Lessons: Psalm 33, Acts 4:23-31, Mark 7:14-23
Hymns: LSB 436, 454, 880
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
In Luther’s explanation in the 8th Commandment, we are taught to “put the best construction on everything.” I think an area where Lutherans are often good at doing this is when we try to understand the various beliefs of other Christian denominations. We may not agree with their beliefs, but we try to put a good construction on them. This is good, so long as we do not give our passive approval to false belief or false doctrine.
In trying to keep the 8th Commandment, we would like to think that all churches teach pretty much the same thing. We would like to believe that all Christian churches follow their namesake—that is they follow Christ. We would like to think that all Christian churches put Christ at the center and clearly teach how sinners can be forgiven to receive eternal life. These things are, after all, what we regularly hear at this church, so we want to think that’s what Christian churches teach everywhere.
We sure would like to think that when Jesus said, “Take, eat, this is My Body” and “Take, eat, this is My Blood,” that all Christians believe what Jesus said concerning the Lord’s Supper. But that is not the case. Many protestant churches teach that what Jesus said concerning the bread and wine were only true that one time on Maundy Thursday in the upper room. They say any celebration of the Lord’s Supper ever since is merely a reenactment using mere bread and wine. Some churches use the argument that since Jesus is locally present in Heaven (given that He has a body), He cannot be present in, with, and under the bread and wine. Many churches publicly teach that only faith saves through the Word; therefore, the Lord’s Supper cannot deliver the forgiveness of sins. Some churches teach that we are only forgiven by faith and so no one can receive forgiveness through the voice of a pastor or through Baptism or the Lord’s Supper. The world’s largest denomination teaches that the Lord’s Supper is an unbloody sacrifice offered to God to merit grace.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the Scriptures do not teach these things! What the Lord’s Supper is and what the Bible says about it is not very hard to understand. Jesus took bread and gave the disciples His Body. He took wine and gave them His Blood. He instructed, “This do for the forgiveness of sins.” When we go to the Communion rail at this church, we receive the true Body of Christ and the true Blood of Christ as we receive the bread and the wine. When receiving this Sacrament in faith, we receive it for our tremendous benefit, namely the forgiveness of sins and communion with Christ. It is, after all, the Lord’s Supper. Jesus instituted it, defines it, blesses the celebration of it, and continues to deliver His forgiveness as we receive Him in the Sacrament.
Question: Do you believe, then, that the true body and blood of Christ are in the Sacrament?
Answer: Yes, I believe it.
Question: What convinces you to believe this?
Answer: The word of Christ: Take, eat, this is My body; drink of it, all of you, this is My blood.
God does not lie (Titus 1:2). As Jesus Himself said, “[God’s] Word is truth” (John 17:17).
I’ve talked to many Christians who go to churches who do not teach Jesus’ clear words concerning the Sacrament. Many of these Christians do not realize the false teachings of their church. Why? They have heard the words of Jesus and they believe Jesus. Thanks be to God!
Question: What should we do when we eat His body and drink His blood, and in this way receive His pledge?
Answer: We should remember and proclaim His death and the shedding of His blood, as He taught us.
The Bible declares, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Cor. 11:26).
Question: Why should we remember and proclaim His death?
Answer: First, so that we may learn to believe that no creature could make satisfaction for our sins. Only Christ, true God and man, could do that. Second, so we may learn to be horrified by our sins, and to regard them as very serious. Third, so we may find joy and comfort in Christ alone, and through faith in Him be saved.
Every question tonight is very important. Why do we believe in Christ’s bodily presence—that He joins Himself to the bread and wine—in the Sacrament? Jesus said so! What convinces you? Jesus said so! What should we do? Remember and proclaim His death? Why?
“First, so that we may learn to believe that no creature could make satisfaction for our sins. Only Christ, true God and man, could do that.” No one could render the atoning sacrifice for our sin. No one can earn salvation. No one can ascend to God apart from faith in Christ. Jesus had to die. This Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, as we are hearing it from the Gospels during our Lenten services, was absolutely necessary to earn our salvation for us.
That Jesus had to be beaten, nailed to a cross, and die shows how horrible our sins are. We often like to downplay them and pretend we haven’t really had much to confess. CFW Walther wrote, “By making our sins small, we make Christ small. That would practically amount to saying: Christ can forgive small, but not great sins” (Law and Gospel, 106). Our sins are not small, and Christ is not small. He is the great Lord of lords and King of kings. He has triumphed over death and the grave. He has earned forgiveness for all sins—even the ones we’ve committed that we are too ashamed to admit.
Consider the sins of Peter who denied Jesus three times and Judas who betrayed Jesus. Both recognized their sin and were horrified by them. Peter was restored with the Gospel but when Judas sought reconciliation, he was denied it by the priests, and so he went out and hanged himself in despair.
Jesus described the kinds of sins that flow forth from our hearts in our reading from Mark 7:21-23 (He earned forgiveness for these sins, too). Jesus declared, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
As we testified in Christian Questions with Their Answers, “Second, so we may learn to be horrified by our sins, and to regard them as very serious.” Yes, we remember and proclaim Christ’s death for these reasons.
“Third, so we may find joy and comfort in Christ alone, and through faith in Him be saved.” In Acts, we can hear how they were emboldened, comforted, and filled with joy because Christ alone provides comfort, He alone forgives, He alone reconciles sinners to God our heavenly Father.
Jesus alone died for us. He rose for our justification. He takes our sin away. And so we find joy and comfort in Christ alone. Through faith in Him, we are saved. What great reasons to go to the Lord’s altar and receive His gifts! Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus to life everlasting. Amen