Holy Thursday (1 Cor 11, 23–32)

Photo by Christian Liebel on Unsplash

Bethlehem Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS || AUDIO
Immanuel Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS || AUDIO

᛭ INI ᛭

What is the Lord’s Supper? Who’s it for, what’s it for, and who receives it worthily? These are all very important questions. Quite handily they’re answered for you in the Small Catechism, which is nothing other than a faithful explanation of what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11. If you want to know what we as Lutherans believe about our Epistle reading tonight, just see the Sixth Chief Part of the Small Catechism.

What the Small Catechism teaches about the Sacrament can be boiled down to two thing. First, the Lord’s Supper, the Sacrament of the Altar, is what Jesus says it is, which also means it does what He says. The second thing is that the benefits of Jesus’ Supper are received by faith alone apart from works of the Law, any law or tradition.

From “the Holy Evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke, and St. Paul” in 1 Corinthians 11 we confess what we believe about the Supper, and we’re thankful for what we learn in the Catechism because it’s “in agreement with this one scriptural faith.” (LSB Agenda) That faith is this:

THE LORD’S SUPPER IS WHAT JESUS SAYS, AND YOU RECEIVE ITS BENEFITS BY FAITH ALONE.

((I. What is the Sacrament?))

The Supper is what Jesus says, and so the foundation for what we confess about the Lord’s Supper is the Words of Jesus that we hear every time the Supper’s received. From Jesus’ Word alone, no other word will pull us from that foundation—from His Word alone “{Latin:} [our Churches] teach that the body and blood of Christ are truly present, ({German:} under the form of bread and wine), {Latin:} and are distributed to those who eat the Lord’s Supper.” (AC X)

But what do we mean when we say in the Catechism that “The true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ” are under the bread and wine”? The preposition doesn’t actually matter that much (“in,” “with,” “under,” “by,” “through”). These prepositions are just the way we confess that “is” means “is.” From Christ’s Words alone “we maintain that the bread and the wine in the Supper are, [are, are] the true body and blood of Christ.” (SA III 6 § 1)

Jesus instituted His Supper for His disciples. “It is to those he is speaking with here.” (LC V 45) (Just like the Passover was for Israel.) The Passover pointed forward to Jesus’ own death on the cross to rescue His people from Pharaoh Satan, and the sin and death he enslaved Jesus’ people to. Jesus fulfilled the passover one last time (ate it), then He went to His death and resurrection, but “after Supper,” after the Passover Meal, He instituted something new. No longer “fourteenth day of the first month” but “as often as.”

“His words, ‘as often as you do it,’ imply that we should do it frequently. And they are added because he wishes the sacrament to be free, not bound to a special time like the Passover, which the Jews were obligated to eat only once a year…[When Jesus says, ‘as often as,’] He means to say, ‘I am instituting a Passover or Supper for you, which you shall enjoy not just on this one evening of the year, but frequently, whenever and wherever you will, according to everyone’s opportunity and need, being bound to no special place or time.’” (LC V § 47)

The Supper is for the forgiveness of your sins! That’s what Jesus says. “For you for the forgiveness of sins.” We take Him at His Word. So, the Sacrament delivers forgiveness because He says so. Just like the bread and wine deliver Jesus’ body and blood into our mouths, just like He says.

With forgiveness there’s new life! That means “love”“fervent love”“for one another.” “By this they’ll know you’re My disciples.” How could you not “love one another” when you’ve all received the body and blood of Jesus together? Wasn’t that for their forgiveness as much as yours? (Forgiveness even for grudges.)

There’s also eternal salvation. Jesus promises: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will resurrect Him on the Last Day.”

((Transition.))

To summarize all that I’ve said:

“[The Lord’s Supper] is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, under the bread and wine, instituted by Christ Himself for us Christians to eat and to drink.” (SC VI)

“[And] These words,”—Jesus’ Words!—“‘Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins,’ show us that in the Sacrament forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given us through these. For where there is the forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.” (SC VI)

Or even more simply: THE LORD’S SUPPER IS WHAT JESUS SAYS.

((II. Who receives the benefits?))

What Jesus says (“forgiveness of sins”)—that is received sola fide, by faith alone “in the sacrament.” When you believe Jesus’ Words, you have “exactly what they say” you have, “the forgiveness of sins.” That’s exactly and only what the Catechism teaches when it comes to 1 Corinthians 11. This is exactly what Paul means by “whoever eats and drinks, not discerning the body,”—Jesus’ body and His blood—“eats and drinks judgment on himself.”

It’s all about faith. No other measurements, qualifications, preparations will make you receive the sacrament worthily. In fact, if those are a benchmark, who could take it? Besides then it wouldn’t be by faith alone but as a result of works, of knowledge, of study–in these how much we boast!

But “at this heavenly meal the worthiness of guests comes [not] from people’s outward preparation.” (SD VII.38) Though praying or other “fasting and bodily preparation are certainly fine outward training, but that person is truly worthy and well prepared who has faith in these words.“ (SC VI) For “this sacrament does not depend upon our worthiness.” (LC V § 61) “True believers, who have and hold a true, living, pure faith in Christ, can[not], [can[not], can[not]] receive this Sacrament to their judgment.” (EP VII.39) Or as the Catechism says, “Whoever believes these words has exactly what they say, the forgiveness of sins.” (SC VI)

The Supper isn’t dependent upon our faith either. The bread and wine aren’t the body and blood because we believe they are. They are what they are because Jesus says they are. And they give what He says they give. Faith, our trust in Jesus, receives the forgiveness delivered. Unfaith in Jesus or His Words receives judgement. Faith, not our holiness, but faith—gift of the Spirit—makes us worthy, and it is this faith alone that receives the Supper’s benefits.

((Transition.))

Or to summarize all that I’ve just said:

Certainly not just eating and drinking do these things, but the words written here: “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” These words, along with the bodily eating and drinking, are the main thing in the Sacrament. Whoever believes these words has exactly what they say: “forgiveness of sins.”(SC VI)

Fasting and bodily preparation are certainly fine outward training. But that person is truly worthy and well prepared who has faith in these words: “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”

But anyone who does not believe these words or doubts them is unworthy and unprepared, for the words “for you” require all hearts to believe. (SC VI)

Or to put it more simply: YOU RECEIVE THE SUPPER’S BENEFITS BY FAITH ALONE.

((Conclusion.))

What’s the Supper? Who’s it for? What’s it for? All answered from Jesus’ Words, delivered in 1 Corinthians, taught in the Catechism.

From “the Holy Evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke, and St. Paul” in 1 Corinthians 11 we confess what we believe about the Supper, and we’re thankful for what we learn in the Catechism because it’s “in agreement with this one scriptural faith.” (LSB Agenda) That faith is this:

THE LORD’S SUPPER IS WHAT JESUS SAYS, AND YOU RECEIVE ITS BENEFITS BY FAITH ALONE.

It’s His body and blood for you for the forgiveness of your sins—your fellow member’s sins, too. Why live otherwise? In the Supper of Jesus’ body and blood, there is forgiveness so that you would be “strengthened in faith toward God and fervent love toward one another.” You receive this only by faith alone—sola fide. The way it works for Jesus’ salvation, is the way it works with Jesus’ Gifts. Freely given. No limits. No strings attached. No earning, passing, gaining. That’s Jesus’ way. Freely received. That’s the faith in Jesus way. He gives. Faith, you receive forgiveness of sins for you.

᛭ INI ᛭

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