1 Corinthians 10:16-17
March 29, 2018
Trinity Lutheran Church—New Haven, MO
For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
In the name of + Jesus.
On the night in which Jesus is betrayed, the disciples join together in taking a last Passover Supper. This was the meal that commemorated God’s deliverance of His people from slavery in Egypt, and on the evening before their release, they took a special meal, which consisted of a sacrificed lamb, unleavened bread, and a salad of bitter herbs. The meal was commanded by God, and it was to be eaten in haste while dressed for the upcoming journey.
When God established the first Passover, which was the night the Angel of the Lord struck down the firstborn in Egypt, but passed over the Israelites, who were marked with the blood of the lamb, He also decreed that it would be a repeated meal to commemorate this event. “Remember that day and keep it as the LORD’s festival,” says the Lord, “You and your descendants in the coming generations are to celebrate it forever” (Ex 12:14).
The Passover had a definite time. Once a year on the 14th of Nisan (the first month of the Jewish calendar), the Passover lamb would be sacrificed and the meal set before every practicing Jewish family. The Passover was then followed by a week-long Festival of Unleavened Bread, with definite times and ceremonies connected to it.
But Jesus does something new at this supper. During the meal, He takes bread and says, “Take, eat, this is My body, which is given for you. This do in remembrance of Me.” And after supper He takes a chalice of wine and says, “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.” The Passover was a meal of the Old Testament, but Jesus establishes a New Testament. Not the flesh and blood of a lamb, but the flesh and blood of the Lamb of God. The old meal gives way to the new, and with the new comes something else that’s new.
“This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” Jesus adds one little word in there with a ton of significance. ὁσάκις in Greek. “As often as.” For emphasis, He repeats it. “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup…” The Passover was once a year; what does Jesus mean by “as often as”?
Martin Luther teaches in the Large Catechism: However, you may say, “But the words are added, ‘As often as you drink it’; there He compels no one, but leaves it to our free choice.” I answer, “That is true, yet it is not written so that we should never do so. Yes, since He speaks the words ‘As often as you drink it,’ it is still implied that we should do it often. This is added because He wants to have the Sacrament free. He does not limit it to special times, like the Jewish Passover, which they were obliged to eat only once a year. They could only have it on the fourteenth day of the first full moon in the evening. They still must not change a day.” It is as if He would say by these words, “I institute a Passover or Supper for you. You shall enjoy it not only once a year, just upon this evening, but often, when and where you will, according to everyone’s opportunity and necessity, bound to no place or appointed time.” But the pope later perverted this and again made the Sacrament into a Jewish feast.
So you see, it is not left free in the sense that we may despise it. I call that despising the Sacrament if one allows a long time to elapse—with nothing to hinder him—yet never feels a desire for it. If you want such freedom, you may just as well have the freedom to not be a Christian and not have to believe or pray. One is just as much commanded by Christ as the other. But if you want to be a Christian, you must from time to time fulfill and obey this commandment. For this commandment ought always to move you to examine yourself and to think, “See, what sort of a Christian I am! If I were one, I would certainly have some small longing for what my Lord has commanded me to do (LC V 46-50).
As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death. The main thing in the Sacrament is the reception of the Lord’s body and blood for the forgiveness of sins. But there’s a secondary benefit. It’s the congregation’s sermon. You are kind enough to let this preacher get up each week and speak God’s Word (there’s no such thing as a non-sermon Sunday), but the congregation also has a sermon to preach. By eating the bread and drinking the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death.
Body given. Blood shed. Our Lord didn’t die in hospice care of old age. He didn’t contract some unfortunate disease. He didn’t meet His end in a freak accident. He willingly gave Himself over to violent men who pierced Him with whip, thorns, nails, and spear. They shed His blood. The first Supper foretold His suffering, but every Supper ever since recalls the way He died. Your eating and drinking preaches Christ crucified. Do not let it become a stumbling block, as it is to Jews, or foolishness, as it is to Greeks. The Supper is the power of God and the wisdom of God because it proclaims the Lord’s death.
As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. This Supper is not a one and done deal. It is given to be eaten and drunk often. Until He comes. This meal is the sustenance for walking the way of Jesus. If you run a race, it will do you no good to starve yourself. I’m not a runner, and I know that. You need to eat, and you need to eat right. The idea of food alone will not sustain you. Remembering a meal that someone else ate won’t give you the strength to make it to the end. The Supper is your sustenance to run the race, and thus win the crown.
But there is a promise embedded in these final words. The Lord will come again. This meal isn’t a memorial meal (although it does recall the Lord’s death), it’s a now and not yet meal. We partake of a nibble of bread and a sip of wine—not enough to fill even the smallest belly. But this little Supper is a foretaste of the feast to come, even as Maundy Thursday is a foretaste of Easter joy.
On this mountain the LORD of armies will prepare for all people a banquet of rich foods, a festival with wines kept on their sediment, rich foods full of marrow, wines kept on their sediment and filtered. On this mountain He will remove the veil of grief covering all people and the web covering all nations. He will swallow up death forever, and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces.
The Last Supper of Jesus with His Disciples Is the First Of Many Suppers of Jesus with His Disciples, Propelling Us to the Eternal Supper of the Lamb
In the name of + Jesus.
Jacob W Ehrhard