What shall I render to the LORD for all his benefits to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD, I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people. Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. O LORD, I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your maidservant. You have loosed my bonds. I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the LORD. I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people, in the courts of the house of the LORD, in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the LORD! (ESV)
| || |
The Lord's Gifts
17 April 2014
On that night the Lord ate with His disciples and shared table fellowship with them. He dipped bread in the bowl with them all; all including Judas the very one who betrayed him. John's account of this supper tells us that immediately after sharing in the table of the Lord, Judas was filled with Satan and fleeing the Lord's presence betrayed Him into the hands of sinful men. What good then is there in eating at the Table of the Lord if immediately after sharing in the Lord Himself at table Judas can be moved to wickedness and unbelief?
The fact is that eating what the Lord feeds us is to eat something that gives a great blessing. It is the highest good to be fed by the Lord from the Table of the Lord. Yet, even a good thing can be taken in a wrong way. Take for example the gift of wine, which the Psalmist praises (Ps 104:15). Wine, though a good gift from God, is able to be abused so as to cause drunkenness, which brings with it the evils of inebriation. So also those who approach the Lord's Table in an unworthy way will be guilty of sinning against the body of the Lord. So wicked Judas received what was good from the gracious hand of his Savior unto death.
The careless abuse of the Lord's gifts does not change the benefits given by the Lord through such things. Those who receive in unbelief the body and blood of the Lord at the Lord's altar do not change the good gifts of God into mere bread and wine, as though unbelief would be as powerful as the Word of God: "This is my body." Our un-saying cannot make the Word of God of no effect. This is why we Christians come to the table doubting nothing, because the Lord makes and gives what we receive there. Let us then receive it as it is the Lord's body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins, as the word and promise of Christ declares.
Augustine of Hippo
"I know, dearly beloved, that some may be moved, as the godly to inquire into the meaning of, and the ungodly to find fault with, the statement, that it was after the Lord had given the bread that had been dipped, to His betrayer that Satan entered into him. For so it is written: 'And when He had dipped the bread, He gave it to Judas Iscariot, the Son of Simon. And after the bread, then entered Satan into him' (Jn 13:26-31). For they say, 'Was this the worth of Christ's bread, given from Christ's own table, that after it Satan should enter into His disciple?' And the answer we give them is, that thereby we are taught rather how much we need to beware of receiving. what is good in a sinful spirit.
"For the point of special importance is, not the thing that is received, but the person that receives it; and not the character of the thing that is given, but of him to whom it is given. For even good things are hurtful, and evil things are beneficial, according to the character of the recipients. 'Sin,' says the apostle, 'that it might be shown to be sin, working death for me by that which is good' (Rm 7:13). Thus, you see, evil is brought about by the good, so long as that which is good is wrongly received. It is he also that says: 'So to keep me from being too elated by the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness"' (2Co 12:7-9). And here, you see, good was brought about by that which was evil, when the evil was received in a good spirit. Why, then, do we wonder if Christ's bread was given to Judas, that thereby he should be made over to the devil; when we see, on the other hand, that Paul was visited by a messenger of the devil, that by such an instrumentality he might be perfected in Christ? In this way, both the good was injurious to the evil man, and the evil was beneficial to the good.
"Bear in mind the meaning of the Scripture, 'Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord' (1Co 11:27). And when the apostle said this, he was dealing with those who were taking the body of the Lord, like any other food, in an undiscerning and careless spirit. If, then, he is thus taken to task who does not discern, that is, does not distinguish from the other kinds of food, the body of the Lord, what condemnation must be his, who in the guise of a friend comes as an enemy to His table! If negligence in the guest is thus visited with blame, what must be the punishment that will fall on the man that betrays the very person who has invited him to his table! And why was the bread given to the traitor, but as an evidence of the grace he had treated with ingratitude?"
Augustine, Tractates on John, 62.1
O Lord, in the Sacrament You left us a remembrance of Your passion. Grant that we may so receive the sacred mystery of Your body and blood that the fruits of Your redemption may continually be manifest in us. Amen.
For Headmaster Heine, faculty and staff of Memorial Lutheran School as they complete the school year, that they might find joy in their callings
For all those who have been frustrated in their search for daily work, that the Lord God would grant them the gift of labor in accord with their callings
For all musicians, that they might use their talents to the glory of God in the Triduum
For Bob Kuhn, Herbert Mueller, and Tim Quill, that the Lord would grant them healing and a full recovery
Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias Isenheim Altarpiece (1515)
© Scott R. Murray, 2014