I am not sure he expected that answer. “That’s not the way I see it,” he replied.
“Oh, okay. What do you think baptism is?”
“I see baptism as me pledging my life to God. It is me choosing to be a Christian.”
“So then, are you sure you are saved?”
His response? “I ask myself that question every day.”
That is a common response among Christians. Many are not sure, they are not certain they will enter heaven unless the heart burns with joy or the mind carries no burdensome regrets. In short, many Christians rely on emotions. They hope feelings can convince them that they are saved. This kind of response comes from human ‘reason.’
‘Reason’ takes in information, processes it, and determines how it impacts your life. We use ‘reason’ when determining what illness we have, what medicine to take, and how long to take it. We use ‘reason’ when balancing bank accounts, spending money, and saving money. ‘Reason’ helps us answer life’s questions. Yet, ‘reason’ also tries to answer things God chooses not to reveal to us. ‘Reason’ tries to process God’s behavior in ways we can comprehend. Which sounds acceptable— except, where do you turn when ‘reason’ cannot answer the simple question: “Are you saved?”
You turn somewhere else. Somewhere that does not rely on emotions. Somewhere that gives a plain, simple answer. You turn to Jesus. He speaks three words of truth to abolish opinions. To set aside ‘reason.’ To give you certainty. Three words of truth for faith to grasp. Take and Eat, Take and Drink.
In a way, God spoke those words long before Maundy Thursday. Old Testament Israel languished in slavery. Groaning from bone-crushing oppression. Strength sapped from relentless labor. Hope devastated because of a bleak future. God would do something about that; he would unlock their chains and set them free!
So, he commands Israel: Take a lamb [and] eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. Take the blood and smear it over the doorframes of your house (Exodus 12:3-8). Understand, God did not set down the Lord’s Supper in Egypt. No. He set down the Passover. That night the Lord ‘passed over’ Egypt. Every household that rejected his command tasted death. Every household that smeared blood across the door he ‘passed over.’ That night God forced Egypt into submission and the next day Israel walked out free.
Did the blood save? No. The lamb was not a rare species. The blood was not magical. It was plain blood. What saved is trust that God would do what he said he would do. God said, ‘Put blood on the door and I will save you.’
Faith in the promise of God stood central in that Passover meal. Each year, Jewish families remembered how God kept his promise to rescue their ancestors. Yet, those same Jews looked ahead to God’s great Promise: The Lamb of God would rescue the world from eternal slavery (John 1:29).
Maundy Thursday is the fulfillment of God’s promise. Jesus and his disciples gather in the upper room to celebrate the final Passover meal. Yes, Jesus knows he is God’s Passover Lamb. He knows that in just a few hours his life would be used for your freedom. While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:26-28) With those words, Jesus institutes (he establishes) the Lord’s Supper. No longer do you look to the Lamb who is to come, but to the Lamb who has come. Still, this is not a symbolic meal. Jesus never uses the word: ‘symbolize.’ He puts it quite plainly: “This bread is my body. This wine is my blood. Take and Eat, Take and Drink.” For what reason? For the forgiveness of sins.
Still, human ‘reason’ runs rampant. ‘Reason’ takes in information, processes it, and determines how it impacts your life. It looks at the Lord’s Supper, takes in the sight of bread and wine, ponders the Words, but cannot comprehend how this bread is Jesus’ body and how this wine is his blood. It does not make sense. That would be fine if ‘reason’ just stopped there, but it does not. Instead ‘reason’ keeps trying to make sense of Jesus’ word. In order to make sense of these words, ‘reason’ clings to opinion.
You know what ‘opinions’ are. Personal belief shaped by experience. Because you (and I) struggle to forgive, it seems impossible that God could forgive you. I mean, does God really forgive your drunkenness? Will God never bring up your arguments? Does God really wipe away self-trust? If you have difficulty forgiving that, then God must have trouble doing the same!
