THREE WORDS OF TRUTH:
“Take and eat. Take and drink.”
In the name + of Jesus.
Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it.” (Luke 22:8) This was an annual remembrance of the Lord's powerful deliverance of the people of Israel from the land of Egypt. While the Passover feast recalled God's gracious deliverance in the past, the meal was basically a reenactment of that night. Unleavened bread was eaten. A lamb was slaughtered and its blood shed. Its body was roasted on a spit and consumed. They did not feast to be delivered; they only commemorated what God had done in the past. At this feast, each generation was to learn about God's salvation. The Lord had instructed them, “When your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ you shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the LORD's Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.’” (Exodus 12:26-27) This word was the main thing in the Passover, along with the eating and drinking. For this honored the Lord, recalled his faithfulness, and remembered his deliverance.
The Lord Jesus met with his disciples to celebrate the Passover. It was at this meal that Jesus instituted a new meal based on a new covenant. 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.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” (Luke 22:19-20) Take and eat. Take and drink. This is given and shed for you. And so, the Church continues to gather and to feast as our Lord calls us to do.
Jesus calls us to partake in the new covenant because the old covenant did not grant the gifts our Lord wanted us to have. The very first covenant God had made should have granted life, but it did not. God had placed Adam in the Garden of Eden with two special trees—the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:16-17) By obeying the word of the Lord, Adam and Eve would have been confirmed in holiness. They would have feasted on the Tree of Life to live as God's saints forevermore. You know how the story ends. They tried to steal what God had wanted to give them for free. By eating what God had forbidden, they brought sin and death upon themselves and all mankind.
So, their story goes; and for us, it goes on and on. Nothing changes for sinners. Like Adam and Eve, we crave what God forbids. We feast our eyes on the riches, the successes, and even the spouses of others, scheming to get what God has chosen to not give us. We fill our ears with gossip and slander, hoping that the worst reports about others will overshadow our own shortcomings. We long to feed our egos with people telling us how pretty, how smart, and how cool we are, and we get angry when others do not notice our accomplishments or praise our efforts. We feed the cravings of our egos and our bodies. But no matter how much we feed our sinful cravings, they are never full. The sinful flesh always demands, “Feed me more!” And no matter how much we cater to our flesh and feed it, the only reward it can guarantee is a grave.
Therefore, Jesus established a new covenant. He does not give us conditions to meet, which will only result in another failed covenant. Instead, he declares, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” (Luke 22:20) Jesus set the terms of this new covenant—that he supplies the benefits, and we simply receive them. What man had tried to steal by eating, Jesus gives again for free. This new covenant was foreshadowed by the Passover, and it is fulfilled by Jesus. At the first Passover, death fell upon every house in Egypt. But while the Egyptians shrieked and grieved over their dead, the Israelites feasted on the lamb which had been slain. The blood of the lamb marked their homes and spared them from death and grief and sadness. Jesus Christ is that Lamb. And to make us participants of this new covenant, Jesus summons us, “Take and eat. Take and drink.” By this eating and drinking, we receive what Jesus has promised to give.
The Passover was a feast to commemorate what God had done in the past, but the Lord's Supper is neither a reenactment nor a mere commemoration. (Jesus) 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.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” (Luke 22:19-20) Take and eat. The body which bore your sin was given into death as the ransom price that sets you free—this Jesus gives to you in the bread. Take and drink. The innocent blood which was poured out at the cross to appease God's wrath—this Jesus gives to you in the cup.
Take and eat—for you. Take and drink—for the forgiveness of sins. By eating what was forbidden, man brought sin and death upon all. Now, by eating and drinking, man receives forgiveness of sins, new life, and salvation. Take from the tree of life which is the cross. The fruit which hung from that tree is Christ, and those who eat and drink his body and blood will live forever.
Take and eat; take and drink. “Do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19) And, indeed, we do; for as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. (1 Corinthians 11:26) But the body and blood of Jesus are not merely remembered; they are given and consumed. The new covenant is not merely reenacted. By eating and drinking, you participate in the body and blood of Jesus. This is how you receive his benefits. We do this for Jesus' remembrance. We remember Jesus who lived and died for us, and Jesus remembers us whom he has purchased and won from all sin, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with his holy, precious blood and with his innocent sufferings and death. (Luther's explanation of the 2nd Article of the Apostles' Creed) And as we feast, God the Father remembers Jesus' sacrifice on our behalf. He sees the blood which marks us, and death, damnation, and destruction pass over us forever.
Take and eat; take and drink. For here, the holy, innocent blood of the Lamb is poured into you, and the body which has conquered death is given to you. Take and eat; take and drink. For here, you are united to Jesus Christ. While death and destruction go on all around us in the world, here we celebrate. So, let us rejoice and feast and even laugh in the face of death and the devil. Let us eat and drink and be merry; for our Lord is pleased to give us forgiveness of sins, new life, and salvation.
Our Lord summons us to the feast. And as it was at the Passover, so it is here. Our feast comes with words of instruction. How can eating and drinking do such great things? It is certainly not the eating and drinking which does these things, but the words “given” and “poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins.” These words are the main thing in the sacrament, along with the eating and drinking. And whoever believes them has what they plainly say, the forgiveness of sins. (Luther's Small Catechism: Lord's Supper, part 3) With this common food is an uncommon promise and a gracious word, and by it he strengthens and keeps us in the one truth faith unto life everlasting.
In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.