I have to check I know God’s grace comes to me in Jesus Christ alone. Am I confident that my friend Jesus has aced the exam set by God’s holy law? Do I know he’s passed that exam for me? I have to be ready and willing to express my gratitude to God. To take the bread and wine comes with obligations. Am I loving God by obeying his commandments? Am I loving my brothers and sisters at church, and my neighbour as myself? Where I’m being disobedient, am I willing to change? This isn’t about my perfection, but about my willingness and openness to be changed by Jesus.
Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup (1 Cor 11:28).
The last time I sat an exam was in May 2008. It was a good feeling saying goodbye to exams. While some people do better than others, exams are associated with stress, whether it’s your driving test, or a Grade 7 piano exam. We can all remember the pressure, and the butterflies in the stomach. So, if I told you that God wants you to sit an exam every time you hear the Lord’s Supper announced in the notices, it might make you uncomfortable. Maybe it sounds anxiety inducing. Isn’t this going to turn the Lord’s Table into an experience of dread, rather than delight? Is Jesus really assigning me spiritual exams every fortnight of my Christian life?!
But, as we receive this homework, notice two things about it:
i) This is self-examination. The elders aren’t examining you. Your friends aren’t scoring you. Your mum and dad aren’t marking your answers. You mark your own answers to this test. The results of this homework won’t be displayed on a wall at church to compare yourself with others. If you cheat, no one else in church will be able to pull you up. If you skip this exam, no one else will even know – just you and the Lord.
ii) This exam doesn’t have a pass/fail mark. We don’t sit this exam to see if we’re going to eat. That’s often how we understand it, I think.