23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, "Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me." 25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new testament in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me." 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes.
In 1570 in Jena, Germany a little book was published by the second Martin of the Reformation, Martin Ambrose Chemnitz. The name of that book is: Concerning the Lord’s Supper.
He begins this beautiful treatment of Maundy Thursday with these words: “The Son of God commended to his Church the words of institution of the Supper in the form of a last will and testament—during a time of high emotion, with the most fervent prayer, and under the most serious circumstances on the night in which he was betrayed. Therefore, these words should be observed with the greatest reverence and faithfulness and in the fear of the Lord by all people, for these are the very words of the last will and testament of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Grace, peace and mercy from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ, AMEN!
There’s a time to speak in parables and a time to speak plainly. When you have the luxury of time, you can use parables to reveal mysteries to those of the faith. In this way they are hidden from those who believe themselves to be wise and well educated. When Jesus was teaching his while His enemies were listening —that was the time He used parables. But not when He was about to die. Not on the night our dear Lord was betrayed. Not when His disciples were being sifted as wheat. For instance, Peter boasted that he would go to prison and death rather than betray Jesus. Yet only hours later he swore “I don’t know the man!” Parables just wouldn’t do at a time when in the depths of despair, another disciple would be found dangling at the end of a rope. And another would run away naked rather than be captured with our Lord. Those who survived the ordeal would find themselves shut behind locked doors in utter fear.
In addition, Jesus was about to die. And when you’re saying farewell to your loved ones—when you are putting into their hands your entire estate,—you don’t communicate in figures of speech. “I, being of sound mind, hereby bequeath to my child of a lesser status my beloved chromed Bull Like chariot sitting in my driveway.” No, no, no. You say, “I hereby bequeath my 1996 Ford Taurus to my younger son, Abernathy Gober.” You don’t say, “I give my humble abode to my wife,” because someone might contest it by pointing out that besides a house in the city, you also own a cabin in the north woods. So you say, “I hereby bequeath to my wife, Hortense, my house on 134 Elm Street.” At times of high emotion and such enormous gravity, when the possibility of confusion seems most likely, you must speak without any possibility of being misunderstood. Only then will there be no doubt that your last will and testament shall be executed and no honest man can contest it. How important it was when our Lord Jesus, on the night before he died, bequeathed to the Twelve, and all of us, His dearest possession: His very body and true blood to assure us that He removed the one obstacle that stood between us and God? Jesus paid it forward.
When you consider the gravity of the moment and the inheritance, is it any wonder that Jesus last will and testament recorded not only in Matthew 26 but also in Mark 14 and a third time in Luke 22? In these three instances, the foundation of all our comfort and forgiveness in the Lord’s Supper came from the mouth of Jesus Himself. They were spoken in the intimate circle of believers. Jesus took the bread of the Passover, gave thanks, told the disciples what they were receiving in no uncertain terms: “This is my body, given for you for the forgiveness of sins.” If He had meant something different, there were other ways of speaking about this meal. But considering the gravity of the moment and the weakness of his disciples’ flesh, Jesus spoke directly and plainly. “In the same way, after supper he took the cup.” What is in the cup at Passover? Ask any orthodox Jew. It’s the same today as it has been since the first Passover in Egypt—the fermented fruit of the vine. So we are drinking wine. But Jesus did not stop there. He blessed it and gave it to them saying, “Drink from it all of you. This cup is the new testament in my blood which is poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins.” Again, if he had meant to say that the wine was something different from His blood, He had other ways to say it. But in the graveness of the moment, He said precisely what He meant. This wine is His blood, not a representation, not a mere symbol, but His blood, which would He poured out for them on that following morn.
Now sinful human reason breaks in and raises every kind of objection. “How can Jesus give them his body and blood when he hasn’t even died yet?” Reason then measures Jesus’ stature and waist size and taunts, “How can this man give Christians of all generations His body to eat? Surely He will not last a single generation!” Or “Oh how disgusting, cannibalism! The very idea of eating flesh and drinking blood! Must we be such barbarians?” If you want to take exception to this sacrament because it’s illogical or distasteful, you are walking on a slippery slope. For the Holy Spirit has given us a thousand other mysteries that are equally contrary to reason and repugnant to so-called enlightened 21st-century mind. Remember the questions we asked earlier this Season? How can Jesus be fully God and fully man at the same time? How can a virgin be a mother? How can God be three and at the same time be one? Indeed God hides His gracious acts behind the foolishness of preaching the cross, which should be a characteristic of God to which we have become profoundly accustomed.
