Feasting with God #11
Text: 1 Corinthians 11:27-29
27Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. 28Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.
God’s people have been blessed with a glorious gift. The Lord’s Supper was instituted for our blessing, so that whenever we eat or drink of it, we receive the forgiveness of sins that Jesus’ very body and blood won on the cross. Who would ever wish to ruin such a wonderful gift?
But in this text St. Paul gives us a warning: if anyone eats or drinks “in an unworthy manner” he is “guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord.” The guilt here ought to be given its proper weight. Rather than receiving forgiveness, those who eat and drink unworthily are sinning and racking up guilt. This guilt is guilt against the body and blood of the Lord, which means that those who eat and drink unworthily are guilty of the same sins that the Pharisees and Pontius Pilate and the Roman soldiers were guilty of: of crucifying the Lord.
Consider those guilty of killing Jesus. They looked at the cross and saw a man whom they had killed, and many thought he deserved it, while some knew that he didn’t but were happy nonetheless because his death meant something good for their positions. Those who looked at the cross that way were guilty of killing God. But consider those who follow Jesus. We who believe who he is and what he has done for us look at the cross and see his selfless act which won our salvation, and so we are no longer guilty of any sins.
This is the same as those who eat in an unworthy manner. No, that doesn’t mean those who eat or drink sloppily, or without shaving first or putting on their best Sunday clothes. Those who eat unworthily are those who have not properly prepared to eat and to drink this holy meal, and those, as Paul says, who eat “without discerning the body.” Those who do not believe that what they are receiving is the true body and blood of Christ, given and shed for the forgiveness of sins, are the ones who eat unworthily. Martin Luther, in his Small Catechism, wrote, “He is truly worthy and well prepared who has faith in these words: ‘Given, and shed for you, for the remission of sins.’ But he that does not believe these words, or doubts, is unworthy and unfit; for the words ‘For you’ require altogether believing hearts” (SC VI, 10). It is the eyes of faith that makes one worthy to receive this sacrament.
Be prepared, therefore, when you next receive the Lord’s Supper. It is a blessed gift for you. It is Christ’s own body, which was born from Mary and then was hanged on the cross. It is Christ’s own blood, which bled from his hands, feet, and side. And it comes to you with the forgiveness that his life, death, and resurrection accomplished. Stand in wonder of this gracious gift, that you may always receive it worthily.
Jesus, Sun of Life, my Splendor,
Jesus, Thou my Friend most tender,
Jesus, Joy of my desiring,
Fount of life, my soul inspiring—
At Thy feet I cry, my Maker,
Let me be a fit partaker
Of this blessed food from heaven,
For our good, Thy glory, given. Amen. (TLH 305:7)
Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.