Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged.
What is a worthy manner? It is not about our works. While works are important (Ephesians 2:10), they fall far short of what God is looking for at this time: "So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do'" (Luke 17:10).
Two examples in Scripture looked to their works, and each proved to be unworthy:
The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, "God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess." And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, "God, be merciful to me a sinner!" I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. (Luke 18:11-14)
The one found worthy was not the one who compared himself and his works to others around him but the one who compared himself to God and realized how completely unworthy he was.
The other example is that of the Laodiceans:
Because you say, "I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing"—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked—I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. (Revelation 3:17-18)
Like the Pharisees, the Laodiceans are blinded to the true state of their spiritual lives because they are making false comparisons. Thus, Christ judges both as unworthy. The paradox: As we increasingly realize our unworthiness, we move closer to developing a worthy manner.
In I Corinthians 11:27-31, Paul provides the essential first steps to avoid appearing at Passover in an unworthy manner: "let a man examine himself" and "if we would judge ourselves." The tax collector examined himself and judged that he was sinful. Both the Pharisee and the Laodicean failed by not comparing themselves to God—in fact, they see themselves as not bad at all!
Paul identifies in Romans 5:20 what will help us make the correct comparison and bring about the humble and worthy manner of the tax collector: "Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more." The apostle highlights the power of the law. When the law enters our lives, it manifests our sins by bringing to our attention how far off the mark we are. As we more deeply understand the law, where before we were unaware of our failures, we now see them everywhere in our lives. It seems our sins are growing exponentially, abounding, because, with the law illuminating our blind, darkened minds, we now see how grave our sin is. The law does not create sin but reveals with startling clarity what is already there yet previously hidden to the carnal mind.
No matter how bottomless our sin, as the last half of Romans 5:20 adds, more than enough grace is available to cover and forgive those sins—grace abounds much more. What makes possible that abundance of forgiveness and grace? The sacrifice of Jesus Christ. That is the cost to cover and forgive—the torture and death of our Creator.
Thus, a worthy manner begins with realizing the depth of our sin. However, our self-examination and self-judgment only prepare the mind for what should be our focus at Passover so that we can approach it worthily. That focus should be on the payment for our sins, our sinless Creator sacrificing His life for His very unworthy bride.
Notice I Corinthians 11:29 again, this time from The Voice Bible: ". . . because otherwise, if you eat and drink without properly discerning the significance of the Lord's body, then you eat and drink a mouthful of judgment upon yourself" (emphasis ours). At this time, God wants His Son's sacrifice and its significance to be top of mind. He does not want us to become maudlin over it, but to remember that it represents the measure of His love and our worth to Him. Meditating on this sacrifice, remembering the price our guiltless Savior paid, reinforces the depth of our obligation. Our recognition of this heavy debt to Him is not meant to become a burden, but its purpose is to fill us with wonder, awe, that He would pay so much for ones so utterly defiled.
If Passover ever becomes a ritual or a pious habit, we are not properly remembering Christ and who and what He is; we are being unworthy by disrespecting the very thing—Christ's sacrifice—that makes our salvation possible. Without that sacrifice, we would have no hope. Our focus at Passover, then, should not be on ourselves and our sins but on the payment for our many sins—the sacrifice that justice required for them. The focus of Passover is not on us but on Christ! It is not on our sins but the sacrifice for them.
What did we do to deserve this? Nothing! That is the point. By the will of God, by His grace, mercy, kindness, and generosity, He did this. We did nothing to deserve it. Only because of God's love and Jesus' sacrifice, rather than the death we earned (Romans 6:23), we instead have been given the opportunity to join the God Family for eternity as the Bride of Christ!
"An unworthy manner" means to treat that sacrifice in a disrespectful, profane, careless, common, casual, lighthearted, or ritualistic manner. Who caused the need for the exorbitant price of this sacrifice? Who is responsible? Each of us needs to answer those two questions honestly so that Hebrews 10:29-31 never applies to us:
Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord. And again, "The LORD will judge His people." It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.