Doctor Luther, when commenting on the liturgy, came to the Words of Institution and drew our attention, not to the ceremony or the elements or the communicants, but to the Words of Christ. He bid the reader look at those plain, clear Words and focus on each one of them. “Everything depends,” he wrote, “upon the Words of the Sacrament. These are the Words of Christ. Truly we should set them in pure gold and precious stones, keeping nothing more diligently before the eyes of our heart, so that faith may be exercised.” (AE 53:79-80). And in the Large Catechism he writes, “With these words Jesus institutes the Sacrament, mandates its use and reception, consecrates the elements, informs the Christian of what he receives, strengthens the Christian’s faith and conscience, while providing sustenance for the Christian’s soul and body.” (LC V 23)
As st. John opens his record of Our Lord’s last three days, he opens it with one of the most beautiful and profound statements the Holy Spirit inspired. “Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.” This statement summarizes everything that will follow—the foot washing, the institution of the Supper, the final time of instruction, His high priestly prayer for His disciples and all Christians, His patience and willing endurance through trials and mockery and beating, and finally His triumphant death to reconcile all to the Father. “Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.”
Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.” This is how St. John describes Jesus’ last hours before His Crucifixion. Everything Jesus does, He does in love. He does it to show what love truly is, what it does, what it looks like.
Why does the Pastor preach? Scripture explains that the role of preaching the Word of God is how saving faith is created: “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ … So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:14-17). The Augsburg Confession, seeing this connection between the Preaching Office and saving faith, summarizes Scripture on the Office of the Holy Ministry in this way: “To obtain [saving, justifying] faith, God instituted the Office of Preaching, giving the Gospel and the Sacraments. Through these, as through means, He gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when He wills, in those who hear the Gospel. It teaches that we have a gracious God, not through our merit but through Christ’s merit, when we so believe” (AC V 1-3). The whole reason the Pastor preaches is so saving faith can be created, so we know that “we have a gracious God” who loves us and has saved us from our sin by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.