The Divine Service – The Words of Institution

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In a few weeks we will celebrate Maundy Thursday, the night in which Jesus instituted, or established, the Lord’s Supper (also commonly called “Holy Communion,” “the Eucharist,” and “the Sacrament of the Altar”). This special meal was, like the Passover meal it replaced, a memorial meal. But as we will see, it is much more than simply remember Jesus’ death, like we remember Grandma Tilly whenever we use her special pancake recipe.

The Words of Institution read: “Our Lord Jesus Christ, the same night in which He was betrayed, took bread and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to His disciples saying: ‘Take, eat; this is My body, which is given for you. This do in remembrance of Me.’

“In the same way also He took the cup after supper, gave thanks, and gave it to them saying: ‘Drink of it all of you; this cup is the New Testament in My blood, which is shed for you and for many, for the remission of sins. This do as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.'” (It is recorded for us in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke as well as by St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 11.)

Jesus told the disciples to continue holding this meal (“…as often as you drink it…”) and to do it as He instituted it (“This do…This do”). Why did/does Jesus desire His followers to continue celebrating this particular meal? Is it simply a “remember the Alamo” campaign, so that His 11 disciples would not forget about Him after He died? Then why would Jesus be so specific in detailing what they were to do with the bread and wine, and what exactly they were to say over them? Jesus was not simply a sentimentalist, hoping not to be forgotten, nor a ritualist, desiring His followers to mimic Him for the sake of standing out from other religious groups. Jesus desires His followers to do as He did in order to receive exactly what He desires to give: forgiveness through the reception of the same body and blood that died on the cross, that were given and shed “for the remission of sins.”

Like the Israelites during the first Passover, who ate the very lamb whose blood was shed and then applied to the door frames so the angel of death would pass over them (Exodus 12), we partake of the very “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). We come to the Lord’s Supper to hear His Word of forgiveness (the Words of Institution), which He has attached to eating this special meal for those who believe (that is, trust) that we actually receive what He promises: His body and blood with the bread and wine for the forgiveness of sins.

[For those not sure about Jesus’ body and blood being present with the bread and wine, first consider Jesus’ words, “This is My body… This cup is the New Testament in My blood…” and then consider St. Paul in Corinthians 11:27, Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.” Notice he is not guilty of the bread or wine, but “the body and blood of the Lord.” And again, St. Paul says, that such a one is “not discerning the Lord’s body” (vs. 29).]

 

Rev. Gullixson is the pastor at Our Savior Lutheran Church at 162 Sneden Street. The Divine Service begins at 9:30 AM every Sunday. To speak with Pastor Gullixson, please call (760) 873-6589.