On Palm Sunday 1854.
"The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven." John 6:41.
John has written in the gospel what offense came to the Jews, when Jesus began to speak of the Lord's supper for the first time. The intellect of the Jews opposed so much that they began to murmur; but even the disciples considered it a hard saying, when for the first time He began to speak of the eating of His flesh and the drinking of His blood. And from this is understood that natural man neither wants to, nor is able to, believe those things which go beyond his intellect. But lies he certainly believes. If we would take into consideration all Scriptural passages in which is written something of the Lord's supper, the intellect of man would still not reach that far that he could comprehend something of this great mystery of the Lord's supper, for it is one great mystery, hidden from all understanding. As the intellect of the Jews was offended then from this word, so has the intellect of many people afterward become offended at that same speech. Some have understood it to be only a repast of love, as if it did not have any other significance than that alone, that Christians in their meetings have kept a repast of love in remembrance of the Saviour's death. But eating of the Lamb of the Passover was one mystery already in the time of the Old Testament, which had not only been instituted for the remembrance of a significant event, as the children of Israel that night were rescued from the bondage of Egypt, when the Lord commanded Moses to prepare the Lamb of the Passover. It is not only one repast of remembrance, but therein is some mystery which demands faith, because it had to be an innocent lamb. If it would be only a repast of remembrance, then doubtless some other food would have been good enough.
But it had to be the flesh of an innocent lamb, as this innocent lamb already then signified the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world. It is already of itself a significant matter, that an animal's blood is better than soap to clean a person's body, as the comely maidens of the world have experienced, that hands become whiter and cleaner with blood than with soap. Whoever washes his hands with blood, he becomes very clean. This the whores of the world have experienced, who must have clean and white hands, that they would be very acceptable to the world. But the daughters of Jerusalem have not yet noticed that the blood of the innocent Lamb takes away all weaknesses of nature. For the Lord says through the prophet: "For though thou wash thee with nitre, and take thee much soap, yet thine iniquity is marked before me." Jeremiah 2:22 The first question therefore is this: For what reason do the world's whores have to have such white hands, and the daughters of Jerusalem not have white hands though they wash themselves with soap and with lye? Yes, in this is the reason, that the whores of the world wash their hands in the blood of creatures, but the daughters of Jerusalem do not wash themselves in the blood of the innocent Lamb, but with soap and with lye, and nevertheless their filthiness is visible. When the paschal lamb was slain, a faultless lamb was taken, and the blood of that lamb sprinkled on the doorposts, that the Angel of Death would pass by the houses of the children of Israel. Does the Angel of Death fear the blood of the Lamb? It appears as if he fears the blood of the Lamb. This is also an incomprehensible matter, as that also is incomprehensible: For what reason is blood better than soap for cleaning black hands? This is only one natural experience, which shows that a person must believe much that he does not understand.
What now pertains to the Lord's supper, the wise of the world and the priests and the scribes have considered: In what way can a person eat the body of the Lord Jesus and drink His blood, but they have not understood it. And as the Jews said: "How can He give us His flesh to eat?" So also all of the wise of the world say: "It is nothing other than a parable: one repast of remembrance." But Luther has not been satisfied with that. He wants to say thus: It is not only a parable; it is not as some say, that the blessed bread represents the body of Christ,as in the Old Testament the lamb of the Passover represented the Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world. But now the true Paschal Lamb has been sacrificed in our behalf; it is not an empty parable but it has indeed happened so, and now we eat His flesh and we drink His blood. But in that reason objects; the intellect is altogether lacking when there is nothing other than the bread and wine to be seen, neither is there any taste of flesh and blood in it. And Luther asserts thus: that every communion guest must firmly believe that therein is the body and blood of Christ, although there is not other than bread and wine that you see and taste. In this has been the confusion of the intellect in Luther's time, especially when the Pope said that the bread and wine changes into the body and blood of Christ; and the reformers said that the bread and wine represent the body and blood of Christ. But Luther said that it is the body and blood of Christ. The more this mystery is considered with the intellect, the greater the darkness becomes, and if the Christians did not have such a faith, that the communion guests truly become partakers of Christ's body and blood, then they would all drown in the wisdom of the intellect.
