Old Covenant is over. There will be no more animals sacrifices of the Old Testament Aaronic priesthood. The constant bloodletting and burning of goats and cow and lambs, which only rendered the supplicant ceremonially cleansed, superficially righteous, and rarely penetrated to the heart of the person has been replaced or more exactly…fulfilled. Our reading in Hebrews 9:11-15 takes us behind the scenes where the real action is. Christ, our high priest according to the order of Melchizedek enters the actual temple in heaven. He offers His own blood through the Holy Spirit to the Father as a once and for all sacrifice for the eternal redemption of His people. It’s a more perfect sacrifice with sufficient power to change the hearts of all believers and create lives of obedience to the Lord. Having finished His work, Jesus now sits at the right hand of the Father to make intercession for us that we may live on a higher spiritual plane and push on to God’s eternal Promised Land in heaven.
Having been redeemed by the precious body and blood of Christ, our reading in Psalm 116:12-18 asks, “What shall we render to the Lord for all His benefits toward us? It answers by telling us to lift up the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord. By faith, be united with the sacrifice of the Lamb of God that took away your sins. Join with other believers who are His body and in memory of Him rejoice the cup of His blessing in His blood. Eat the Bread of Life, knowing that by His precious death, He released the bonds of iniquity from you that you may be born again to serve Him. And we, Unlike the fickle Hebrews in the desert, we will pay our vows of obedience to our God. We will not take our Communion with Him and with each other lightly. We will be mindful of our transgressions and confess to Him, knowing the God will harshly judge any who approach His sacrament with contempt. We will live a life of thanksgiving to Him who loved us and gave Himself for us. It will be a life with problems but, it will be a joyful life, a fruitful life, and a fulfilled life in Him.
Take the deep and sobering claims of the body and blood of Christ to heart. Fuse with it. Live through it. Be sealed by it for all eternity. May it be that one day, in heaven, you may join with all of His redeemed in the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. There, we will lift up our cups and join in the fruit of the vine toast which our Lord promised at the Last Supper and celebrate so great a salvation. Don’t miss this!