Thursday, April 01, 2010

C, Maundy Thursday - 1 Corinthians 11:23-29 "The Last Will & Testament of Jesus Christ"

Text – 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 NIV

23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 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.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

1. Drawing up a will

Making a will can be a difficult task. In fact some wills can prove to be trouble for all concerned, whereas some can bring peace to suffering friends and family of the deceased. The process of making, executing, or receiving from a last will and testament, will be a reality for all at some time in our lives.

A will is a legally binding document. On making a will for ourselves, we expect it to be executed properly; in accordance with the covenants in the will. But the bequests must have some resemblance with the possessions. I can’t bequeath my manse to you, when I don’t even own it. Nor can I bequeath my things to someone who doesn’t exist. If I tried to do these things the will would be dysfunctional and surely would be called into question.

So that is how it is for someone making a will! But what if we’re the beneficiaries of a will?

2.0 Receiving from a will

Well, as I see it we can be one of three kinds of recipients; either we don’t want to receive or have anything to do with the will or its author. Or we want the contents all to ourselves. Or we just don’t care how it is drawn up and executed – for whatever reason. It is no wonder squabbles break out amongst recipients and those who think they should be recipients of a will. Being either a will maker or a recipient can be fraught with trouble.

In fact chaos and ill feeling created in making wills and being the beneficiaries of wills becomes apparent when realised that you and I are the recipients and testators of different types of inheritances or wills. So what are they? From whom are they received and when are they executed? But more importantly what do we get?

Well they’re written in the word of God, they have already been executed in our conception, and are affected in our children’s conception; they’re implemented in all people. In fact there are four of them, listen, and hear what you’ve received.

2.1 What we have received – Will No. 1.

I, Adam, child of God, hereby bequeath to you, in the year of your conception. The ability to cause great pain to your mother in your birth and in your life, you have received a life with the snake and it will strike you, you have received ground that is cursed, a world that will cause you to painfully toil and produce food from it. You have received knowledge that you are dust and to dust you shall return. You have received a body that is failing and doomed to death and is in separation from God. You have been bequeathed the ability to have no fear, no love, and no trust in God. You have been given the ability to use his name in vain and to neglect the holiness of his word. Etc. etc…

2.2 What we have received – Will No. 2.

I, Cain, son of Adam, hereby bequeath to you, in the year of your conception, the ability to kill those closest to you, to murder their dignity, to assassinate their character by bearing false witness against them, to make it physically impossible for them to live, and to spill their blood. You inherit no land but rather your legacy will be restless wandering over the land that receives the blood of you neighbour.

2.3 What we have received – Will No. 3.

I, brother of Noah, hereby bequeath to you, in the year of your conception, drowning in the sinfulness of your humanity. You inherit the ability to corrupt God’s created order through sexual misconduct, lust, and coveting. You have been submerged in the ferocious waters of daily existence, where you fail to keep afloat and are sinking to your death with every other living creature.

2.4 What we have received – Will No. 4.

I, the Babel tower builder, hereby bequeath to you, in the year of your conception, confusion on an unthinkable scale. You fight with your family, your neighbours, and your friends. You love them but you are unable to communicate with them. Men will seem as if they are from Mars and women as if they are from Venus. Your confusion causes you to splinter and seek lives as individuals, alone amongst many other people, etc. etc.…

3. A summary of what we have received from the Four Wills

What a sorry lot we are! None of us any better than the next person. We’re all the beneficiaries of sin, therefore, the recipients of death and eternal damnation. Because of sin and death in our lives, aching and death throb within us. But we’re also guilty of inflicting the same pain on those around us too. There is not one person here who isn’t hurting or who hasn’t caused hurt.

4. A New Will and Testament

But this is not the end, there is yet another will, one which is different to these four wills. One which leaves us eternally soothed by the balm it places in our aching ears and on our painful hearts. In fact this will is the last will and testament. It negates all other wills; freeing us from the inheritance of sin and death in eternity. Listen, as I repeat what has been executed for you and which you have received over and over again when the Lord divinely serves you in worship.

5. Will No. 5 – The Eternal Will

I, Jesus Christ, hereby bequeath to you, in the years of your baptism, my will—the new will, a new and everlasting testament—On the night I was betrayed, I took bread, and when I had given thanks, I broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper I took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

What is this will? Paul tells us that whenever this will is executed it proclaims the Lord’s death. And so it should, for the execution of a will only happens when someone dies. This will, this testament, this new covenant, is executed for us as a settlement to render void the four wills that bestow eternal death upon us. Through it we are lifted up with Christ from Noah’s watery world of sin and death, spared and placed in the ship of the church, in our baptismal faith. We inherit faith, turning us from the serpent back to God, acknowledging him as the one true God. We are rejoined to the Father in his eternal heavenly meal, where we eat from the tree of life, as Adam did before the fall. We become heirs of Christ’s blood atoning for the spilt blood of Abel – our brothers and sisters – joining us in fellowship with Christ as one body. Relationships are restored through the bequest, the gift of Christ’s body and blood; people are given the ability to communicate with each other without confusion, squabbles and fights.

What is this will? It is salvation, eternal life, and the dismissal of the four wills of death. This will was executed on the cross and continues to be executed through the means of Jesus' word, the bread and the cup. This will is executed for us, making us the unmerited beneficiaries of Christ’s last will and testimony, namely, his eternal body crucified on the cross and his blood spilt in death for us. This will is executed in Christ, our sinful natures are executed and exorcised by the blood of Christ, and are expelled forever in eternity. His will is his body and blood given for you and for me.

Jesus Christ isn’t just the contents of the will; he is the final testator or will maker, as well as the trustee of the will too. He has died, but he has risen and now speaks by the power of the Holy Spirit through pastors, consecrating the bread and wine with his will, his Word. This will is not like a human will read out once as a once-only benefit. Rather it’s like a trust fund which benefits us over and over again whenever we eat and drink and hear the Word proclaimed.

Jesus spoke through the trusteeship of Paul’s ministry when he spoke to the Corinthians here in the text and he speaks and executes his will through the trusteeship of our ordained pastors now and in future until he returns. Jesus Christ died to make the will. Jesus Christ executes the will in us. Jesus Christ is the contents—the body, the blood, and the Word—of the will.

And the grace of God which passes all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, Amen.