When we become the teacher and we insist that the Holy Spirit take notes from us, then we have given ourselves over to a sin that robs us of eternal salvation. For then we despise the words of the Holy Spirit, and we call our Savior a liar while making ourselves to be the god.
If we would sit at the feet of Jesus and abide in His words, Satan’s doubts would be dispelled and all would be well with our souls! Think of what Jesus was doing here! He was not adding a New Testament law as if to say, “Moses gave you ten commandments and many more. But I am here as a New Testament Moses to give you the Eleventh Commandment. Just as the Passover lamb reminded you of the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world, so now you must obey a New Testament law: you must eat this bread and wine to remind yourselves of how I will die for you!” No! Jesus is not the new Moses. Jesus did not come to bring new laws. He came with grace and truth. He came to give us relief from the times we have not kept God’s laws. He came with the gift of forgiveness and a meal that is “given and poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins.” His invitation is no more a burden than if I were to invite you to my house for Easter dinner. You wouldn’t see my invitation as an annoying command, I hope? I would hope you would consider it a gracious invitation. The Lord’s Supper is much more than that. It is the very body and blood Jesus gave for the forgiveness of your sins! It fills you with confidence that your sins are forgiven, and you can be sure that the door to heaven’s eternal banquet stands wide open for you.
Luther once said that if we were handing out gold coins at the altar, the balcony would collapse under the weight of those who would be waiting in line. “Blind people would swim across rivers” to get such treasure! But at the Lord’s Supper is a treasure that moth and rust cannot destroy and thieves cannot break in and steal. Here we have the body and blood of our ascended and glorified brother! The body and blood hidden under the bread and wine serves no other purpose than to rescue us poor sinners from the guilt, punishment, and bondage to sin.
And just as his forgiveness is greater than our sin, so his body and blood continues from generation to generation. Since Jesus ascended bodily to fill the whole universe (Eph 1:23; 4:10), He reassures each of His believers in every generation, “My body . . . my blood . . . given and poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins.” In this way, the Son of God, our brother, spans the centuries and bequeaths to you His most sacred possession—His very body and blood that died on the cross for your salvation and rose again for your justification.
Notice that St. Paul didn’t merely quote Matthew 26, Mark 14, or Luke 22. He received it directly from Jesus. He says in our text, “For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you.” Thirty years after the original Lord’s Supper, St. Paul reminded the straying Corinthians that the Lord’s Supper was an ongoing table of comfort for sinners. Jesus’ meal was not just for the Twelve. It was for the Corinthian Christians 30 years later. It’s for believers throughout all generations. Isn’t it amazing that this precious heritage has not skipped a generation for 20 centuries? Our Lord has assured that you that you would receive its everlasting benefits to this very night!
Our Creator made us to receive information through all five senses. And the forgiveness that Jesus’ body and blood gives you surrounds all of your senses with this new life!
At the Lord’s Table, Jesus offers us what the Lutheran Confessions call a visible Gospel. The Lord attaches His words of promise to the eating and drinking of bread and wine. God’s promise, “given and poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins,” fills our ears and moves our hearts to faith. His grace touches our lips. We, quite literally, “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps 34:8). Even our sense of smell is permeated with his divine assurance. After a week of struggling with sin, there is no more intimate way that God could assure us of what was done on Calvary and it is ours right now!
I sometimes wonder if, on non-Communion Sundays, after hearing God’s grace concerning our sins absolved our sins whether someone might be thinking to himself, “Yah, Pastor, the sins of many people in this building are forgiven. But if you knew my sins, you would know why I don’t feel forgiven.” That can’t be said on a Communion Sunday. When our Lord Jesus, by the hand of the pastor, places his body and blood into our hands and mouths, there can be no mistake whose sins the pastor is taking about. Christ is, in effect, saying to you, “I mean you when I say ‘shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.’ How can you tell? I, Jesus Christ, place my body and blood into your mouth. You are a beloved child of the heavenly Father because of what I have done here.”
How such love happens, I cannot say. This is yet another mystery of the cross we must leave to God’s omnipotence and wisdom, and the love of the One who gives Himself to us with such unmistakably clear and plain words.
Let us, therefore, examine our hearts; confess our sins and embrace with confidence the sure promise that our sins are forgiven through this blessed supper! And know without a doubt that soon we will see that the table spread before us, a glorious heavenly banquet. Today is but a prelude to that great feast to come in Heaven. In Jesus name, Amen and Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, AMEN.