Maundy Thursday - 1 Corinthians 11:23-32

Order of the Confessional Service - Pg. 46
Order of Holy Communion - Pg. 15
Hymn # 164 Twas on that Dark, That Doleful Night
Hymn # 311 Jesus Christ, Our Blessed Savior

Readings
Exodus 12:1-14
1 Corinthians 11:23-32
St. John 13:1-15
Collect for Maundy Thursday
O Lord God, Who hast left unto us in a wonderful Sacrament a memorial of Thy Passion, grant, we beseech Thee, that we may so use this Sacrament of Thy Body and Blood that the fruits of Thy redemption may continually be manifest in us; Thou, Who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
Sermon on the Epistle Lesson
Grace and peace be unto you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

1)         On the night in which He was betrayed, Christ gives His church one of her greatest treasures. Jesus takes the unleavened bread of the Passover meal, breaks it, distributes it and says, “Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.” Then He takes the cup, and gives it to His disciples, and says, “This I cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.” St. Paul explains that “As often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.” What makes this meal such a precious treasure is that Christ gives His true body and true blood for Christians to eat and drink. The very body which would soon be beaten, bloodied, and bludgeoned to atone for the sins of the world is given to the disciples in the unleavened bread. The very blood of Christ which would soon trickle from His thorn-crowned forehead, from the His nail-pierced hands and feet, is given to the disciples to drink under the wine. St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:16, “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?” Christ gives us His true, physical body in this supper. He does so in order to give the forgiveness of sins to all who receive the supper in faith. St. Matthew, in his gospel, records that Jesus says, “This is My blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28).

2)         Christ institutes Holy Communion as a means to give His Christians all the benefits He acquires by His death on the cross. That is why we call it a “means of grace.” Holy Communion is a channel of salvation by which the Lord gives us His true flesh and blood to eat and drink. By eating and drinking in faith, we receive the forgiveness of all our sins. Such channels of salvation, or means of grace, are necessary because while Christ acquired the forgiveness of sins and a perfect righteousness for all mankind by His passion, He did not apply the benefits of the cross to mankind at the moment of His death or resurrection. He applies the benefits of His death to men through the preaching of the gospel, the absolving word, the washing of regeneration, which is holy baptism, and Holy Communion. He applies the benefits won at the cross to men when they believe that for Christ’s sake they have a God who is merciful unto them. This is why the church places so much emphasis on these means of grace. This is why the historic worship of the church is based upon and revolves around the preaching of the gospel and administration of the sacraments, the means of grace, since the gospel and the sacraments are the means by which Christ creates faith in our hearts which believes the gospel promise, justifies sinners, and declares them righteous with Christ’s perfect righteousness whenever they sin and flee to Christ’s atoning death and His perfect merits. The means of grace are the delivery system for the benefits Christ wins upon the cross. That is why Jesus says, “This is My blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28). Christ forgives your sins in this blessed meal, which is why we call it a sacrament, a sacred act by which God gives us the blessings of the cross.

3)         This word of Christ strikes human reason as unfathomable and abominable, to eat Christ’s very flesh and drink His very blood. Human reason hears these words of Jesus and can’t swallow what He says. But faith does, for faith simply believes the Word of Christ whether it is fully understandable or not. Consider what Mary’s faith did with the Word of the Lord when the angel Gabriel appeared to her and told her she would conceive in her womb the Son of God by the power of the Holy Ghost. Mary believes, even though she is a virgin and has never known a man. She confesses, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). Put another way, Mary says, “Amen. Yea, yea, it shall be so.” Human reason still to this day scoffs at the virgin birth, but its unreasonableness does not make it any less true. Consider what Abraham’s faith does with the Lord’s command to sacrifice his only son, Isaac. Human reason would not allow such a thing, for to sacrifice one’s child violates divine law, natural law, and in that particular instance, the Lord’s promise that “in Isaac your seed shall be called” (Genesis 21:12). Yet Abraham cast aside human reason and believed the word of God, even though the command went against God’s very promise. Abraham, in faith, concluded “that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead” (Hebrews 11:19) to remain true to His promise. Human reason is tainted with sin. St. Paul says that “the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). It is only by faith, worked in us by the Holy Ghost, that we are able, like Mary, and Abraham, and so many others, to accept the words of Jesus as true.