We must, through the grace of God, consider in faith this great mystery, so that by faith we could receive it and treasure (this mystery) in our heart. But may that great Keeper of communion, who sees and understands all mysteries, make today's communion guests worthy to receive these blessed gifts with a humble, broken and believing heart, so that they would not be guilty of the Lord's body and blood. May Judas go out after the dipped sop, and may the other disciples follow the bloody footsteps of Jesus to Golgotha, that they would better remember for what purpose the Lord's Supper has been instituted. Hear, Thou great Keeper of communion, the sighs of the sorrowful disciples. Our Father and so forth.
Gospel: 1 Corinthians 11:23
From the guidance of our holy gospel and following that which has already been spoken we must, through the grace of God, consider: Which body is given to us in the Lord's communion?
First: Is it that body which was before the Saviour's death? Second: Or is it that body that was in the grave? Third: Or is it that body that was after the resurrection?
May that great Keeper of communion grant His grace that those few souls who remain in the Lord's supper room when Judas has gone out may be able to know and experience which body it is that they partake of under bread and wine, First: That it is the Lord's body that is given to us, of that we do not doubt; but what kind of body it is has not yet been considered much. The wise of the world, the priests, and the scribes have not considered which body it is that is given to us in the Lord's Supper: if it is such a body which the Saviour had before His death, or is it the body which was in the grave after the Saviour's death, or that body which He had after His resurrection? That body which was before death was mortal, and that body which was in the grave was dead, but that body which is after the resurrection is immortal. Of which kind of body would the communion guests now want to eat? May the conscience say which body would be best to eat. I surmise that not one would want to eat of that body which lies in the grave which is dead flesh, especially when the Saviour Himself has said in the Gospel of John (6:63): "It is the spirit that quickenneth; the flesh profiteth nothing." If now the communion guests were offered first that body which was before death, and second that body which lies in the grave, and third that body which is after the resurrection; and a knife would be given into the hand of each communion guest, and it would be said: "Cut now a piece from which body you want, either from the mortal body or from the dead body or from the immortal body. And take also a little blood from which body you want, either from the mortal body or from the dead body or from the immortal body," If it would be said to all communion guests: Jesus has commanded each one of you to cut a piece from His body, and each one of you to drink a little of His blood, with that promise that: "Whoso eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life." (John 6:54) And again He said in the 53rd verse of the same chapter: "Except ye eat the flesh of the son of man and drink his blood, ye have no life in you". Hence now are two kinds of offers: first if they would begin to ravage the body of Jesus and each cut a piece of His body and eat it so they will have eternal life; but if they do not want to ravage the body of Jesus nor eat His flesh, then eternal death is offered to them. I suppose that some communion guests would say as the Jews: "How can this man give us his flesh to eat? (John 6:52) The sorrowless immediately say: "We are not yet so hungry that we would need to eat human flesh. None other than wild spirits eat human flesh." But If the sorrowless would now begin to believe what the Saviour has said: "Except ye eat the flesh of the son of man and drink his blood, ye have no life in you," then I say, if they would begin to believe these words of the Savior, then to them too would come the thought: Must even we eat the flesh of the Son of Man? Although the desire to eat the flesh of the Son of Man does not come to some sorrowless until upon the death bed, some are so timid that they do not want to eat the flesh of the Son of Man, as long as they find other meat which is tastier than the flesh of the Son of Man. But now the third offering comes to the communion guests: from which kind of body do you want to cut meat to eat? Do you want to eat from that body which is living but mortal; or from that body which lies in the grave, or from that immortal body?
