What Is The Lord’s Supper?

Text:  Luke 22:14-20

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father….

Please pray with me…

As we move along in Luther’s Small Catechism, we come to a section that has become something that separates some denominations rather than its original intention to unify. I’m speaking of the Lord’s Supper. In Luther’s time the vast majority of the church pretty much accepted that those who participated in this Sacrament also participated in the eating and drinking of Christ’s own body and blood. In fact, the early church had charges of cannibalism levied against it from those who didn’t truly understand.

For many centuries, and in many different parts of the world, The Lord’s Supper was celebrated with great frequency and thanksgiving, even daily. Many of our earliest church leaders such as Cyprian who was beheaded for his faith in 258 A.D. and Chrysostom, one of the most popular and celebrated of the Greek church fathers who died in 407 A.D. wrote of the “daily sacrifice” of the Lord’s Supper and encouraged a daily partaking of it because of the word’s “Give us this day our “daily” bread spoken in the Lord’s prayer. To them it was with great excitement and humility that they underwent the supper of Christ’s very own body and blood and they wanted to take advantage of it as much as they could.

But, as with so many things in the church, many people started thinking too much. They lowered God down to their level, taking the power of transformation and transubstantiation away from God, calling the Lord’s Supper merely a celebration of remembrance rather than an actual supper of Christ’s true body and blood. Since it didn’t make sense in the worldly world because it’s not something we could do, they snatched the glory of God away, forming Him into our image, changing the supper’s true meaning and beauty into something easier to understand and grasp on to. Now, in a majority of churches, the bread and wine is just that, bread and wine, and the unity with Christ in the most intimate way has been reduced to a ceremony of tribute from us to God rather than the beautiful gift it is from God to us.

In the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, we practice this most blessed Sacrament as our early forefathers did with the same emphasis and reverence as they had. For proof of Christ’s true body and blood we turn to the Word of God.

All three mentions of the Lord Supper in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke clearly state that Jesus took Bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to His disciples saying, “Take, eat; this is my body.” This “is” is written emphatically, in other words it doesn’t mean it represents or it stands in the place of but that it actually is Christ’s body, made so by our Savior’s own blessing, literally the very Word of God.

We find more proof in 1 Corinthians 10:16-17, where Paul writes, “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.”

The explanation found on the LCMS website states, “Paul clearly says here that we all “partake” of “BREAD” when we receive the Lord’s Supper – even as we also partake and “participate in” the true body of Christ. And he says we “partake” of the wine (the cup), even as we also partake in the true blood of Christ.”

Also in 1 Corinthians we find this in 11:26 where Paul says: “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” Here again Paul expressly states that when we receive the Lord’s Supper we are “eating bread” and “drinking the cup,” but he goes on to say those who eat this bread and drink this cup are also partaking of the true body and blood of Christ. So “real” is this participation in Christ’s body and blood, in fact, that (according to Paul) those who partake of the bread and wine “in an inwardly manner” are actually guilty of “profaning the body and blood of the Lord. (LCMS.ORG)

So, what was meant to unify the church into one body has separated us because of human attempts to make the divine more manageable. Luther was very convinced of the true presence and lost many followers because of it because the age of trust in the church was coming to an end. Like today, people started dumbing down the Scriptures to fit their own ways of thinking.

Yet, Luther remained steadfast in his beliefs and relied on Scripture to support those beliefs. He wrote that the Sacrament of the Altar “is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ under the bread and wine, instituted by Christ Himself for us Christians to eat and to drink.”

And, he noted, this belief comes with a warning found in  1 Corinthians 11:27,29 which says, “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord….For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgement upon themselves.”  This is why, at Redeemer, we are very careful to instruct people in the proper way to receive this most precious blessing.

Another thing the early church was accused of was that they had the  belief that Christ was sacrificed over and over every time we ate and drank the Sacrament.

