On the very night in which our Savior was betrayed He left His Church with a dying wish, “Do this in remembrance of me.” Do what? “Eat this bread. Drink this wine.” Since that night, the Blessed Supper has been found at the center of the life of the Church. Some churches have relegated it to the fringes but if we rightly understand what this meal really is, what Jesus Himself plainly says of it, then we will know that the center is right where it belongs.
1. It is truly the body and blood of our Lord.
“This is my body” (Luke 22:19). So Jesus said when He broke the bread and gave it to His disciples. “Is” really is enough in itself but Jesus didn’t leave it at that. He added the modifying phrase “which is given for you.” That is to say, this bread which I am giving you is my body, yes the very one which is being given into death in your place, for the sins of the world – for you!
Likewise Jesus also said of the wine, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you” (Lk. 22:20). Again Jesus defines what blood it is that He speaks of – the blood which is being poured out “for you!” He adds also this “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.” The New Covenant is defined as the forgiveness of sins (Jeremiah 31:34, Hebrews 10:14-17). So Jesus is saying, quite literally, this cup is the forgiveness of sins.
2. It is forgiveness.
Since it is His body and blood, the Sacrament gives the forgiveness of sins as Jesus said. We mentioned above how comfortingly Jesus spoke of this meal: “Which is given for you.” “Which is poured out for you.” “The New Covenant.” We can add to this also the words inspired by the Holy Spirit through St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:29, “For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.” If eating the Sacrament unworthily (that is, without faith) brings judgment then must not eating it rightly bring the opposite?
3. It is bread and wine.
Jesus said “This bread is” and “This cup is.” He did not say “This bread is changed into” or “This cup is changed into.” He stated the two together. This is precisely what St. Paul is speaking of in 1 Corinthians 10:16, “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?” The Greek Word “κοινωνία” (translated here as “communion”) means a sharing together. Paul is saying that the bread “which we break” is a sharing of, a communion with the body and the cup “which we bless” is a sharing of the blood of Christ. That is, the two are both present. The bread is bread and the bread is also Christ’s body. The wine is wine and it is also Christ’s blood.
Therefore away with such foolish and ignorant straw man arguments which demonize our teaching and make fun of it as if one should taste and comprehend the flesh and blood with the senses. The body and blood are truly present just as Christ says yet in a way that cannot be realized or understood by human sense but only by faith. Faith rests not in taste but in the Word of God. And that word of God is true and clear: “Christ’s body and His blood are here!”
4. It is a remembrance of Him.
“Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). Some refer to this as if it destroyed our position. It is “merely” a remembrance, they say, and nothing else. Yet there is no “merely” about it. Instead, Jesus dying wish “Do this in remembrance of me” should serve only to strengthen our awe and desire for this sacrament. When we receive this fellowship of bread and body, wine and blood, we are remembering in a most vivid way what He has done for us and given to us.
5. It is a proclamation.
1 Corinthians 11:26, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” When we “do this” as Jesus said, we are publicly confessing three wonderful things. First, that Jesus died for the sins of the world. And the proof is right there – His body and His blood given and shed for us! Second, that Jesus has risen. If Jesus had not risen, His body would be rotting in a grave somewhere. Our sins would not be forgiven. And certainly He would not have the power to fulfill the promise made that night “This is my body” “This is my blood.” Third, that He will come again. If He has died and risen for us. If He has forgiven our sins fully and truly, if He has ascended on high, then He is coming again to take us to the banquet feast of heaven.
6. It is a celebration.
In the supper, we join together with the saints of all time in the banquet feast of the Lamb, “And he said to them, ‘I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.’ 17 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, ‘Take this, and divide it among yourselves. 18 For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes'” (Luke 22:15-18).
7. It is “Close.”
Since in the supper we join in confessing our faith in all the things mentioned above and since we are to receive the sacrament only after “examining” ourselves (1 Corinthians 11:28-29), then it is to be partaken of only by those who are perfectly joined together in faith and confession and who are able to examine themselves.