I surmise that the sorrowless probably have such a sensitive conscience that they will not begin to ravage a living man's body; anyway they do not yet remember how and when they would have ravaged the holy body of Jesus. Although they sometimes ravage even the body of a living man, especially when they become angry, nevertheless they do not yet believe that they have torn the holy body of Jesus, for they say: "The soldiers have ravaged; we have not ravaged." If therefore the sorrowless must inevitably eat the flesh of the Son of Man, then anyway they do not begin to eat the flesh of a living man, for they have such a conscience that they cannot cut human flesh, except in auger. Therefore the sorrowless would inevitable begin to ravage that dead body; from that each one would cut a piece and eat. But from where would they get blood when all the blood has already flowed to the ground and the soldiers and Jews have trampled it? Perhaps it will go with them as with the papists, who do not give the communion guests blood at all, but only the body. They eat dead flesh and of that they become partakers. However, it is a living body which, in the Lord's supper, is partaken of by such communion guests who themselves are not spiritually dead. It is a living body, although the sorrowless are not able to ravage a living body except in anger. When the power of old Adam moves strongly in the heart, then surely the sorrowless can ravage the body of a living man, but not otherwise. But we have seen many examples of the sorrowless, that they do not want to go to eat the flesh of the Son of Man at all, when the power of the devil moves strongly in the heart, or when the communion devotion is spoiled. Then they have the desire to taste of other flesh that is tastier than the flesh of the Son of Man. But now comes the question whan Jesus has said: "Whoso eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life." From which kind of body would the awakened ones want to eat? Would they have such a conscience that they would yet be able to ravage a living man's body? If it would be said to the awakened: "You must eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, but is there such a conscience that you could ravage the body of the living Son of Man?" Then they would all reply: "Surely we have already ravaged Him." But from whence do you get the flesh of the Son of Man which you must eat if you do not gather that which you have ravaged? A wolf it is that does not want to eat what he has ravaged so long as he has some living spirit unravaged. But a man must gather what he has ravaged; and if he does not do that then he is worse than a wolf. But I know that the awakened do not want to eat dead flesh, therefore they must eat the flesh of the living Son of God, wherein there is yet life, although the consciences of some resist forcefully. In this place comes a great war with the devil, for the devil of self-righteousness says to the awakened when they intend to go to the Lord's Supper: "Are you going to ravage the Lord's body again, as you have done before?" And many a communion guest is so frightened by this reproach of the devil that he does not dare to go to eat the flesh of the Son of God. For the devil stands upon the church road and says to the communion guests: "Are you going to ravage the Lord's body again?" But what does the conscience say then when the devil reproaches thus? Yes, the conscience says: "He is worse than a wolf who does not gather what he has ravaged." Since you have ravaged the Lord's body, you must also take care of it and eat it, for so the Saviour says: "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of God and drink His blood, ye have no life in you." (John 6:53)
Now we know assuredly that the awakened do not desire to eat that dead flesh which lies in the grave. But of which body do they desire to eat, of the mortal or of the immortal?
Graced souls can also consider of which body they would want to eat: of the mortal or of the immortal body. And all will probably say: "I would want to eat of the immortal body." Yes! of the immortal. But what is the inward meaning of the Lord's word of institution? In that the Lord says: "This is my body, which is given for you." He has not said so: "This is my body which has been given for you." But He says that it will be given in death. And by these words is now heard that it is the body which will be given in death, thus the mortal body. But what is the body which is given up to death? Is it not a sacrifice of reconciliation, although the papists say: "It is not a sacrifice of reconciliation." And the wise of the world say: "It is a parable, it is nothing else." And some say: "It is a repast of remembrance; it is nothing other than that the disciples should remember that Jesus has died for them." But thus the Lord Himself says: "This is my blood which is shed for you and for many for the remission of sins." He does not say that it is shed for a remembrance but for the forgiving of sins; it is not for the receiving of forgiveness of sins but for the giving of forgiveness of sins, so that in God's behalf forgiveness will be given through the shedding of this blood. But the receiving of forgiveness of sins also depends on this, if the disciples will receive this offered grace. In this way the body and blood of Christ are a sacrifice of reconciliation and the Lord's Supper is one repast of reconciliation. It is not only a repast of remembrance, but a repast of reconciliation. And therefore all the sorrowless have a great responsibility, who come to the repast of reconciliation to reconcile with God, although there is nothing to reconcile. If namely God asks of them: "My friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment?" then they keep silence. If He asks: "My friend, why do you come?" then there is no answer to that either. They come to give Jesus a kiss, although they guide the enemies to Jesus. The Lord's Supper is therefore not only a remembrance of the Lord's death, nor only a repast of love, to which the Christians gather in order to kindle mutual love, but as long as the Christians are sinners and lacking in many ways, they need to receive the forgiveness of sins. For thus says that Great Supper Keeper: "This is my blood which is shed for you and for many for the remission of sins." Therefore most assuredly sins are forgiven to the penitent ones in the Lord's communion, if they have such a faith that they will receive their sins forgiven. But the sorrowless and the impenitent do not receive their sins forgiven in the Lord's communion no matter how they might believe that they there have received the forgiveness of sins. It is just there that they ravage the body of Jesus and the enemy never reproves them for this ravaging but he encourages them to go to the Lord's Supper, and says to the impenitent: "Do not fear that you are unworthy, you who are the best friend of Jesus. You have never ravaged the body of Jesus as these awakened ravage it. You have always sat in devotion of confession at the Lord's Supper. You have always leaned your head on the breast of Jesus. And although these awakened ones rebuke you of adultery, thievery, drunkenness, whiskey peddling, greed, cursing, finery, pride, deceitfulness, and all kind of sins which you have never committed in your life, they themselves are such kind. Without a doubt your conscience testifies that you are innocent of all those. And of what do they yet rebuke you, that you have drunk of the Lord's cup and of the devil's cup on the same day? That is not true. Without a doubt you see for yourself from the book or from the Word of God that whiskey is God's best blessing found in the land. God does not forbid us from enjoying essential food; whoever calls God's best grain devil's dung and the cup of the devil, he is of the devil himself."
