Articles and book excerpts used in and referred to on Issues, Etc.
by Charles L. Manske
It is the Lord's Supper-you know-not ours but His. It is His meal, His table, His invitation, His presence that we celebrate. It was a unique invitation the first time when Jesus Christ invited His disciples to the upper room two thousand years ago. What happened then is precisely what Lutherans celebrate today when they come to the Lord's Table to enjoy His presence.
Just a Remembrance of Past Events?
What is the Lord's Supper then? in the Lord's Supper we "remember" how Jesus celebrated it the first time. We remember it like Americans celebrate the 4th of July, how India remembers independence, how France remembers Bastille Day, how Switzerland celebrates independence on August 1, etc. So we "remember" it like we remember a hundred other historical events. The Lord told us to remember it; that's for sure. But if we were only to "remember" it, and not much more, it would be a pale reflection of the truth. And sadly, most Protestants remember the historical event and miss most of the significance. They do not experience His presence, but simply recall an event years ago in a city far away.
Touching Tomorrow Today
But in the Biblical understanding of the Lord's Supper, Jesus welcomes us once again to be with Him at His Table and experience His body and blood in the same way that the disciples did the first time in the upper room. It is not primarily an event in the past that we remember, but a "present" and "future" event that we celebrate. "Present" because Christ is really there. "Future" because He tells us that it is a foretaste of the heavenly banquet that we will share with Him forever in heaven. Wow! It is the beginning of everything good. (1 Cor. 11:26) No wonder Christians call it a "eucharist" or a thanksgiving of present and future blessings. It is a "paradigm" of eternal citizen-ship in heaven. You can never again just compare it to an historical event like the 4th of July. It is touching tomorrow today!
Not a True Absence, But a True Presence
Now what do we mean when we say, "Christ joins us again in the Lord's Supper to re-enact what He did the first time in the upper room?" We mean, "get ready for a personal appearance by our God Himself.'' Christ ushers us into the Feast. His presence is expected in His Word. We do not proclaim His true absence; but we do proclaim His true presence. (Luke 22:19-20) We take Christ at His Word when He says, "This is my body, This is my blood." (Mark 14:22-24) Why would anyone say that it is only His "spiritual presence" and not His physical presence that we receive? He is not like a ghost who deprives us of everything real. Instead it is an invitation to bathe in God's presence. He invites us to His Table to eat His body and drink His blood; for in the Lord's Supper there is a transparent reflection of His presence with us today. When the timeless Creator of time and eternity honors us with His presence among us IN TIME, it becomes a special event where Christ touches us with His reality and makes the unknowable known. The scriptures clearly bear witness to His presence in the Lord's Supper. (Matt. 26:26-28) Nearly all in the holy catholic church believe in Christ's presence, whether they are Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran or others. (That would include about 1.5 billion of the 2.2 billion Christians living in the world today or about 2/3 of all Christians.) Christ's presence is a reality for so many as the Christian church universal celebrates His Last Supper.
More than His Presence Everywhere
Nor do we believe that Christ is present in the Lord's Supper just because He is present everywhere. Of course He is omnipresent or everywhere present. But that is not what Christ meant when He invites us into His presence in the Lord's Supper. This is a real presence that does not appear in the same way at any other place or time. It is a special appearance in worship at his table where we celebrate a Holy Communion with Him. This is an important juncture of His presence in time that introduces eternity
The Lutheran Distinctiveness in Biblical Mode
Lutherans are ready to take the body and blood of Christ in, with and under the bread and wine. Christ points to the bread and the fruit of the vine; it is really there and participates with the body and the blood. "And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?" (1 Cor 10:16) The bread and wine never goes away. Protestants generally understand that the bread and wine are present but the body and blood are truly missing. Roman Catholics generally understand that the body and blood are present but the bread and wine are missing (because they have been transubstantiated into the body and blood). Lutherans agree with Protestants that the bread and wine are really there and with Roman Catholics that the body and blood are really there. Indeed the Lord's Supper in the Lutheran Church really follows the Scriptural description of bread and body as well as wine and blood being present. (1 Cor 11:23-26)
Just Who is Invited?
It is the Lord's Table. Just as Christ included and excluded certain people the first time in the upper room, in a similar way the invitation is extended today also. That's the way it was in the beginning, that's the way it is today. Christ shared a fellowship with His disciples and He prepared the directions to find the upper room so that it would include only those whom were invited. St. Paul instructs Christ's disciples to examine themselves so that they are not guilty of "sinning against the body and blood of the Lord...anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself." (1 Cor 11:27-29) If you don't know what is happening at the Lord's Table, should you be there? The table of the Lord should include only those whom Christ has prepared to be His guests.
It's Forgiveness of Sins
The gift we receive in the Lord's Supper is His presence and the forgiveness of sins. Christ died on the cross and rose again to forgive our sins, As St. Peter confirms, "All the prophets testify about Him that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name." (Acts 10:43) His forgiveness is given to all who believe Christ's act of salvation. But forgiveness is also the gift to those who receive His presence in the Lord's Supper for Christ took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them saying, 'Drink from it, all of you; this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." (Matt. 26:27-28) We who are finite are given the infinite gift of the forgiveness of sins. For in, with, and under the bread and wine, we receive the ability to experience the real presence of Jesus Christ and know that our sins have been forgiven by Christ's redemptive death on the cross.
Now You Know How to Meet Christ at His Table
It is the Lord's Supper-you know-not ours but His. It is His meal, His table, His invitation, His presence, His forgiveness that we celebrate. It was a unique invitation when Jesus Christ did it the first time with His disciples. What happened then, is exactly what Lutherans celebrate today when they come to the Lord's Table to experience the transparent reality of His presence and receive His forgiveness. Are you ready to meet Christ this Biblical way? You can be prepared to meet Christ at His Table to enjoy His presence as Lutherans celebrate the Lord's Supper.
1 Corinthians 11:26 - For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.
Luke 22:19-20 - And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me." In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.
Mark 14:22-24 - While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take it; this is my body." Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it. "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many," he said to them.
Matthew 26:26-28 - While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take and eat; this is my body." Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
1 Corinthians 10:16 - Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?
1 Corinthians 11:23-26 - For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.
1 Corinthians 11:27-29 - Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.
Acts 10:43 - All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.
Matthew 26:27-28 - Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
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