Redeemer Ev. Lutheran Church, Iola, WI

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Tag Archives: body and blood

Feasting with God #54 – Feeding God

Feasting with God #54

 Feeding God

Text: Numbers 28:1-8

1The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2“Command the people of Israel and say to them, ‘My offering, my food for my food offerings, my pleasing aroma, you shall be careful to offer to me at its appointed time.’  3And you shall say to them, This is the food offering that you shall offer to the Lord: two male lambs a year old without blemish, day by day, as a regular offering.  4The one lamb you shall offer in the morning, and the other lamb you shall offer at twilight; 5also a tenth of an ephah of fine flour for a grain offering, mixed with a quarter of a hin of beaten oil.  6It is a regular burnt offering, which was ordained at Mount Sinai for a pleasing aroma, a food offering to the Lord.  7Its drink offering shall be a quarter of a hin for each lamb.  In the Holy Place you shall pour out a drink offering of strong drink to the Lord.  8The other lamb you shall offer at twilight.  Like the grain offering of the morning, and like its drink offering, you shall offer it as a food offering, with a pleasing aroma to the Lord.

If your family was like mine growing up, you had daily devotions.  Ours were always right after supper.  While we kids were squirming, anxious to get out and play with our friends, Dad took up the devotion book and read, sometimes including questions about the devotion, sometimes with a recitation of the Creed or Luther’s Small Catechism, always ending with prayer.  Maybe you do something similar each day.  Maybe this devotional series is part of your routine.

The daily devotional life of Israel centered around this core: each day, once in the morning and once in the evening, they sacrificed a perfect male lamb.  This sacrifice is presented in an interesting way: it’s called by God, “my food for my food offerings.”  Does God need food and drink?

In Egypt, the Israelites would have been surrounded by a polytheistic religion in which worshipers provided food to placate their gods, although more commonly the Egyptians left food offerings at the tombs of loved ones, so that they could be sustained in the afterlife.  In Canaan, the Israelites were to be confronted with religions that sought even more fervently to feed their gods, so that the gods would be happy with them.  Does the true God want the same thing?

In the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, we state:

In Num. 28:4f. three parts of that daily sacrifice are repre­sented, the burning of the lamb, the libation, and the oblation of wheat flour.  The Law had pictures or shadows of future things.  Accordingly, in this spectacle Christ and the entire worship of the New Testament are portrayed.  The burning of the lamb signifies the death of Christ.  The libation signifies that everywhere in the entire world, by the preaching of the Gospel, believers are sprinkled with the blood of that Lamb, i.e., sanctified, as Peter says, 1 Pet. 1:2: Through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.  The oblation of wheat flour signifies faith, prayer, and thanksgiving in hearts.  As, therefore, in the Old Testament, the shadow is perceived, so in the New the thing signified should be sought, and not another type, as sufficient for a sacrifice. (Ap XXIV 36-37)

In the Old Testament, the people of God were in training.  They were learning as children the building blocks of their education, the alphabet and simple addition and subtraction.  So they were taught to understand that, for their sins, a daily—a double-daily—sacrifice of blood was required.  And the creature to be sacrificed had to be perfect.  Its blood had to be given to God, and its meat burned.  Fine flour had to be offered as well, bread with the meat.  God thereby used a picture that they would have been familiar with to teach them: they would have been well acquainted with the idolatrous practices of placating gods with food offerings.  The true God informs them that, yes, indeed, there does need to be placation for sin.

But this was all training.  It’s fulfillment came in Christ, the ultimate perfect “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).  His death, and no longer he burning of a lamb each day, took away all sins once and for all.  And as though to say, “I no longer need this food, for all wrath is turned away; therefore instead I give you this wonderful food,” God gives us, not the blood of animals, but “the blood of Christ,” and not the flour of fine wheat, but “the body of Christ” (1 Cor. 10:16).  To turn away God’s wrath, Jesus gave him the final offering.  And now we are given the blessed feast.