Behold, so the devil preaches to the sorrowless and impenitent, but to the penitent he speaks thus: "Are you going again to ravage the body of Christ?" "And are you going as such a devil to the Lord's communion?" Yes! As such a devil you must go to ravage the body of Christ, for if you do not take care of what you have ravaged, then you are worse than a wolf. You must eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood. You have truly ravaged the body of Christ, now you must eat His flesh and drink His blood, that you would have eternal life, that you would live on the journey to eternity. You have ravaged the very body of the living Son of God, and now you must also eat the very flesh of the living Son of God and drink the blood of the living Son of God as savages eat the flesh of living people and drink the blood of living people, and say that it is sweet. So must you, who the world's virtuous people bark at as wild spirits, eat the flesh of the living Son of God and drink the blood of the living Son of God, not raw or boiled but roasted before hell fire, as the Lamb of the Passover with bitter herbs, so that it would sooner digest in your body and give you strength to flee away from the bondage of Egypt when the heathens drive the children of Israel out of their houses. In this way the children of Israel have to fast and to carry the unleavened bread substance. In the Old Testament the Lamb of the Passover was the same as the Lord's communion is to us. Paul says that the Lamb of the Passover has been sacrificed for us, which is Christ. The Lamb of the Passover is one Lamb without blemish. The Lamb of the Passover was slaughtered, and the Lamb of God has also been slaughtered. Those people who ate the Passover lamb had themselves ravaged the lamb's body; so we also have ravaged the body of Christ. The flesh of the Passover lamb was roasted before the fire; so also was Christ's, the flesh of that innocent Lamb of God, roasted before hell fire.
The Lamb of the Passover was eaten with unleavened bread, so also the body of Christ is eaten with unleavened bread. The children of Israel ate the Lamb of the Passover in traveling clothes, with their loins girt, shoes on their feet, staff in their hand, ready to travel to the promised land. So also the Christians must be in traveling clothes, when they eat Christ's flesh, with their loins girt, with shoes on their feet, with staff in their hand ready to travel to the New Jerusalem, as if this holy repast were the last meal on earth. For a slave of sin this Lamb of the Passover should be the last repast in the bondage of sin. For the doubting and prisoners of unbelief this repast should be the last repast in the prison of unbelief. For believers it should be the last repast on earth. Even as food sustains the life of the body and gives strength to the members, so also that spiritual food, which is the spiritual flesh of the Son of God, gives strength to the soul to watch, to pray, to strive, to endeavor, and to long for that eternal life. To that true Fatherland the true children of Israel are ready to travel, when they in true and saving faith eat of the Passover Lamb, And may it be the last repast upon the earth. With this food they must live until that time when it will be fulfilled in the Kingdom of God, when they get to sit at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in that Great Supper in heaven. There also sits that Great Keeper of the Supper in heaven with the crown of glory on His head distributing communion to His faithful disciples. There that Great Distributor of the Supper says: "This is my body which has been given for you, this is my blood which has been shed for you." Judas the betrayer is no longer there, but Peter, James and John, Phillip, Andrew, and Thomas who cries: "My Lord and my God!" There are Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon Zelotes and the women who have followed Jesus from Galilee: Mary Magdalene, Salome, Johanna, and Mary the mother of Jesus. They sit at the Great Supper in the Kingdom of Heaven, and after supper sing hymns of praise. They sing praises to God and to the Lamb in that New Jerusalem.
But Judas is not in the company of those who thank, but he is in the company of those who curse themselves and their Creator. And the enemies of the cross of Jesus, who have not sung songs of praise here, can then howl in hell. Now, you Great Supper Distributor! Keep Communion with those disciples who follow your bloody footsteps from the Garden to the hill of Golgotha, and awaken them when the sleep of sin presses upon them, that they would see your bloody sweat and would hear your prayers when you lie on your knees and pray to the Heavenly Father. And strengthen them with your grace that they would at last become partakers of that Great Supper in Heaven where they can sing hymns of praise now and forever. Amen!