Day 77 – Why I Never Understood the Lord’s Supper Until . . .
Mark 14:22–26 ESV
And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, “This is my blood of the a covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”
And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
“This is my body.”
“This is my blood.”
I must confess for much of my Christian life that I have not gotten the Lord’s Supper. In fact, I still don’t get it. I do, but I don’t. In retrospect, I think I have missed it a lot precisely because I have tried to get it. My approach has been largely rational’trying to get my mind or thoughts around it to understand it so I could effectively receive it. Consequently, as I approached the altar to receive the sacrament, I focused on thinking the right thoughts and feeling the right feelings. I wanted to have thoughts and feelings of awe and gratitude and repentance and humility. And the problem with this way of thinking and feeling? Awe and gratitude and repentance and humility are not really thoughts and feelings, are they? They are deep dispositions of the heart.
It has never occurred to me until this very moment that when I am approaching the altar to receive the bread and the wine that I’m not entering into a religious ritual, I am celebrating a relationship. I am approaching a Person. I am approaching the person of Jesus Christ. He is not somehow contained in the gift of bread and wine. He is the gift. The physical reality of a person standing before me, giving me bread and wine while saying the very words of Jesus to me—it is as though I am approaching Jesus himself. The celebration of the Lord’s Supper is not about approaching with the right thoughts and feelings, it’s all about embracing Jesus himself.
No, I’m not talking about some kind of transubstantiation where the bread and the wine actually change their molecular properties to become the physical body and blood of Jesus. I do not want to denigrate that doctrine, as large parts of the church hold it dear. I just don’t believe that is what this is all about.
This is more like a type of transfiguration’the transfiguration of a moment in which all of history seems to become suspended and we find ourselves in that Upper Room hearing Jesus himself say: “This is my body . . . this is my blood . . . for you.” I am hearing this from Jesus himself. I am receiving the elements from Jesus himself. I am standing before the person of Jesus himself. He is present in the whole of it all, in the mystery of that encounter where we remember a historical event in a way that transcends history; in a way that brings it right into the moment of Holy Communion. Communion is not something we receive; it’s a relationship we enter into and celebrate.
At its core essence, this is what I understand to be happening in this mystery. “This is my body,” and “This is my blood,” can be brought down to three very primal words: me for you. Jesus says to you and me personally and you and me in community, “me for you” in the sense of “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). It’s “me for you” in the sense of, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31). It’s “me for you” in the sense of, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). It’s “me for you” in the sense of “Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me” (John 15:4 NRSV). It’s “me for you” in the sense of the complete and total exchange of his wholeness for our brokenness and his fullness for our emptiness.
Here’s the beauty of it all. What he most longs to receive from us in Holy Communion is to hear our wholehearted response of, “me for you,” right back to him.
And here’s the glory of it all. The truest sign of our entering into Holy Communion with Jesus is revealed and celebrated every time we approach another human being and welcome the Holy Spirit to demonstrate to them, through us, those same words, “me for you.”
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.
- How are you understanding and approaching the Lord’s Supper? Is it an essential part of your life or is it more of an occasional, optional thing?