4)         St. Paul also shows the bread and wine to be the true body and blood of Christ by giving warning about communing unworthily. He writes, “Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall 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 that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body.” To commune unworthily means to eat the body of Christ and drink the blood of Christ without “discerning the body,” that is, without realizing what it is you are eating and drinking. The apostle teaches us that we should always examine ourselves before we commune with the Lord’s body and blood. Such examination includes remembering that the bread is the true body and Christ and that the wine is the true blood of Christ. It also means to examine oneself according to the Ten Commandments so that one might see his sin and repent of it, since the body and blood of Christ are given “for the remission of sins.” St. Paul writes that such examined communing is precisely why some in the Corinthian congregation are “weak and sickly, and many sleep.” If the bread and wine were only bread and wine, there would be no consequence for eating unworthily. But since it is a communion with the very body and blood of Christ, there are consequences if one communes without believing Christ’s Word, or if one communes without repentance and sorrow over their sin. If one doesn’t seek forgiveness, he ought not go to the altar.

5)         This is ultimately what Christ means when He says, “this do in remembrance of me.” To remember Christ and His innocent, bitter sufferings and death for our sins, we must do more than simply remember and believe that Christ suffered and died. Even the devil believes that. To partake of the supper in remembrance of Christ is more than to remember His passion and death. It also means to remember the benefits earned at the cross and given out in the sacrament, that in this sacrament Christ gives us His true body and blood for the forgiveness of all our sins. That also means that Christ gives us His life and salvation in the sacrament, for where there is forgiveness of sins, there is life and salvation. All this gives to us Christians in the bread and wine, which is also His physical body and blood. Remembering the benefits Christ acquired at the cross and applies to us individually in the Supper quickens our faith, exercising our trust and strengthening our confidence in Christ’s Word. To “do this in remembrance of me” means to partake of the sacrament in faith, truly believing and not doubting His Word. Remembrance is faith.

6)         Christ lovingly gives us His very body and blood for our comfort as well. We daily sin so much, most of it without our knowing or understanding why. When we see the depth of our sin, Christ provides His Blessed Sacrament to forgive us all our sins. When an evil conscience overtakes us so that all we can see is our many sins, when guilt oppresses us so that we feels as if our sins are a thick darkness around us, the Lord bids us flee to Christ and the sacrament, for in the sacrament Christ gives us Himself as a token of our forgiveness. When doubt lingers in our minds, causing us to wonder what God the Lord must really think of us, the sacrament invites us to come, take and eat, take and drink, for the remission of all our sins, for by this sacrament we have no need to dispute within ourselves about what God must think of us. We have a tangible element to which Christ has attached His word of promise that Christ has given to vanquish all doubt and extinguish despair of God’s mercy. As we feel death creep into our bodies, the wages of our sinfulness, Christ invites us to flee to the sacrament and eat His flesh and drink His blood as the medicine of immortality by which He gives eternal life. This makes the sacrament one of the chief treasures of the Christian church, for by it, Christ gives His Christians so many wonderful gifts and treasures for their strength and comfort.

7)         So He leaves us a memorial of His passion by which we show forth to the entire world that Christ suffered and died for our sins. But the sacrament is far more than simply a memorial. It is a means of grace, a channel by which He gives us His salvation, strengthens our faith, and forgives all our sins. All of this is possible because of the Word Christ speaks over the bread and wine, making it His body and blood. For He does not leave us poor sinners without consolation and hope, but gives us this sacrament for our comfort, our consolation, and our forgiveness, so that His atoning death might cover our sins, and His perfect righteousness given to us once again. Amen.

The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amen.

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