Devotional Word for Friday, July 9, 2021
As we have discussed the Lord’s Supper in the past few devotional times, one of the descriptions of the supper in the catechism which has been repeated comes from Jesus’ institution of the supper. Listen with me to Matthew 26:26-28. It says, “While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.” As we think about this, it is a bit curious that Jesus would be holding bread in his hands and saying this is my body. What did He mean by that? Question 78 of the Heidelberg Catechism asks the same question in this way, “Do the bread and wine become the very body and blood of Christ?”
The answer responds, “No, for as the water in baptism is not changed into the blood of Christ, nor becomes the washing away of sins by itself, but is only a divine sign and confirmation of it, so also in the Lord’s Supper the sacred bread does not become the body of Christ itself, although, in accordance with the nature and usage of sacraments, it is called the body of Christ.” The logic employed here is identical to baptism. These two sacraments serve as a divine sign that points to the spiritual reality for believers. In this way, water baptism points to the cleansing with Jesus’ blood and renewal by the Holy Spirit. The Lord Supper points to His death and its effects which are graciously applied to His people.
Question 79 asks the logical response. “Then why does Christ call the bread His body, and the cup His blood, or the New Covenant in His blood, and why does the apostle Paul call the supper ‘a means of sharing’ in the body and blood of Christ?” The answer says, “Christ does not speak in this way except for a strong reason. He wishes to teach us by it that as bread and wine sustain this temporal life so His crucified body and shed blood are the true food and drink of our souls for eternal life. Even more, He wishes to assure us by this visible sign and pledge that we come to share in His true body and blood through the working of the Holy Spirit as surely as we receive with our mouth these holy tokens in remembrance of Him, and that all His sufferings and His death are our own as certainly as if we had ourselves suffered and rendered satisfaction in our own persons.”
I think the most straightforward way to understand this idea is to reflect on your dinner. We all need food and drink (bread and juice) in order to live. By identifying this bread with His own body, Jesus is telling His followers that just as the bread they eat was necessary for their daily life, so His body was necessary for their eternal life. We then, as we participate in the Lord’s Supper, celebrate His death for us. We are to do so until He returns. As we do so, God’s Spirit works within us testifying to us the effective nature of Christ’s work. For this we must rejoice.