Sermon for Holy Thursday, April 1, 2021

1 Corinthians 10:16-17 (Holy Thursday—Series B)

“A Communion in His Body and Blood”

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT

April 1, 2021

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Our text today is the Epistle lesson from 1 Corinthians 10:

16The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a communion in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a communion in the body of Christ? 17Because there is one bread, we the many are one body, for we all share in the one bread.

          “Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night in which He was betrayed . . .” The opening of the Words of Institution set the scene for the events surrounding the Lord’s Supper. It is the celebration of the Passover. Jesus has gathered with the Twelve in a large upper room to observe this Feast with the disciples. Later that evening, Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, would lead a crowd with swords and clubs from the chief priests and scribes and the elders. He would betray Jesus into their hands. But before those events in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus and the disciples observed the Passover meal.

          The Passover was a divine ordinance, to be observed by the people of Israel every year. It recalled God’s great saving act of the Old Testament—the deliverance of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. More specifically, the eating of the Passover lamb reminded the Israelites of the lamb that gave up its life in order to provide blood as a sign on the door frames. When the Lord saw the blood on the doors of the Israelite homes, He passed over, and the first-born son’s life was spared. The Passover was to be celebrated by the whole community of Israel. It was to be a common and unifying experience for the nation.

          At this Passover celebration, Jesus took bread, and after giving thanks, broke it and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take, eat; this is my Body, which is given for you. This do in remembrance of me.” After supper, Jesus took the third cup of wine at the Passover meal, what was referred to as “the cup of blessing.” When He had given thanks, He gave it to them saying, “Drink of it, all of you; This cup is the new testament in my Blood which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

          The rhetorical questions that the apostle Paul asks in our text from 1 Corinthians 10 are based on Jesus’ Words of Institution and must be interpreted in that light. “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a communion in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a communion in the body of Christ?” The answer we must give to both questions because of Jesus’ own words in His testament is yes! The cup of wine that is blessed—consecrated or set apart for the use in His Supper with Jesus’ own words—is indeed a communion in the Blood of Christ. The bread that we break that is blessed with Jesus’ own words is indeed a communion in the Body of Christ. What is truly present in this Supper is the bread and wine. What is truly present in, with, and under the bread and wine are the real Body and Blood of Jesus, the Crucified and Risen Lord. Luther ties this all up for us in the Large Catechism, “Now, what is the Sacrament of the Altar? Answer, ‘It is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, in and under the bread and wine, which we Christians are commanded by Christ’s Word to eat and to drink.’ Just as we have said that Baptism is not simple water, so here also we say that though the Sacrament is bread and wine, it is not mere bread and wine, such as are ordinarily served at the table [1 Corinthians 10:16–17]. But this is bread and wine included in, and connected with, God’s Word.”[1] Jesus’ words make the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper what it is—a holy communion in the bread and wine with the truly present Body and Blood of Jesus Himself.

          The church father, Augustine, wrote, “Through those elements the Lord wished to entrust to us his body and the blood which he poured out for the [forgiveness] of sins. If you have received worthily, you are what you have received.”[2] You are in communion with the Body and Blood of Christ. You are partakers of Christ and all the blessings offered, given, and sealed in the Sacrament—forgiveness, life, and salvation. You are also the body of Christ, the Church. Through our physical eating and drinking of the Lord’s crucified and risen Body and Blood, we become one body with Him and with each other in the communion of saints—the holy, Christian Church in heaven and on earth. “Because there is one bread, we the many are one body, for we all share in the one bread”—the one bread, which has been made from many grains, the wine, which has been produced from many grapes—the unity and communion of the Church in the Body and Blood of Christ.

          In the Lord’s Supper, then, we receive in, with, and under the bread and wine the true Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, given and shed for the forgiveness of sins. We also receive the gifts of eternal life, salvation, and the strengthening of our faith. We are united to Christ and to one another in the Body of Christ, the Church. Luther reminds us that “the Lord’s Supper is given as a daily food and sustenance so that our faith may be refreshed and strengthened and that it may not succumb in the struggle but become stronger and stronger.” [3]

          Every day we face temptations from the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh. Our new life of faith in Christ suffers a great deal of opposition. “The devil is a furious enemy; when he sees that we resist him and attack the old creature, and when he cannot rout us by force, he sneaks and skulks about at every turn, trying all kinds of tricks, and does not stop until he has finally worn us out so that we either renounce our faith or lose heart and become indifferent or impatient. For times like these, when our heart feels too sorely pressed, this comfort of the Lord’s Supper is given to bring us new strength and refreshment.”[4]

          I pray that the people of God in Christ, the members of His holy Church on earth, have not renounced their faith, lost heart, or become indifferent or impatient. And I know that what I’m going to say isn’t specifically directed to you who are sitting here today. But I am compelled to encourage those members who I hope may hear or read this message later online: the Lord’s Supper is still here for you. It has been here, yet there are some who have not received the Lord’s Supper in a very long time. Oh what a pounding their faith has endured! What opposition Satan has placed in their lives, what fears! These have prevented the people of God from receiving from His Table the bread and wine which are Jesus’ Body and Blood given and shed for the forgiveness of sins, life, salvation, and the strengthening of faith. The Supper is a communion with the Body and Blood of Jesus. It unites us together in the mystical Body of Jesus Christ, His Church.

          In Luther’s “Christian Questions with their Answers,” found in our copies of the Small Catechism, Pastor Luther asks, “What should admonish and encourage a Christian to receive the Sacrament frequently? First, both the command and the promise of Christ the Lord. Second, his own pressing need, because of which the command, encouragement, and promise are given. But what should you do if you are not aware of this need and have no hunger and thirst for the Sacrament? To such a person no better advice can be given than this: first, he should touch his body to see if he still has flesh and blood. Then he should believe what the Scriptures say of it in Galatians 5 and Romans 7. Second, he should look around to see whether he is still in the world, and remember that there will be no lack of sin and trouble, as the Scriptures say in John 15-16 and in 1 John 2 and 5. Third, he will certainly have the devil also around him, who with his lying and murdering day and night will let him have no peace, within or without, as the Scriptures picture him in John 8 and 16; 1 Peter 5; Ephesians 6; and 2 Timothy 2.”

          Beloved in the Lord, you are the Body of Christ. Our Savior Jesus was crucified to purchase the forgiveness of sins and everlasting life with His own blood poured out for you. He was pierced with nail and spear; His body given into death for you. The Lord Jesus, who on the night of His betrayal and arrest, instituted His Supper for you. He continues to come to meet you at this altar in, with, and under the bread and wine with His true Body and Blood, Crucified and Risen, for the forgiveness of all your sins, for eternal life and salvation. He comes with His Body and Blood to you personally in order to strengthen your Baptismal faith so that you can take you stand against all the schemes, fear, lies, and temptations of the evil one.

          The cup of blessing which we bless is a communion in the Blood of Christ. The bread we break is a communion in the Body of Christ. Because there is one bread, we the many are one body, for we all share in the one bread. Come; take and eat. Take and drink—whether it has been days, weeks, months, or a year or more. The Lord Jesus Christ is present with His Body and Blood and all the gifts won for you at the cross and empty tomb. You need what Christ Jesus gives you here in His Supper. And it will be here for you until that day we are with the Lord Jesus forevermore in His new creation at the Lamb’s High Feast. Amen.

     [1] Paul Timothy McCain, ed., Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2005), 432.

     [2] ACCS, New Testament Vol. 12 (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1999), 97.

     [3] Large Catechism, Lord’s Supper, 24.

     [4] Large Catechism, Lord’s Supper, 26-27.

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