So, opinion takes the Lord’s Supper and makes it into what we think it should be! Something you do for God. You approach God. You eat and drink. You come often. If you do your part, then God sees your efforts, and God must let your past go because you try to right the wrong! Opinion changes the Lord’s Supper from something Jesus does for you into a memorial meal that you do for God!
Do you realize what just happened? ‘Opinion’ becomes ‘truth.’ More than that, ‘opinion’ overrides God’s truth. Human ‘reason’ tells God how he will act, what he has done, and what his Word means. Human ‘reason’ thinks it is God. The trouble is, ‘reason’ is not God, is it? Opinion cannot give the assurance that you stand forgiven. Relying on opinion will never give the peace Jesus brings.
So, Jesus uses Three words to abolish opinion. Three words he speaks— not me, not my heart— but he. Take and Eat, Take and Drink. Three words for faith to grasp.
Yes, faith. Faith that trusts what God says is true. Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Yes, plain unleavened bread. Not rare bread. Not magical bread. Yet, what does Jesus call it? ‘My body.’ Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:26-28) Again, plain wine. Not rare wine. Not magical wine. What does Jesus call it? ‘My blood.’ Understand that he does not say, ‘This symbolizes…’ or ‘This represents…’ If he wanted to say that, then he would have used those words. Instead, Jesus links the bread to his body and the wine to his blood. The rest of the Bible confirms this real presence. Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? (1 Corinthians 10:16).
It does not make sense; it does not fit reason. Then again, Almighty God is not asking if you approve of his actions. Almighty God speaks and faith clings to those words as true.
Faith not only clings to those words, but it also clings to what Jesus gives. This is my blood of the covenant… A covenant is a contract, an agreement. In the Old Testament, God’s contract was clear: Obey the Ten Commandments and live (Deuteronomy 6:24-25). Yet, no one obeys. Therefore, no one lives— except for one person.
Jesus takes the old contract and meets every condition. In him is life. Jesus uses his perfect life to write a new contract. He breaks his body so that your body will never be broken. He sheds his blood so that your life will never end. He gives his body and sheds his blood in order to rescue you. That is the new covenant Jesus sets up: Free forgiveness through him. Faith grasps this truth and considers it done.
Martin Luther put it well when he asked: ‘What makes us ready to receive the sacrament? Nothing but hearts that believe the words ‘for you.’ Yes, in the Lord’s Supper Jesus says: ‘You are forgiven.’ Yes, you hear that to begin service, in the lessons, in the sermon, and in the blessing. Yet, Jesus chooses to chase away doubts by putting proof on your lips that you are forgiven. Faith points to God’s promise and says: “God, you tell me that in this Supper I receive forgiveness. God, I trust I stand forgiven because you say so.” Point to God’s simple Word. Point to what you receive. Rejoice!
Faith grasps the simple promise: I am forgiven. Can you be sure? Yes— because God says you are. What if you do not feel forgiven? It does not change the reality that God declares you forgiven. Ultimately what matters most is not how you feel emotionally, but what God calls you. God calls you cleansed because the life of Jesus, your Passover Lamb, covers over you.
God has set you free from eternal slavery. Nothing will hold you (and me) down in the grave. Rather, we have life in heaven! Three splendid words proclaim this truth: Take and Eat, Take and Drink. Three words for faith to grasp.
This is something human ‘reason’ will never understand. That’s alright— if ‘reason’ simply lets God’s Word stand on its own. When ‘reason’ tries to comprehend God’s behavior, then you become fixated on what you do for God. Like that man who pulled me aside after service. To him, God’s promise in baptism sounded too good to be true. His conscience bothered him; his emotions did not feel joyful like a forgiven person would feel. So, his ‘reason’ told him: “You are not saved. Do something now.”
That ‘reason’ dumped Jesus’ promise. Our puny minds do not stand a chance against an all-powerful God. God knows that. So, he speaks three words of truth to abolish opinions. To set aside ‘reason.’ To give you certainty. Three words of truth for faith to grasp. Take and Eat, Take and Drink.