Lord, we thank you that, through the offering and sacrifice of your Son, you have turned away all wrath for our sins, and even more have given us the undeserved gift of a heavenly feast.  Let us receive this gift worthily, with believing hearts, and therefore be strengthened by it in faith and love, until we may finally come to your kingdom, where we will partake of the blessed heavenly banquet in eternity.  In your Son’s name we pray.  Amen.

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.

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Feasting with God #47 – The Secret Elixir for Eternal Life

Feasting with God #47

The Secret Elixir for Eternal Life

“Christ on the Cross,” by Carl Heinrich Bloch (1834-1890)

Text: John 6:53-58

53So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.  54Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.  55For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.  56Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.  57As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me.  58This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread that the fathers ate and died.  Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”

The Fountain of Youth.  The Holy Grail.  The Tree of Life.  Legends abound in our human cultures about that secret magical fluid that, when drunk, grants the drinker immortality, eternal life.  An immortal soul, a life that never ends—it’s natural for life to desire to continue.  So to find the way to continue endlessly, that is the keenest desire of the living being.

But an earthly elixir does not exist.  Yes, the Tree of Life was a real tree in the Garden of Eden, but since man’s expulsion from that Garden its location has been lost, and it will never again be found (perhaps it was even destroyed in the Deluge).  Likewise the Holy Grail was a literal cup used by Jesus, but its holiness was not its own, rather the holiness of the blood of God that it contained.

Just notice, looking at these legends, how deeply connected they are to Christian tradition.  Even the Fountain of Youth is frequently considered to be a pool at the base of the Tree of Life, drawing its powers from there.  So-called Christians for centuries searched for the mythical granters of immortality.  But where did we go so wrong?

The Jews of Jesus’ day were likewise misled by their personal blindness and preference.  When Jesus was talking about giving his flesh and blood, they were astonished and “disputed among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’” (John 6:52).  Even the disciples, the followers of Jesus, “they said, ‘This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?’  But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, ‘Do you take offense at this?’” (6:60-61).  The Jews and the disciples certainly wanted the ability to live forever (for they said, “Sir, give us this bread always” [6:34], before Jesus revealed that he was talking about his flesh).  But their minds were fixed on worldly things.  They thought that Jesus meant an earthly immortality, the same way these Christians seeking the Fountain of Youth seek an earthly immortality.  Having in mind carnal things, when Jesus tells them that the answer is “eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,” only disgust can follow.

But Jesus speaks in spiritual terms.  At this time in the Gospels he isn’t even talking yet about the Lord’s Supper.  He is talking entirely about faith.  The true food that gives life to all who eat it, the true drink that sustains eternally those who drink it, is Jesus himself.  If we abide in him by faith, he abides in us, and we are upheld by his life.

He draws the parallel: “As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me.”  We confess the Triune God, in which relationship we believe “in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, Begotten of His Father before all worlds” (Nicene Creed).  In the mystery of their relationship, we see the Son drawing life from the Father, in a similar way to how we who believe in Jesus draw life from him.

And in this it is essential to understand Jesus as true God and true Man—Man because he has flesh and blood, in which he died and paid the price for sins.  This is what Jesus means by “eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood.”  Believe in his flesh, and receive in faith the benefits he bought with his blood.  And God, because through that flesh and blood he delivers to us divine life.  It is because Jesus is true God that he can deliver what he promises to those who believe in him: “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day….  Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”

Dear Lord, you who sent your only-begotten Son, very God of very God, into the flesh in order to bear our sins upon his own body and to ransom our souls from hell with his blood, sustain us by that heavenly food, by your Holy Spirit instilling faith and your grace in our hearts, so that the eternal life that you have promised may indeed be ours, through the same, Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever.  Amen.

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.

Feasting with God #19 – Communing with a Betrayer

Feasting with God #19

Communing with a Betrayer

 

Text: Luke 22:19-23

19And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying,“This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. 21But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. 22For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!” 23And they began to question one another, which of them it could be who was going to do this.

