This is the sermon for Maundy Thursday. The sermon text is: 1 Corinthians 11:23-28. The sermon theme is: Why is this supper so serious? Here is the Written Sermon.
Why is this Supper so Serious?
What do you see when you’re sitting in the pew? Many of us here this evening have been receiving the Lord’s Supper for a long time. And because of this it might be difficult for us to remember what it was like when we didn’t. What was it like for you when you weren’t confirmed? I remember when I was young, like all the rest of the children while all the others went up for communion, I stayed. And I wondered what I was missing. And so, as the people finished what they were doing up there at the altar, I watched them. And there’s one thing that I always saw. I always saw such serious faces. And sometimes I almost saw sad faces. And even then I asked myself the question, what is it that makes this Supper so serious? As Paul writes to the Church in Corinth he lets them know all through these words I’m about to read that this supper is a serious supper. This supper is so serious, first of all because of the setting. Detail by detail Paul lets us know from these words that the Lord’s Supper is something serious. And so, Paul starts off by telling us: “For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you” (1 Cor 11:23 NIV)
Notice what Paul is saying here. Word for word from Luke’s gospel, the very words that were handed down to him, he was handing down and entrusting to them. Look how careful Paul is. He hands this section of God’s word down to them word for word so that they would know that he wasn’t making these words up as he went along. So there is a careful sharing. But what else is so serious about this supper? Paul tells us: “23 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.”” (1 Cor 11:23-25 NIV)
This is a new covenant that Jesus is handing down to them. It is a covenant, and official contract, that promises to them that their sins are forgiven. And it is sealed in Jesus’ blood. That’s serious if you think about it. Today when we want to take on a serious contract what do we do? We sign a bunch of papers over and over again. But in the Old Testament they had a different way. They killed things. Covenants were considered official when an animal died and its blood spilled out. And the message was very clear: If I break this contract and covenant, may I be like that animal. Here Jesus says that as a result of signing this contract of forgiveness he died. That is a serious fact, isn’t it?
So, look at the setting. These words are serious because Paul Precisely and carefully hands them down. They are serious because this contract is signed in Jesus’ very own blood. But there’s another reason: “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” (1 Cor 11:26 NIV)
Every time you come forward to this table you are preaching. You are preaching that Jesus had to die because of your sin. Here at this table you have to confront the God who took on humanity and bled and died because of your sin. This too is serious, isn’t it?
And so we see that this supper is a serious supper from the setting. But that leads us to the next question, why? Why is Paul so serious in his words and why is this supper so serious? These words are so serious so that they would show you how sincere Jesus is in them. Jesus wants you to know that he is not joking when he speaks about your sin. He wants you to know that he is not joking when he speaks about your forgiveness. He wants you to know that when he says “This is for you” in these words, he means it. Through this bread and wine and body and blood the forgiveness that Jesus died to obtain is given to you in this supper.
This supper is serious to show Jesus’ sincerity. And the result of that is clear. Because of Jesus’ sincerity, now we have complete security. A couple of days ago they discovered that a whole bunch of internet websites that were supposed to be secure weren’t. Hundreds of websites that have your passwords are now vulnerable to attack. We live in a world of doubt. And the worst sort of doubt is the doubt our sinful nature plagues us with. It is this sort of doubt where we doubt what God clearly promises. But here is where we begin to appreciate why this supper is such a serious supper. If we doubt that Paul both got the words right from the gospels and that he handed them down correctly, we find security in the fact that the very words Paul received he handed down. If we doubt that this holy supper actually gives to us the forgiveness of sins, we find security if the fact that there are no figures of speech here. In such clear words, what Jesus says, he means. In this supper there is real forgiveness really given. If we doubt that this forgiveness really comes to me, we find security in the fact that this covenant is not signed in ink. No, instead, it’s signed in the holy, precious blood of Jesus.
With such absolute security there in that supper is it any surprise to us that children yearn to have it when they are young and those on their death bed crave it? And yet it is the same gospel and the same forgiveness that is read to us from the lectern and preached to us from the pulpit. This supper is not a different gospel. It just comes to us in a different way. Instead of simply being heard, it is smelled, tasted and received.
What do you see in the faces of those who have received this supper? I remember years ago studying those faces of the people who were coming back to their pews and there was a lady whose face was different. Instead of the pondering looks the rest had, her face held a smile and beamed with joy-and rightly so. For if Jesus is so sincere in these words and if we now have security that our sins are forgiven, then how can we not amidst all the pain also have some joy?
So, tonight, when you receive Jesus’ body and blood along with that bread and wine and the forgiveness that it delivers, what will your reaction be? Let it this supper be a serious supper. Let it be a serious supper because Jesus spoke these words in sincerity and with them gives you security. But also let it be a joyous supper. For the forgiveness signed in Jesus’ blood is ours and there will be a day when we will join Jesus in heaven at this supper. And on that day there will be no more doubts, fears or tears. Amen.