Jesus Clearer Than Me
Martin Chemnitz, Pastor and Confessor
9 November 2017
God can speak for Himself. Too often we think that He needs our help. We butt into His gracious speech to us in which He gives us Himself. No more obvious case of this exists than in the history of the interpretation of the words of institution (1Co 11: 23-34) through which Christ gives His beloved Church His body and blood under bread and wine for forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. We stumble and fall over the simple and sublime words which the Son of God speaks to His church on the night of His betrayal, "This is my body" and "This cup is the new testament in my blood." We struggle with these words only because we doubt that the Lord Jesus is capable of doing what He says and saying what He means.
Everyone wants to get their oar in the water about these words, and few seem able to let Jesus speak for Himself. The Christian religion is founded on the revelation of Himself through and by His Son (Heb 1:1). If He cannot speak clearly, then, yes, all comers are welcome to interpret or reinterpret whatever He has said. But what God worthy of the name is unable to express clearly His will toward us? Is He really left at the mercy of our interpretation so that our interpretations are clearer than His speech?
In the first congregation I served, a precocious four-year-old boy approached the chancel after service, while the sacramental vessels were still upon the altar. He looked at the altar and then up into my face, and then locked his eyes back upon the altar for a long while. I could see he had something to say to me. Finally, he transferred his gaze to me and said in a very matter of fact tone, "Pastor, that's God's blood, isn't it." Well, of course, little lamb! That is what the good Shepherd has said it is, hasn't He? The child had none of the worldly wisdom exhibited by adults who decline to accept the word of the Son of God in His last will and testament. The body and blood of Christ is on the altar. I said to the boy, "We should make you a doctor of theology." I could see from the puzzled look on his face that he wasn't sure what that meant. Jesus was far clearer than me. My little friend knew exactly what Jesus said. He couldn't imagine that Christ would be unable to give to His children what He said He could give. He had no basis upon which to twist or distort the express words of the Son of God to His disciples on the night of His betrayal. Jesus is clearer than me. Isn't that comforting?

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   Martin Chemnitz
"When the words of the [Lord's] Supper are taken in their proper and natural sense, then we have the one sure meaning regarding the substantial presence, distribution, and reception of the body and blood of the Lord. For the arguments concerning the mode [of the presence] are easily eliminated. But when we depart from the simple, proper, and natural meaning of the words, then these words are subject to many varied and dissimilar interpretations and opinions, as is manifest. Then each person argues for his own opinion and the mind is left in a state of doubt and uncertainty. For up to this point it has not been possible for them to agree among themselves as to what category the figure of speech should be placed in, or what kind of figure it is, or what the correct and sure interpretation of these words is. Rather, there are as many interpretations as there are authors. Each queen appears most beautiful to her own king. In the midst of such a great variety of interpretations and opinions what can we have for our assurance of faith, since there always remains the element of ambiguity and uncertainty that perhaps the words can be explained and understood differently?
"Therefore, Luther is correct in saying that before the very judgment seat of the Son of God he would bring this defense: 'Lord Jesus Christ, a controversy has arisen and an argument has come up regarding the words of Your last will and testament. Some are contending that these words must be understood differently from the meaning indicated by their proper and natural sense. But because among these people there is no agreement as to what kind of figure it is or into what category it must be placed, they cannot with consistency or consensus demonstrate one sure interpretation of the words but rather drag the words of Your testament into many different than dissimilar interpretations. Thus, I have not been able, nor have I wanted to, commit my faith in this serious controversy to these uncertain, varied, and different waves of interpretations and opinions. But on the contrary, I have seen that if your words are taken as they stand in their simple, proper, and natural sense, then we can have one constant in certain understanding. Therefore, because I have determined that You have willed that there be one definite understanding of Your last will and testament, I rest on that interpretation which the words in their simple, proper, and natural meaning demonstrate and drive us to accept as the one, sure, and certain interpretation. For if You had willed that the words should be understood in a way other than in their literal sense, You would undoubtedly have given a clear and open declaration of this fact, just as You have done in those passages in which we may exercise our imaginations without any peril, as is not the case in the words of your last will and testament.'
"This is our sure, certain, constant, and solid assurance of faith. For also Irenaeus, where he deals with certain rules for the interpretation of Scripture on the basis of the apostolic tradition, says: 'It is a sound and safe principle that a statement which occurs in Scripture is expressed in clear and unambiguous language.' We have already said previously that in cases of doubt it is safer not to depart from the words but to hold tenaciously to them."

Martin Chemnitz, The Lord's Supper
1 Corinthians 11:23-34

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, "This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.
Whoever, therefore, 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. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.
So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another- if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home- so that when you come together it will not be for judgment. About the other things I will give directions when I come. (ESV)
Gracious God, our heavenly Father, you have given us a foretaste of the feast to come in the Holy Supper of Your Son's body and blood. Keep us firm in the true faith throughout our days of pilgrimage that, on the day of His coming, we may, together with all Your saints, celebrate the marriage feast of the Lamb in His kingdom which has no end; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen. (LSB, 166)
For Sophia Grace Benton, that the good Physician would grant her health and strength
For all those who are near death, that the Lord of life would send the message of the cross to their bedside that they would have peace through the blood of Christ
For President Lawrence Rast and the faculty of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN, that they would be strengthened and confirmed in the holy faith once delivered to the saints
Art: Albrecht DURER, The Adoration of the Trinity (1511)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2017
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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