Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Jesus as Preacher and Liturgist

An excerpt from John Kleinig's paper, "The Real Presence and Liturgical Preaching":

The story of the appearance of Jesus to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24:13-35 shows us how Jesus continues his ministry in the present age. happened, as you all know, on the evening of Easter Sunday. The two unnamed disciples had heard about the resurrection of Jesus, but did not understand the significance of what they had heard. When Jesus joined them on their journey, they did not at first recognise him. As far as they knew he was dead and gone from them. So Jesus made himself known to them in two stages. First, he preached himself to them from the Old Testament. Yet, even though their hearts burned with joy as he spoke, they still did not recognise him. Then, when they had invited him to stay overnight with them as their guest, he acted as if he was their host when they sat down for the evening meal. He took the bread, gave thanks, broke it, and gave it to them, just as he had done when he instituted his holy supper three nights earlier. They recognised him in the breaking of the bread, Luke’s term for Holy Communion (Luke 24:35; cf. Acts 2:42, 46; 20:7). As soon as they recognised him he vanished from their sight.


That story gives us the basic theology of worship in the Early Church. Each Sunday the risen Lord Jesus, who travels with us through life as our unseen guide, makes himself known to us in the divine service. This happens in two stages. First, Jesus uses the word of God from the Old Testament to preach himself as the crucified and risen Lord. Then he hosts a meal in which he feeds us with his own body and blood.

We discover two things about preaching from this dramatic account. First, Jesus himself is the preacher in our congregations. He is also the sermon; he preaches himself to us in the divine service. By his word he speaks to us. We human preachers are merely his mouthpiece, his spokesmen. He says: “He who listens to you listens to me” (Luke 10:16). Second, the preaching of the gospel is closely connected with the Lord’s Supper. What Jesus tells us about himself he gives to us in Holy Communion. The same Jesus who preaches himself to us in the gospels and in the sermon gives himself and all his gifts to us there. There he presents the body and blood that he offered up for us by his death on the cross. So preaching goes hand in hand with the administration of the sacrament. By preaching of the gospel we tell our people what Jesus gives to them in Holy Communion; by offering Christ’s body and blood to them we give them what we have preached, Jesus and his gifts. In his Large Catechism Luther says: “For here in the sacrament you receive from Christ’s lips the forgiveness of sins, which contains and conveys God’s grace and Spirit with all his gifts” (LC 70).

To read the paper in it's entirety, click here.

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