Posted by: St. Mark Lutheran Church | December 16, 2010

Sermon on Mark 14:22-24

Downloadable version

Holy Communion — “…Your precious Word believing…”

Lessons:  Luke 1:57-80, Mark 14:22-24

Hymns (from Christian Worship and CW:Supplement): 741, 312:1-6

In the Name of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.

Our Advent meditation upon Holy Communion continues.  We hear the words of Mark, who writes:  While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.”  Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it. “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them.

Tonight we come to Luther’s provocative Small Catechism question:  How can bodily eating and drinking do such a great thing? In other words, why is this meal for the forgiveness of my sins, but the supper I’ll have tonight after church isn’t, even if I eat bread and drink wine?  Luther’s answer was simple and straightforward:  Eating and drinking certainly do not do it, but rather the words that are recorded: “given for you” and “shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” These words, when accompanied by the physical eating and drinking, are the essential thing in the sacrament, and whoever believes these very words has what they declare and state, namely, “forgiveness of sins.”

Many, if not most, Protestants (all non-Catholic Christians, including even some Lutherans) reject this and say that there is no forgiveness to be found in this meal, only a remembrance and memorial, for there is no body and blood of Christ to be found here, only bread and wine.  Their main argument? “Is” means “represents” or “symbolizes.”  They will point to John 6, where Jesus says, I am the bread of life, or John 10, where Jesus says, I am the door, or Matthew 13, where Jesus explains a parable, saying, The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. They will quote these passages and say, “See, see, Jesus isn’t bread.  Jesus isn’t a door.  The world isn’t a field and people aren’t seeds.  Therefore bread is bread and wine is wine.”

The problem is, Jesus isn’t telling a parable in Mark 14 and “is” means “is.”  Jesus is bread, because feeding on Him, like eating bread, is nourishing.  It’s just a different kind of bread.  Jesus is a door, because we pass through Him into faith, forgiveness, and heaven.  It’s just a different kind of door.  The world is a field, where things are planted and grown.  And we are seeds, planted in wombs, planted in faith by Baptism.  The figure of speech isn’t found in “is.”  Is means is.  And Jesus says, This is my body….  This is my blood. And He says that it’s poured out for many.  This is the precious Word of God.  And we believe it, because He says so.  And God is not a man that He should lie.  He speaks and it is, no matter how incomprehensible what He says is.  And yes, it is incomprehensible how bread and wine are at the same time body and blood.  It is incomprehensible how Jesus, true God from true God, is a real human being with a real human body, and that body is consumed throughout the world throughout the ages.  But He says so, thus it is.

How bold and arrogant it is, isn’t it, to say, “Well, of course, Jesus doesn’t mean this or that…”?  That is as much as to say, “Jesus can’t do this or that.”  And we – not just real presence denying Christians, but us – do that with so much of Holy Scripture.  We blithely dismiss words that make us uncomfortable, that make us squirm, that make us sweat.  We decide which precious words of God we’re going to believe and which we’ll deny, reject, or redefine to our good pleasure.  But it’s sort of a package deal.  Jesus says to His Father, Your Word is truth. Jesus says, My words will never pass away. And in this sacramental meal, Jesus speaks plainly, clearly, and precisely.  He institutes God’s new covenant.  He announces His last will and testament.  This is what He meant, and it’s what His apostle, Paul understood, who wrote:  Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Does that sound symbolic or representational to you?  Hear Luther in his Large CatechismIt is the Word, I say, that makes and sets this Sacrament apart. So it is not mere bread and wine, but is, and is called, Christ’s body and blood. For it is said, “When the Word is joined to the element or natural substance, it becomes a Sacrament.” This saying of St. Augustine is so properly and so well put that he has scarcely said anything better. The Word must make a Sacrament out of the element, or else it remains a mere element. Now, it is not the word or ordinance of a prince or emperor. But it is the Word of the grand Majesty, at whose feet all creatures should fall and affirm it is as He says, and accept it with all reverence, fear, and humility. With this Word you can strengthen your conscience and say, “If a hundred thousand devils, together with all fanatics, should rush forward, crying, ‘How can bread and wine be Christ’s body and blood?’ and such, I know that all spirits and scholars together are not as wise as is the Divine Majesty in His little finger.” Now here stands Christ’s Word, “Take, eat; this is My body.… Drink of it, all of you; this is My blood of the new testament,” and so on. Here we stop to watch those who will call themselves His masters and make the matter different from what He has spoken. It is true, indeed, that if you take away the Word or regard the Sacrament without the words, you have nothing but mere bread and wine. But if the words remain with them, as they shall and must, then, by virtue of the words, it is truly Christ’s body and blood. What Christ’s lips say and speak, so it is. He can never lie or deceive.

God’s precious Word says, “Whoever partakes of this meal receives the body and blood of Christ, my Son, given and poured out for the world.”  But when we hear Paul say, 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. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. Another equally precious, but incredibly serious Word of God.  This distinguishes Baptism, the sacrament of rebirth, from Holy Communion, the sacrament of nourishment, the medicinal sacrament.  We find out that one can take this to one’s harm.  Perhaps this Word of God leads us to consider avoiding the Sacrament.

But in Mark, we hear another precious Word of God for us to believe:  While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples….  Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it. In other words, Jesus, by offering and giving this meal to His disciples and us says, “Go ahead.  Take it, it’s okay.  You’re supposed to do this.  I want you to have this.  You won’t melt, die, or explode.  You need this!”  What a precious Word.  Our beloved Savior wasn’t satisfied to be born, to live, and to die for us.  He wasn’t satisfied with rising from the dead for us.  He wasn’t satisfied with atoning for our sins with His blood.  He wasn’t satisfied until He gave us His body to eat and His blood to drink, so that we can be satisfied, atoned, forgiven, fed, healed!  What a satisfying Word, what a priceless treasure.  This is your Almighty God, your Christ!  Amen.

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