Given Body and Soul
Text: Matt. 26:17-30
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
When our God determined to make man as the crown of His creation, as the one that would bear God’s own image, He did not create a bodyless soul or bloodless spirit. Rather, He fashioned the man out of the dust of the earth—a humble, physical thing—and breathed life into him, making the man a creature of both body and soul. And when the Lord made a companion-helper for Adam, He did not conjure her out of a mere concept. He made her from the rib of the man—bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh; a body and soul woman.
When the man and woman fell from perfection in the Garden of Eden, it was not because they had the wrong ideas or concepts. It was because they ate that which was not given to them to eat—a physical act of eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Yes, there was the sinful motivation to be like God, a sin rooted in the depths of the heart and soul, but it could not be separated from that physical rebellion of taking that which was not given to them.
Thus, because man’s fall took place on both a spiritual and physical level, our redemption would need to take place on both the spiritual and physical level. Thus, whenever God has rescued His people, it has been both spiritual and physical. He promised a flesh-and-blood Offspring of woman to crush the demonic serpent’s head. He led His people Israel not out of a school of bad ideas, but out of physical slavery to Egypt and spiritual slavery to sin, fear, and death—and this through the sacrifice of the Passover lamb, which would both feed the body of those in the Israelite houses and protect the souls of those gathered under the lamb’s blood from the angel of death. When Israel was led out of Egypt, at Mount Sinai the Lord gave them the protection of His covenant, His Law to fence them in and protect them from the predatory false gods of this world and from themselves—Law that would watch over their thoughts, words, and deeds: thoughts of the mind, words of the soul, and deeds of the body. And in tonight’s reading from Exodus, when the Lord showed mercy and favor to His ancient people there at the mountain, when He called Moses and Aaron and all the leaders of the people of Israel to the heights of Mount Sinai, it was not only to learn information about God, but it was to see Him, to eat and drink real food and real drink, to be in the presence of their God in both body and soul.
Our Creator and Redeemer is interested not only in our souls, nor only in our minds. Ever since the 1600s there has been a tendency on this half of the globe to think that God is primarily interested in our minds, in the information we have. And while He is the Truth, He speaks only Truth, and He wants us to know the Truth, we must also never forget that He is also the Way—the path that is to be walked, not just mentally, but in life as created beings of both soul and body.
For do we not feel the effects of living in this fallen world in our bodies? Pain, disease, weakness, frailty—all marks of living in a fallen world. Sin does not only stain our souls; it corrupts our bodies as well. This is why we die in the body. We live in bodies broken by the effects of sin—the sin we commit and the sins committed against us. The reality of this is undeniable. We’ve all watched it. We’ve all felt it.
So we come to tonight, Holy Thursday, the night when our Lord was betrayed. And knowing His deep concern for us, body and soul, we marvel at the remedy He has provided for us. He took bread and broke it and gave it to His disciples. “Take, eat; this is my body,” He says. His body that would be broken in order to redeem our broken bodies. Then after, He took the cup and gave it to them saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for the many for the forgiveness of sins.” His blood, shed as forgiveness to cover the sins that covered our souls. Body and blood, healing for the flesh and forgiveness for the soul.
There’s a beautiful symmetry to our Lord’s work tonight. Just as Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden because they ate what they were not given to eat, so we tonight are brought back into God’s presence through what we have been given to eat and drink. Just as Moses and Aaron and all the leaders of Israel ate and drank in the presence of God before His throne and He did not lay a hand on them, so tonight we also are spared and forgiven as we eat and drink in God’s presence before His altar. Just as the Passover lamb fed the bodies of the Israelites and its blood protected them from death, so we also have the Lamb of God feed us in the body while we are protected from everlasting death by His precious blood.
And the symmetry continues. Another traditional reading for this night is when Jesus stoops His body down to wash the feet of His disciples out of love that flows from His spotless soul. Then He instructs us to do the same. “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” Our Lord did not serve us by simply having nice thoughts and feelings about us from afar. He came to this world, in a body, and lived His love in that body—uniting spiritual love and physical service in one. And in symmetry with that, He sends us to do the same: to love not only in thoughts, feelings, or words, but in deed and in truth.
Our Lord does not save you with ideas or concepts or information. He saves you with His body and blood given and shed for you—on the cross and at the rail. He saves you with His own body and soul so that your body and soul would be with Him forever. Hear His words, “for you,” spoken tonight. Hear His protective blessing that His body and blood would strengthen and keep you in the true faith in body and soul to live everlasting. See Him fully given for you, holding nothing back, so that on Easter you may see His resurrection—body and soul—as a promise and token of your resurrection on the final great Easter when He returns. In the name of Jesus, given for you. Amen.