The Lord’s Supper is often called simply “Communion.” We refer to it in this way because in this meal, as we eat and drink our Lord’s body and blood we find ourselves in communion or fellowship with him. This meal brings us so close to Jesus, it is as though we are sitting down to an intimate dinner with family and close friends.  And not only are we in such close communion and fellowship with Christ, but we are with our fellow communing Christians – those who stand or kneel next to us at the altar rail, those in all other churches around the world, and even those who have died, the saints in heaven.  This sacrament is a sacrament of community, by which we confess that we share in the beliefs and mission of those we commune with.

But the first communion hosted an intruder.  It should have been the most intimate of suppers: Jesus and his closest followers, his twelve disciples.  But among them was the one who would betray their master.

Paul warns other Christians against the same thing in his first letter to the Corinthians: “Whoever, 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” (1 Cor. 11:27).  The Lord’s Supper brings us forgiveness, and where there is forgiveness there is also life and salvation.  These are brought to those who are in true communion with their Savior and with one another, but anyone who eats and drinks as though he is part of this communion and yet is not “eats and drinks judgment on himself” (11:29).  This difference we see between Judas and the other disciples, when we examine their ends.  Judas, who betrayed him, hanged himself in sorrow, unwilling to accept any forgiveness that would be offered to him.  The other disciples, after Jesus’ resurrection, were sent into the mission of their Lord, to make disciples of all nations and baptize them, and to teach them Jesus’ doctrines and truths.  This they did joyfully, because the forgiveness that was offered to them on account of Jesus’ death – the forgiveness tangibly fed to them in this communion, inspired this new life in them.

Let us be aware of the forgiveness we receive in this communion, and of the closeness of our relationship with our Lord and one another.  Judas sought silver to replace all that, but what could be a greater treasure than forgiveness, life, salvation, and communion with God and our fellow Christians?  All that is possible because of the sacrifice Jesus made and the Supper he instituted.

Dear Jesus, thank you for the great gift you have given us in the Sacrament of Communion.  Guide us to see the wonder of the forgiveness, life, and salvation we receive there, and move us into ever closer fellowship with you and one another.  Make our faith and new life sincere, and strengthen it by this Supper.  In your name we pray.  Amen.

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.

Feasting with God #13 – Feasting in the Heavenly Kingdom

Feasting with God #13

Feasting in the Heavenly Kingdom

Text: Matthew 8:11-12

11[Jesus said,] “I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, 12while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness.  In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

See in these words a blessed picture, and also a stern warning.  Jesus had just encountered the faith of a Roman centurion, and marveled at its strength, saying to those gathered around, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith” (Matt. 8:10).  This was a significant statement, and pointed out the biggest problem in the Jews’ way of thinking.

The Jews, those genetically of Israelite descent, believed that because of their physical heritage they would inherit all the blessings promised to Abraham, their ancestor.  But Jesus here was telling them, Your genetic heritage does not matter, if you don’t have faith.  This point is punctuated and emphasized when Jesus said that “the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness.”  The great sin of these Jews was that they believed that their ticket to heaven was guaranteed, that they were entitled to it by virtue of their ancestry.  Here came Jesus’ warning: they would receive a rude awakening.

The “many” who would “come from east and west” are the Gentiles, the non-Jewish nations, those who could not trace their physical ancestry back to Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob.  Many of these Gentiles would be the ones given the right to “recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.”  While the Jews believed in maintaining the purity of their bloodlines, and valued their racial birthright as the most important thing, Jesus was telling them that that really didn’t matter: what got someone into this kingdom and this heavenly feast was faith alone.

The Jews could not understand what faith they were to have.  They believed in the power of their bloodlines.  Paul writes about the imperfect way the Jews understand the Scriptures, how, “to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away” (2 Cor. 3:14).  Only if we read the Scriptures and understand that they point to Christ—only through our faith in Christ—do we receive the grace and forgiveness that the Word of God gives.

Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob all had this faith, that God would indeed bless all nations through their Descendant, and that salvation would come for all people through them.  And that faith is realized in Christ—he was the one promised who would save the world through his death in our place; and now we who believe in his salvation are those “many” who have received the ticket of faith granting us the right to “recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.”

Already at our baptisms, at the very moment faith is nurtured in our hearts by the Word, we are placed into the kingdom of heaven.  On earth we walk in Christ’s body, the Church, partaking of that heavenly feast of the Lord’s Supper, which strengthens that faith and grants us continued forgiveness of our sins; and that lets us look forward to the greater fulfillment of the heavenly feast, when after this life will come our eternal life in a glorious heaven, sitting at the same table as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as well as Moses, Elijah, all the apostles and martyrs, our Christian loved ones, and even God himself!

Lord, give us the grace to rely on nothing in ourselves, not our genetic heritage, not our stations in life, not our works of piety.  Instead, O Lord, direct us to the places you give us your grace and forgiveness freely: in baptism, where our sins are washed away, in your Word, where the message of your Son is declared and our faith is established, and in your Supper, where we have a taste of the heavenly feast to come.  Keep us in that heavenly kingdom while we live here on earth, and when our last hour comes, bring us to the full and glorious kingdom of heaven in your presence.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.

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.

Feasting with God #11 – Worthy Partaking

Feasting with God #11

Worthy Partaking

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.

Feasting with God #3 – Forgiveness in the Meal

Feasting with God #3

“Forgiveness in the Meal”

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Matthew 26:26-28

26Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.”  27And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

For almost two whole millennia people have been partaking of the blessed meal known variously as the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist, Holy Communion, and the Sacrament of the Altar.  This sacrament Martin Luther described as “the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, under the bread and wine, instituted by Christ himself, for us Christians to eat and drink” (Luther’s Small Catechism).  Yes, we eat bread and wine in this meal, but also, through a miraculous means that we cannot understand, also the body and blood of Christ.  We Lutherans are accustomed to saying that the body that we eat is the very body born of Mary, and that the blood that we drink is the very blood shed on the cross.

The Church has been mocked for its entire existence on account of this meal.  The Romans used to persecute those in the Church for being cannibals, for they heard that Christians would eat a baby in their secret worship meetings.  But despite the ridicule of centuries, Christians still eat the body of Christ and drink his blood.  Why?

Jesus’ own words give us the answer: “for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”  Forgiveness itself is given to us in this meal!  The blood of Christ, which justifies us – “we have been justified by his blood” (Rom. 5:9) – this very same blood is now given to us where we can see it, feel it, smell it, and taste it.  It is fed to us so that it becomes a part of us, nourishing our souls even as worldly food nourishes our bodies.

And notice as well that we did not take this blood.  Blood is taken by murderers and executioners, such as when Cain murdered Abel, and Abel’s blood was “crying to [God] from the ground” (Gen. 4:10).  Blood taken unjustly highlights the sin.  How many murder weapons haven’t been found with the blood still on them?  To be “caught red-handed” is to be found with the blood of your victim still on your hands.  But the blood of Jesus is different.  We already had blood on our hands.  Our sins stained us from the moment we were conceived, and like layers of grime only grew thicker and thicker as we continued through life.  We by nature are red-handed murderers, sinners and rebels to God.  Our very inmost thoughts are only selfishness and evil against him.

Jesus Christ’s blood became the universal solvent, cleaning that grime of sin away more quickly than the fastest-acting soap.  That blood and that body are given to us as a gift in this Supper of our Lord.  What a gift!  And certainly it is worth all the ridicule of the world.

Lord Jesus Christ, as often as we eat this bread and drink this cup, let us remember your death and the shedding of that blood, by which you freely gave us the forgiveness of every one of our sins.  Help us to see that we daily sin much, and much need the forgiveness you give, so that we can learn better to put our full trust in you and in your promises.  As you promise to give us forgiveness in this holy meal, let us come to it with joy.  Continue to give to us your promised forgiveness.  In your name we pray.  Amen.

 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.