Maundy Thursday – Epistle

by Bear Wade

Remembering Who’s Host
Maundy Thursday
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
Analysis by Lori A. Cornell

1 Corinthians 11: 23 For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

DIAGNOSIS: “Do not sit down at the place of honor” (Luke 14:8)

Step 1: Initial Diagnosis (External Problem) – It’s Our Party
When Paul recalls Jesus’ words here, he is not trying to catechize the Corinthians on the Lord’s Supper; he is correcting them. Why? Because the Corinthians have been using the Supper as an occasion for cliquish fellowship (11:17-22). Some Christians are welcomed, while others are excluded; some go hungry, while others have full bellies; some are humiliated, while others are puffed up with pride because they belong (11:21-22). Those whom Paul addresses behave as if they own the house of God, and as if they are the hosts of the meal.

Step 2: Advanced Diagnosis (Internal Problem) – Trusting Our Flesh and Blood
The Corinthians trust their own flesh and blood more than God. Elevating themselves to the status of host at church, they live unexamined lives (11:28)–lives that are faithless because they put themselves in the place of God. They judge whether others have a place at the meal, when it is not for them to decide. And they show contempt for the church of God, humiliating others whom God favors (11:22).

Step 3: Final Diagnosis (Eternal Problem) – It’s Not Our Party?
And because they lay claim to God’s house and Supper they eat and drink in an unworthy manner–which means that they are answerable to God for their actions (11:27). They eat and drink to their own judgment (11:29). [In 11:30 Paul even suggests that the weakness, illness, and death experienced by some within the group is evidence of God’s judgment.] In any case, the eating and drinking they are doing will only lead to their death.

PROGNOSIS: “Friend, move up higher” (Luke 14:10)

Step 4: Initial Prognosis (Eternal Solution) – It’s His Party
Paul reminds the Corinthians and us that even he is not host of the gracious meal served in the Lord’s house. Paul is only a servant who hands on what he himself has received from the Lord (who is the Host): Jesus Christ broke bread, blessed the cup, and with those elements offered up his body and blood that sins would be forgiven (vv. 23-25). In bread and wine Jesus anticipated the sacrifice of his flesh on the cross for sinners. And with two small words, spoken twice–“for you” (vv. 24, 25)–he delivered forgiveness, life, and salvation to the world. Jesus assumed the sins of human flesh in his own body and blood, took that sinful flesh with him to the cross, so that it might die with him there.

Step 5: Advanced Prognosis (Internal Solution) – For Me?!
“For you”… “for forgiveness.” We (and the Corinthians) hand God our faithless flesh-and-blood lives, and God gives us the body and blood of his Son Jesus Christ. With a love that makes no distinctions, Jesus says to all of us sinners: “I give you my body and blood to forgive your sins.” In bread and wine, we receive the assurance that Jesus is “for you.” And, in disbelief and gratitude, we can only respond: “For me?” And whenever we eat this bread and drink from the cup, we proclaim the Lord’s death; in faith we confess, even as we eat and drink, that his death is the death of us sinners. We eat the bread and drink the cup and die to ourselves; and with each bite and each sip we know that it is not (never was) our place to make distinctions. The two words that distinguish who belongs at the table are Christ’s words: “For you.”

Step 6: Final Prognosis (External Solution) – For You!
For you, for me, for her, for him, for all. Christ says, “For you,” and we listen–and hear the promise not only for ourselves but for our neighbor as well. And, knowing God’s love that hasn’t excluded us, we determine to make no distinctions in the household of God. Instead, we approach the table together (diverse, but sinners all) seeking what Christ alone can give to us: Forgiveness, life, and salvation. And we “do this” (vv. 24, 25)–we bless, we break, we speak Christ’s words in faith–trusting that where Christ is host good things will happen.


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