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1 Corinthians 11:23-26

Although the synoptic gospels sometimes include mild to moderate discrepancies, Jesus’ words are nearly identical, across the board, as he institutes our sacrament of communion as recorded by those who participated in the last supper firsthand. Paul’s words echo the gospels, which is somewhat unusual, yet he also adds to the re-telling of the narrative something unique to the ongoing story of the people of God, received from the Lord and passed on, first here and then from generation to generation. Jesus instructs the disciples to eat, to drink, and to remember him. Paul adds that the people should also continue to proclaim the Lord’s death.

It seems odd. After all, Paul is living in the post-resurrection era! The tendency is to continue to proclaim the Lord’s resurrection until he comes. Yet he must believe he is reinterpreting “the tradition in a way which he perceives to be more faithful to the context in which the words originated.”[1] What is it that causes Paul to declare this difficult teaching?

Tomorrow is Good Friday. If you have any connections to the social media realm, you have probably read the words, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming,” at least a time or two.[2] It is our natural inclination to get excited about the resurrection of our Lord, but please allow me to suggest that we have done a terrible disservice to the space between Good Friday and Easter Sunday by filling it with premature announcements of the risen Christ, which immediately transport us from what may be the most bewildering moment in human history (should we be delighted or distressed that Jesus is dead—your theories on atonement and eschatology might have great influence on how you answer this question) to the most magnificent, reserving room for nothing but bunnies and chocolate covered eggs in-between. We’re missing something, and it’s significant. But don’t worry, Paul caught it.

The breaking of the bread is self-giving and communal. The shedding of the blood marks the new covenant, fulfilling the old one but also causing the people of God to consider what it means to live into that title—that life—here and now. But the Corinthians are struggling with hospitality to such an extent that they have fenced the table. The expanded passage deals directly with the attitudes of their hearts and their treatment of the weak, the ill, and the hungry. And so, Paul places emphasis on the importance of Jesus’ self-sacrifice in order to point the people to the necessity of their own. Something significant happens between death and resurrection, between the past and the future; that something is life, at best, lived for the sake of the other.

The vast majority of humanity is not inclined to seek out silence and solitude for an extended period of time. Even pausing to allow ourselves to be momentarily cognizant of the somberness of a weekend without a personal Jesus to bend to our own whims seems counterintuitive. It’s not so much that we lean toward victorious celebration on Good Friday (it’s scary to think with whom we would then be keeping company), but there is a bent toward skipping ahead to ‘the good part.’

However, on the night when he was betrayed; Jesus first gave thanks (εὐχαριστήσας, eucharistēsas). The word comes from euxáristos, which is only found in Colossians 3:15.[3] In essence, this describes Jesus as literally grace-full, translated to “thankful for God’s grace working out what is (eternally) good.”[4] That is the good part, and it takes place in the spaces between the main events. It takes place in the everyday, ordinary ins and outs of life, and this is exactly why we should receive this sacrament, this grace, this body and blood as often as we can, remembering that Jesus’ way is, indeed, the way of the cross. We proclaim his death, but not just with our words. We proclaim it best with our lives.


[1] Anthony C. Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 2000), 866–888.

[2] Originally attributed to S.M. Lockridge

[3] And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.

[4] Helps Word Studies, 2170