Feasting with God #3
“Forgiveness in the Meal”
26Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
For almost two whole millennia people have been partaking of the blessed meal known variously as the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist, Holy Communion, and the Sacrament of the Altar. This sacrament Martin Luther described as “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 drink” (Luther’s Small Catechism). Yes, we eat bread and wine in this meal, but also, through a miraculous means that we cannot understand, also the body and blood of Christ. We Lutherans are accustomed to saying that the body that we eat is the very body born of Mary, and that the blood that we drink is the very blood shed on the cross.
The Church has been mocked for its entire existence on account of this meal. The Romans used to persecute those in the Church for being cannibals, for they heard that Christians would eat a baby in their secret worship meetings. But despite the ridicule of centuries, Christians still eat the body of Christ and drink his blood. Why?
Jesus’ own words give us the answer: “for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” Forgiveness itself is given to us in this meal! The blood of Christ, which justifies us – “we have been justified by his blood” (Rom. 5:9) – this very same blood is now given to us where we can see it, feel it, smell it, and taste it. It is fed to us so that it becomes a part of us, nourishing our souls even as worldly food nourishes our bodies.
And notice as well that we did not take this blood. Blood is taken by murderers and executioners, such as when Cain murdered Abel, and Abel’s blood was “crying to [God] from the ground” (Gen. 4:10). Blood taken unjustly highlights the sin. How many murder weapons haven’t been found with the blood still on them? To be “caught red-handed” is to be found with the blood of your victim still on your hands. But the blood of Jesus is different. We already had blood on our hands. Our sins stained us from the moment we were conceived, and like layers of grime only grew thicker and thicker as we continued through life. We by nature are red-handed murderers, sinners and rebels to God. Our very inmost thoughts are only selfishness and evil against him.
Jesus Christ’s blood became the universal solvent, cleaning that grime of sin away more quickly than the fastest-acting soap. That blood and that body are given to us as a gift in this Supper of our Lord. What a gift! And certainly it is worth all the ridicule of the world.
Lord Jesus Christ, as often as we eat this bread and drink this cup, let us remember your death and the shedding of that blood, by which you freely gave us the forgiveness of every one of our sins. Help us to see that we daily sin much, and much need the forgiveness you give, so that we can learn better to put our full trust in you and in your promises. As you promise to give us forgiveness in this holy meal, let us come to it with joy. Continue to give to us your promised forgiveness. In your name we pray. Amen.
Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.