The Lord’s Supper – Christ For You

(slightly adapted and abbreviated from J. Michael Reu)

I Corinthians 11:23-29

I Corinthians 11:23-32  [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 given 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 covenant 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. [27] Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. [28] But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup. [29] For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgement to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

It was the night in which Jesus was betrayed.  He had been with His disciples for three years.  He had taught them.  He had departed wisdom and knowledge to them.  He had comforted them and blessed them with His presence.

But now all this had come to an end.  This was the night Jesus would give Himself up to be captured and killed by the hands of ungodly men.  It was the night He would leave His disciples behind in a world full of enemies.

And the disciples wondered: Who would now protect them?  Who would forgive their sins?  Who would intercede for them with God?  Who would teach them, comfort them and console them?  Who would strengthen them when their Master was gone?

But Jesus knew all that.  He understood better than anyone the deep feelings the disciples had.  And He would not leave them without comfort.  He told them, “I will not leave you orphans, I will come to you.” (John 14:18)   Then He promised to give them the Holy Spirit – His very Spirit – to teach them all things and to bring to their minds all that He had said to them.

But Jesus did more, for He always does and gives more than we could ever ask or think.  The Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”

And we understand His words this way: “It is true I leave you now, and you remain back in a world full of sins, weakness and danger, a world full of death and the power of Satan.  But I will continue to come to you.  When you celebrate My Holy Supper I will be with you, I will even give you, under the bread and wine, My own body and blood given for you unto death, and through My body and blood I will give you the forgiveness of all your sins, and I will give you strength to stay in My communion and to remain what you are, My disciples, My beloved children.”

In the Holy Supper Christ Himself is with us.  In the Holy Supper Christ Himself comes to us in a real, true, bodily way.  Along with bread and wine He gives His holy body and holy blood, and therefore He gives us forgiveness of sins.  In His Holy Supper He strengthens us in the battle with sin and the devil in order that we may lead a godly life according to His commandments and die in His peace.

But along with the blessings of this Holy Supper there are also warnings.  Whoever despises the Holy Supper despises the Lord Himself.  Whoever despises the Holy Supper declares foolishly, “I do not need the Lord and His strength; I can go my own way alone; I do not want the forgiveness of sins; I can find in myself the strength to lead the Christian life; I do not fear the devil, and I am ready to meet him with my own reason and strength.”

But that attitude is deadly foolishness.  It is just as foolish to say, “My body does not need to eat or to drink, I can do without.”  Indeed, we can do without food and drink for a few days, and then we will lie on the ground and starve.  In the same way we can do without the Holy Supper for a time, but if we keep on despising it, our soul will die, our communion with God will be severed, and spiritual death will enter our heart.

Therefore we must be very careful not to belittle or despise the Holy Supper in any way.  It is a table spread for you.  It is a meal full of nourishment for your very soul.  It is a source of life for those who experience their weakness in the battle of Christian life.  It is Christ Himself who by His body and blood ties you to Himself and enables you not only to meet but also to overcome all the enemies of your soul.

So how shall we receive the Lord’s Supper for forgiveness, life, and salvation?  St. Paul, writing on inspiration of the Holy Spirit in our text, instructs us.  “Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.  But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup.  For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgement to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.

So we receive this Sacrament in an unworthy manner when we go to the Lord’s Supper as nonchalantly as we sit down at our table at home to eat and drink.  For then we do not discern, we do not make a difference between a common supper and the extraordinary Supper of the Lord.

We receive this Sacrament in an unworthy manner whenever we do not by faith believe Christ’s actual body and blood are there in, with, and under the bread and wine.  We receive this Sacrament in an unworthy manner when we do not think of Christ who gave His body unto death and shed His blood on the cross for us for the forgiveness of sins, for Christ Himself says, “Do this in remembrance of Me.”

We receive the Supper of the Lord in an unworthy manner when we are not united with one another, when we proclaim a false unity by allowing personal and emotional issues to dictate the distribution and reception of the Lord’s body and blood instead of being guided and blessed as well as restricted and warned by God’s clear Word.

We receive the Supper in an unworthy manner when our heart is not filled with grief over the sins that brought Christ to the cross.  We receive it in an unworthy manner when our heart is not filled with faith that clings to Christ as our only Savior and trusts that for His sake all our sins are forgiven.  We must desire earnestly for the grace and forgiveness of the Lord and the firm resolution to keep God’s commandments in the best way possible.

Think of the prodigal son who came to his father and said, “Father, I have sinned against God and against you and am no longer worthy to be called your son.”  (Luke 15:19)  It was his bitter grief for having acted so wickedly against his father, and at the same time it was his firm confidence that his father would forgive him that caused him to speak that way.

With that same grief over our sin against our heavenly Father, and with the same confidence in His endless forgiveness, we approach His presence here at His table.  For here is where our Lord’s very body and blood – the same body and blood that was crucified on the cross for our sins – is placed onto your tongue and into your body.  The Lord Jesus Himself comes to you in a very real, true and tangible way to forgive you and cleanse you of your sins and set you free to serve Him.

In and of ourselves we have no right to approach His Table; as Luther says, “We are beggars, this is true.”  But since God has sent His only-begotten Son to bear our sin and be our Savior, our invitation to His table is engraved not in gold, but in blood, the blood of the perfect and sinless Lord Jesus who gave up Himself in His suffering and death on the cross and paid for all your sins.

And it is here at this altar that the blessings and fruit of His suffering and death are given out as He gives of Himself so freely here at this altar.  For it is not in meditating on Jesus’ forgiveness that we receive forgiveness.  His forgiveness, bought and paid for on the cross, is delivered here in His Supper.

And as we have learned it in the Catechism: “These 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 words.  For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.”

This is God’s Sacrament, His Gift, His pure Gospel, His Forgiveness.

For you.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.