The Lord's Supper
What is the Sacrament of the Altar?
“It is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, under the bread and wine, for us Christians to eat and to drink, instituted by Christ Himself.”
What is it that we are talking about? “It is the true body and the true blood of our Lord Jesus.” The true body, not a false one. The present Lord Jesus, not an absent Lord or “spiritually present in my heart” Jesus, not a body trapped in “heaven” while His spirit is here Jesus (for the divine and human natures of Jesus cannot be separated one from the other.) No, the very body and blood that was born of Mary, was taught, fed, nursed, died on the cross, buried, rose from the dead, and now reigns at God's right hand - that true body. The challenge of this teaching arises not so much when we ask “what did Jesus say?” when He said, “take, eat, this is my body.” What Jesus said is very clear. The trouble comes when we ask, “how can this be true?” When human senses examine the elements of the bread and wine, all we see is just that, bread and wine. If reason or experience are our main theological influence, we may easily give in to saying, “this is nonsense.” If, on the other hand, theology is founded on the clear words of Scripture, we will hear the words of Jesus, listen to His offer to receive His body and blood in and under bread and wine, and trust His words. Lutherans are content to receive the Biblical teaching on its own terms.
“It is the true body and the true blood of our Lord Jesus, under the bread and wine.” Christ’s true body and blood are ‘somehow’ sacramentally present, but so also is real bread and real wine. We don’t believe that the bread and wine are transformed into body and blood. Inspired by God, St. Paul calls the ‘consecrated bread’ bread and the ‘consecrated wine’ he calls wine. So we believe and teach that present in the Lord’s Supper is the true body and the true blood of Jesus in and under true bread and true wine.
“It is the true body and the true blood of our Lord Jesus, under the bread and wine given for us Christians to eat and to drink.” This is a set apart meal for a set apart people; for the baptized. The Lord’s Supper is for those who believe they receive Christ’s body and blood in, with and under the bread and wine for the forgiveness of their sins.
And it is a sacred meal instituted by Christ Himself. Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night He was betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to the disciples and said: “Take, eat; this is My body, which is given for you. This do in remembrance of Me.” In the same way also, He took the cup after supper, and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them, saying: “Drink of it, all of you; this is My blood of the new testament, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”