When some of our parents hold their infants and toddlers close to them as they come to communion, it is very interesting to see those young eyes look very closely at what’s going on. Sometimes those eyes get very wide and expressive when their parents eat that wafer and drink that liquid, causing one little one a while back to ask out loud for a fair number of people to hear, “Mommy, What Are You Doing?”
Children have always asked their parents that kind of question about so many things in life, of course, and it was precisely that kind of situation that God was talking about in our lesson for tonight when over three thousand years ago he told his children of Israel to do something that would lead their children to ask the very same thing. Verse 26 in the second paragraph of our reading talks about that: “And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord.’”
You can imagine, right? What are you doing, mom and dad? “Why did we go get this lamb and then slaughter this lamb and then put the blood of this lamb on the doorframe of our house?” Did you notice how God told the people to answer their children’s questions? They didn’t have to come up with any fancy, complicated answers. They just needed to share the facts. Tell them that this was to help us to remember the Passover. God told our people to put the blood of a lamb on the doorposts of their homes, when it was finally time after hundreds of years of being slaves in the land of Egypt to get his people out of Egypt so they could go live in the Promised Land of Israel, where God had said for hundreds of years that the Promised Savior would be born. When we do all this, what we are doing is showing that we believe God’s promise about his punishment and about his forgiveness. Those Egyptians who did not have the blood of a lamb on their houses all had in their houses the firstborn of the family die, while all of our forefathers, who, just like us, deserved the very same thing for all their complaining and all their anger against God, were instead rescued by God by having the angel of death “pass over” their homes and then guided by God between two walls of water on either side of them as they made their escape toward the land God had said would be theirs.
Sadly, over the course of time many of those parents didn’t even give their children a chance to ask, “What are you doing?” because most of them didn’t carry out the Passover any more. The rest of the Old Testament of the Bible, we know, is filled with unfortunate example after example of God’s people in no way acting as God’s people. But God’s promise never stopped, did it – and there were always some people who believed it. Yes, God’s promise never stopped until it finally came to fulfillment at the Last Passover on the night that Jesus was betrayed, the night we are commemorating this evening.
So, on that final Thursday of your life, what are you doing, Jesus? Isn’t that what the disciples basically were saying that night when he told them in our Gospel that one of them was going to betray him? “They were saddened,” St. Mark said, “and one by one they said to him, ‘Surely not I, Lord?’” What are you doing, Jesus, talking like that, especially on this special night when we are doing what believers in the Passover have done for over one thousand years. No one is going to betray you, Jesus; we love you. One of them even said, “I would be willing die for you, Jesus.”
What are you doing, we can almost imagine Jesus saying, too, right? What are you doing, talking like that, my dear disciples? The spirit is willing, but the flesh is so weak. You won’t even be able to keep watch with me for one little hour; you won’t even be willing to stay with me when that promised betrayer comes – you will scatter and flee; and after it’s all over, you won’t even want to be seen out in public because of me, because you will be in a locked room for fear of the Jews.
Is it really any different for you or for me? What are you doing, dear brother, dear sister, dear fellow member of Christ the Lord? What are you doing when you come up to this altar and do what Jesus said on that night so long ago at the Last Passover Supper when he told those disciples and all his disciples who would follow for all time, “Do this in remembrance of me?”
It is painful thing to have to remember and think about every time Jesus could say to us, “What are you doing, my child? Why would you possibly be angry at me? Why would you possibly think you could get by without me? Why would you possibly so often act like you don’t want to be seen by me or to be seen with me because you have decided not to live for me?
It is also a painful thing to have to remember and think about what happened when Jesus left that Upper Room that night – that night when he was talking to his disciples about the very same thing that God had told the parents to tell their children for so many years. What are you doing, Jesus? You are like a lamb being led to the slaughter. You are like a lamb before its shearers that is silent and opens not its mouth. You are like a lamb whose blood was poured out and spread on the doorpost of a house – and all of this because of nothing you have done…
And that is why you are the Lamb of God who has come to take away the sin of the world. That is why our painful memory turns to total joy. Because even though I should be like every firstborn among the Egyptians on that first Passover night, God passes over my sins because he did not pass over his Son. I am Jesus’ little Lamb because Jesus was the Lamb who was slain. That is why goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life until I dwell in the house of the Lord forever, because the final Passover Lamb did not stay slain but returned to the place where he now is – where he is overjoyed to see what we are doing every time we come to this altar in remembrance of him.
For what we are doing is receiving just what he said we were receiving: “Take eat. This is my body, which is given for you. Take drink, this is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins.” So when you come not to the Passover Supper, but to the Lord’s Supper, you aren’t just remembering what Jesus did; you are receiving what Jesus did, because you are receiving with the bread and the wine the very body and blood of Jesus in a way that we cannot comprehend with our minds, but in a way which fills our hearts with joy, because every time we receive this sacrament God “passes over” our sins. Every time he forgives our sins. Every time he covers our sins, because the doorpost of our heart is covered with the blood of the Lamb – the real Passover Lamb.
All you and I can do is speak like a little child with very wide eyes and a very happy heart and say, “What are you doing, Lord, to be so good to me? Thank you once again for creating in me a clean heart, O God, and for renewing a right spirit within me. Thank you once again for everything you have done – and for everything you are still doing every time I do this in remembrance of you.” As you do so, may the true body and blood of the Passover Lamb strengthen and keep you in the true faith in him unto life everlasting so that until that time you may go back out there in peace. Amen.