Maundy Thursday – March 29, 2018
David went to Nob, to Ahimelek the priest. Ahimelek trembled when he met him, and asked, “Why are you alone? Why is no one with you?” 2 David answered Ahimelek the priest, “The king sent me on a mission and said to me, ‘No one is to know anything about the mission I am sending you on.’ As for my men, I have told them to meet me at a certain place. 3 Now then, what do you have on hand? Give me five loaves of bread, or whatever you can find.”
4 But the priest answered David, “I don’t have any ordinary bread on hand; however, there is some consecrated bread here—provided the men have kept themselves from women.” 5 David replied, “Indeed women have been kept from us, as usual whenever I set out. The men’s bodies are holy even on missions that are not holy. How much more so today!” 6 So the priest gave him the consecrated bread, since there was no bread there except the bread of the Presence that had been removed from before the Lord and replaced by hot bread on the day it was taken away.
7 Now one of Saul’s servants was there that day, detained before the Lord; he was Doeg the Edomite, Saul’s chief shepherd. 8 David asked Ahimelek, “Don’t you have a spear or a sword here? I haven’t brought my sword or any other weapon, because the king’s mission was urgent.”
9 The priest replied, “The sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom you killed in the Valley of Elah, is here; it is wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod. If you want it, take it; there is no sword here but that one.”
David said, “There is none like it; give it to me.” (1 Samuel 21:1-9)
“Why, O Lord, do you stand far off?” David asks that question of the Lord this evening. “Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” For David, the Lord seemed nowhere to be found. David’s king, King Saul, had just tried to kill him…again. David’s own king, his own commander, his own father-in-law, Saul, had thrown spears at him. He had sent his guards to kill David.
Now, enough was enough. David had to run away. “In his arrogance,” David writes, “the wicked man hunts down the weak.” Saul was now on the hunt for David. The Kingdom of Israel would soon be divided between her current king and her future king. Lives would hang in the balance.
But where could David go? He couldn’t run home to Bethlehem. That would be the first place Saul would look! And David would just be putting his family in harm’s way. David could flee the kingdom altogether – but he didn’t even have a weapon. He also didn’t have any food.
So David looked for sanctuary at a place where countless others have gone over the ages. He went to the house of the Lord. Now in those days, the house of the Lord was in a small town called Nob. David ran as fast as he could to the town. A Levite by the name of Ahimelek was the priest on duty when David showed up. And while David must have been relieved to see the priest, Ahimelek trembled with fear when he saw David running toward him.
“Why are you alone? Why is no one with you?” a frightened Ahimelek asked. It was a good question. As Saul’s servant, David never traveled alone. Something was wrong. David’s answer didn’t help clarify the situation. “The king sent me on a mission and said to me, ‘No one is to know anything about the mission I am sending you on.’ As for my men, I have told them to meet me at a certain place.”
A mission from the king – and no sword or food? Everything about this sounded fishy. And David probably knew it, because he quickly asked, “Now then, what do you have on hand? Give me five loaves of bread, or whatever you can find.” And that might have been it. David could have been on his way and no one would have been the wiser.
But a new problem arose. “The priest answered David, ‘I don’t have any ordinary bread on hand; however, there is some consecrated bread here.’” Taking the consecrated bread from the house of the Lord was no small thing.
That bread was laid out in the sanctuary. It was reserved for the Lord himself. The bread was to be left on the table for a week, only to be replaced on the Sabbath. And even then, only the priests were allowed to eat it once it had gone stale after a week.
Everything in the house of the Lord was like that. The candles were lit for the Lord – and used only for him. The wash basin was meant to cleanse the priests so they could stand in God’s presence. And the Ark of the Covenant was not even to be seen, except by the High Priest once a year. And now David was taking the bread that was in the presence of the Lord?! We never hear anything like this in Scripture. Even the most wicked kings left God’s bread alone.
Our reading for this evening seems to point out just how serious this was. “So the priest gave him the consecrated bread, since there was no bread there except the bread of the Presence that had been removed from before the Lord.” David had just taken God’s bread. Now he needed a weapon.
“Don’t you have a spear or a sword here? I haven’t brought my sword or any other weapon, because the king’s mission was urgent.” More fishy excuses. What servant of the king leaves on a mission without a weapon? David was woefully unprepared. But the priest wasn’t. “The priest replied, ‘The sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom you killed in the Valley of Elah, is here; it is wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod. If you want it, take it; there is no sword here but that one.’” How fitting, the very sword David used to kill Goliath was given to him to use against his next enemy. “David said, ‘There is none like it; give it to me.’”
This is a David we are not used to seeing. He is running for his life. He is lying to a priest. And he is taking things that had been offered for the Lord only. Is this really Israel’s greatest king? He seems more like Israel’s greatest mooch! He is taking everything from the Lord and offering nothing in return. And miraculously, David was allowed to escape with his life!
This evening, we stay in the presence of the Lord but travel one thousands years after David. Great David’s Greater Son, Jesus, has gathered his disciples to celebrate the Passover for the last time.
Like David in the house of the Lord, these disciples of Jesus were woefully unworthy of taking anything from the Lord. Peter still defiantly thought he would die for the Lord. The rest of the disciples refused to believe they would ever abandon Jesus. And Judas was about to leave early to round up a mob to capture his Lord!
And in the midst of those unworthy followers, those “takers,” those sinners, Jesus gives one of his greatest gifts. “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’ Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’”
This evening we will hear these “words of institution” too. And are we any more worthy to receive the Lord’s Supper than these men? Of course not. We dare to come into the Lord’s presence, sinners as we are, asking for his bread and wine, which is his body and blood. We might as well be on the run like David from the consequences of sin.
In the midst of this dangerous situation, the Lord doesn’t smite us. He doesn’t banish us to eternal destruction. Instead, he gives us his dearest treasure. He gives us forgiveness of sins. He comes to each of us personally. And he unites us as believers. That is why Paul writes in our second lesson: “Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.”
This is grace. The love of God we do not deserve sends his Son in his Supper to wash away our sins. And like David, like Jesus’ disciples, we also get to “taste and see that the Lord is good.” Amen.