23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
27 So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. 29 For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves.1 Corinthians 11:23-29
A lot of effort goes into getting ready for New Year’s Eve. For example, it will take 100 people to drop the 3,000 pounds or about 30,000,000 individual pieces of confetti in Times Square. Many will spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on dresses, tuxedos, travel, hotels, food and beverages to ring in the New Year. It takes effort to get ready for big events, and tonight, we will celebrate the Lord’s Supper for the last time in 2019. It is a big event that takes preparation. And, in our reading from 1 Corinthians 11, we are reminded that those who are ready to take the Lord’s Supper will give thanks for the Lord’s body and blood.
Not everyone was thankful for the Lord’s Supper in Corinth. When Paul heard the report on the Corinthians, he was troubled. The Corinthians had developed a custom called the ‘agape feast’ or ‘love feast,’ and it was ruining the Lord’s Supper. The feast began as a wonderful way for the early Christians to come together, eat, pray and read Scripture before taking the Lord’s Supper. At first this meal was a blessing, but in time those wealthy members who were paying for the meal began to separate themselves from the poorer members. This led to some coming to the Lord’s Supper intoxicated, while others were hungry. The love feast that had celebrated fellowship as believers had turned into a selfish love feast for the few, and famine for the already poor and needy. At the heart of all of this was a spiritual problem. The lack of love, selfishness, greed, jealousy, judgment and resentment meant many of the Corinthians were weak in their faith. It also led to lack of proper preparation before coming together to take the Lord’s Supper bringing Paul to write, 27 “So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.” The Corinthians lost sight of what the Lord’s Supper was and losing sight of the blessings of the Lord’s Supper is a temptation for you and I as well.
By God’s grace, Jesus gives us his body and blood in the Lord’s Supper because we are sinners in need of forgiveness. By God’s grace you and I have been taught clear statements on what the Lord’s Supper is and what it is not. We have been instructed how the Lord’s Supper is not merely symbolic of Jesus’ body and blood. We have also been instructed how the Lord’s Supper does not magically change into DNA rich flesh and blood. We have been taught how to be careful to celebrate the Lord’s Supper with those we share a common confession of faith. We are taught that the Lord’s Supper is the bread and wine, and the body and blood of Jesus given and poured out for the forgiveness of all of our sins. We have been taught that this meal is for those who can 28 … examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. We have been taught so much that what we ought to give thanks for no longer troubles us.
True understanding of the Lord’s Supper means understanding we need what is given in the Lord’s Supper. Having an understanding of the Lord’s Supper is a wonderful blessing, but with all blessings comes the devil’s work to ruin God’s good work for us. Being prepared to take the Lord’s Supper does mean understanding what it is, but also why we need it. We need Jesus’ body and blood because we are sinful. Therefore, if our sins no longer trouble us, then we are not prepared to go to the Lord’s Supper.
God thoroughly reveals you are a sinner in his Word. In Psalm 51:5 we hear that our sinfulness has always been with us, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” In Romans 8:7 we hear how sin separates us from God, “The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.” In Galatians 5:17 we hear how sin even affects believers by causing a war inside of us, “For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh.” In James 2:10 we are reminded how devastating just one sin is, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” And, in Ezekiel 18:20 we hear the final result of our sinful lives, “The one who sins is the one who will die.” We are completely lost in our sins. They cause us overwhelming grief and guilt, and even the secular, often jokingly said New Year’s resolution admits that we all lack something when compared to our ideal self. Yet, you and I cannot make ourselves better, we cannot escape sin and death. We need a Savior.
Jesus gives us what we need in the Lord’s Supper. The devil works to ruin our thankfulness in coming to the Lord’s Supper by having us focus so much on what it is and is not in an academic way that we lose sight of what it is for us. In the Lord’s Supper, in the bread and wine, body and blood we receive the forgiveness of our sins. This is the true blessing and reason to give thanks for the meal.
In the Lord’s Supper, Jesus gives us his pure, innocent, perfect, righteous and holy life. Receiving Jesus’ body and blood is a true blessing because God guaranteed that we have forgiveness through Jesus’ sacrifice as we read in Hebrews 10:10, “And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” Again, we are confident Jesus takes away our sins as we read in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” We are confident this was always God’s plan as we read in 1 John 3:5, “But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin.” Through Jesus’ body and blood our sins are paid for, we are forgiven and set free from our sins as we read in 1 Peter 2:24 “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” And in Ephesians 1:7, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” Both Jesus body and blood were given and poured out as payment for your sins.
Receiving Jesus’ body and blood leads us to give thanks. Our confidence in the forgiveness of our sins through the Lord’s Supper comes from Jesus’ perfect sacrifice on the cross. We also have the guarantee from Jesus himself that we receive forgiveness through the Lord’s Supper as Paul wrote, 23 “For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you.” The words spoken each time we celebrate the Lord’s Supper are from Jesus himself. These words lead us to come to this meal thankful that there is forgiveness and freedom from sin. And we get to leave this meal and peace, thankful, joyful, even smiling because we have this promise from God’s Word in Hebrews 8:12 “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
A lot of effort goes into celebrating big events. Tonight, we will celebrate the Lord’s Supper for the last time in 2019. It is a big event that takes preparation. God prepares your heart for this meal by revealing your sins to you and the terrible punishment you deserve for them. By his grace, God also prepares your heart for the Lord’s Supper by promising you the forgiveness of your sins, guaranteed by Jesus’ perfect life, innocent death and resurrection. As this year ends but your sin does not, be at peace this evening, give thanks for the Lord’s body and blood, and the forgiveness of sins. Amen.