Luther is quick to point out that this sacrament does not mean that Christ is sacrificed over and over every time we partake of it. He says, “The body and blood of Christ in the Sacrament are the one perfect sacrifice offered to God once and for all on the cross and are now distributed to us in the Sacrament together with the blessings and benefits which this sacrifice has won for us.” Again, thinking that Christ must be sacrificed over and over is limited human thinking. Christ died once for all. In the Sacrament we are blessed with the same blood that stained Calvary’s cross and the same body that hung on it for the sins of all. If Christ were to give His people the most precious of gifts, it would be a part of Himself and that’s what He chose to give.  Hebrews 10:14 says, “By a single offering He has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” 

And where does this power of transformation and blessing come from? Is it because we believe? No. Is it because we did something to honor God? No. It’s because of God’s Words proclaimed as a blessing over it. It is wholly a gift from a loving God to the adopted children He has created. Just as in Baptism, people have tried to hijack the Sacrament to be about us but Scripture clearly shows that it’s all about Christ and what He is willing to do so that we might be saved. Can you imagine a greater gift? To simplify it to meet our worldly standards in any way tarnishes its true meaning.

This gift is so much more than many can even comprehend, In the blessing of the elements of bread and wine it recalls Christ’s words, “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” Luther says this shows us that in the Sacrament forgiveness of sins, life and salvation are given through these words. For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.”

When we approach the altar, these are the promises that should be foremost in our minds, that the chief blessing of the Sacrament is the forgiveness of sins of which Christ won for us by His sacrifice. It’s value to us should be almost overwhelming because of the greatness it imparts.  Colossians 1:22 reminds us of this saying, “He has now reconciled in His body of flesh by His death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before Him.”  That is the blessed gift we receive every time we participate in His body and blood at the railing. We kneel lost and condemned but raise holy, blameless and above reproach before God.

This is what we must remember so that generation after generation might benefit from the same blessing. Again, Luther says about the words, “In Remembrance of me, “Christ commands in these words that His Sacrament be celebrated in the church till the end of time as a living proclamation and distribution of His saving death and all its blessings.”

Each time we participate in the Sacrament of the Altar we also receive the blessings of life and salvation. Luther says in the Small Catechism, “We must never think of the Sacrament as something harmful from which we had better flee, but as a pure, wholesome, comforting remedy that grants salvation and comfort. It will cure you and give you life both in soul and body. For where the soul has recovered, the body also is relieved.”

In this Sacrament Christ gives us victory over sin and hell and strength for a new life in Him.  1 Peter 2:24, “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed.” As one church we partake because all receive the same blessed gifts. It’s a cause for celebration.

Luther asks the question, “How can bodily eating and drinking do such great things? Instead of trying to explain it in my words, I’ll let Luther explain it himself. “Certainly not just eating and drinking do these things, but the Words written here: “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” These words, along with the bodily eating and drinking, are the main thing in the Sacrament. Whoever believes these words has exactly what they say: “Forgiveness of sins.”

As we said briefly before, it’s the Words that bring the power. Just as Christ’s blessing during the first Passover meal gave that meal power, so do those same words affect our Lord’s Supper today.

In this church we will always rely on the Word of God to bring power to the Sacrament of the Altar. This is not a man-made power of tribute but a God induced power to forgive and bring new life. But only through faith do we receive these most precious gifts. After all, what good is a gift if someone puts no faith in it?

 Luke 11: 27-28, Jesus was speaking very important lessons to those who were following Him. Getting lost in the moment, a woman in the crowd raised her voice to Him saying, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed.” Jesus calmly turned to her and gave credit where it was due saying, “Blessed rather are those who hear the Word of God and keep it.”

You have now heard the arguments within our doctrine to give credit to God’s Word in its literal translation. When Goes says something is, we have no choice but to take Him at His Word. To do anything else would be to paint our worldliness into the picture complete with its shortcomings. Do we know how the transformation takes place, no, because it’s by divine appointment and we are not divine. But we take God at His word faithful that we receive the blessings he has promised.

Today as you receive His true body and blood I want you to ponder in your heart the gifts you are being given. May His forgiveness and mercy continue to bring you new life through the blood he has shed. Amen.

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