Benefits of the Lord’s Supper

Greetings, people loved by God!

Welcome to the beginning of the Our Savior Lutheran blog. Pastor Wangelin and I (Vicar Heinze) will be using this blogsite first for a group of posts about the Lord’s Supper. These posts will be coming out along with our sermon series: Hungry Hearts, for Lent 2021.

Before we can dig into many of the topics we will be discussing in regard to the Lord’s Supper, it’s important for us to have a solid foundation of what the Lord’s Supper is and what the benefits of the Sacrament.

The Lord’s Supper goes by many names, both in Scripture and by the Church: The Lord’s Supper, the Sacrament of the Altar, the Eucharist, the breaking of the bread, etc. I have often heard the Sacrament of the Altar referred to as an “it” or “thing.” But it is much more a “Who.” In the Sacrament, we encounter Christ Himself. This is how the Small Catechism says the head of the home should teach the family about this great reality in a simple way:

What is the Sacrament of the Altar?

It is 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 to drink.

Where is this written?

The holy Evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke, and St. Paul write: Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night when 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 cup is the new testament in My blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”

As we read these words, we discover how simple they are; yet they are also very profound. Through these words, Jesus Christ Himself tells us exactly what He gives to us in the Sacrament and exactly why He gives it. Luther’s Small Catechism calls what He gives us “the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ,” and the word “true” here is essential for any discussion on the Lord’s Supper. That words eliminates any attempt or ability to worm out of what Jesus actually says: “Take, eat; this is My body, which is given for you” and “Drink of it, all of you; this cup is the new testament in My blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sin.” He tells us it is His body, and it is the body given for us. Think about that! The same body and blood that was born of the Blessed Virgin Mary! The same body that was crucified and nailed to the cross! The same blood that stained the wood, that poured from His wounds, that wiped out the sin of the world!

One of the most well-known Scripture accounts is Jesus’ teaching to become like little children, for they are known for believing what they are told. And when we come to the discussion of the Lord’s Supper, guess what…it’s time for each of us to become like little children again. In the Sacrament we are presented with an unfathomable mystery by Jesus Himself, yet an overwhelmingly delightful mystery. In the Lord’s Supper, it is Jesus Himself who takes His own body and blood that was used to win our salvation and gives them to us to deliver that salvation into us. Jesus holds it out to us, as the catechism says, “under the bread and wine” and tells us to eat and drink it.

As Christians throughout the history of the Church have considered the Lord’s Supper, and the truth of what God is doing there, they have often constructed incredible music on the topic. Our Lutheran Service Book is filled of beautiful hymns contemplating the Lord’s Supper (see hymns 617-43). One of the best is this hymn by Henry Eyster Jacobs:

Lord Jesus Christ, we humbly pray

That we may feast on You today;

Beneath these forms of bread and wine

Enrich us with Your grace divine.

Give us, who share this wondrous food,

Your body broken and Your blood,

The grateful peace of sins forgiven,

The certain joys of heirs of heav’n.

By faith Your Word has made us bold

To seize the gift of love retold;

All that You are we here receive,

And all we are to You we give.

                                                            — LSB 623:1-3

Do you see that as you read these words? Do you hear it as you sing them? Look and see how we confess that when we go to receive the Lord’s Supper, we do not receive an “it” but a “Him’! This hymn clearly states our confession that in the Sacrament we actually feast on Christ, His body and blood beneath bread and wine!

But why did Christ give us this gift and command us to “do it” “often” “in remembrance of” Him? The Small Catechism turns to that next:

What is the benefit of this eating and drinking?

These words, “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins,” show us that in the Sacrament forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given us through these words. “For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.”

Jesus’ words here, “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins,” proclaim the foundational reason why He gives His body and blood to us in the Sacrament. We must make note that sometimes Christians have been confused in regard to an important distinction: the difference between how salvation was won and how salvation is bestowed. Obviously, there is absolutely no question that the salvation of the world was accomplished by Jesus Christ as He sacrificed Himself once-and-for-all on the cross.

However, if the salvation of the world was accomplished by Jesus on the cross two-thousand years ago, how is that salvation accessible to us now in the present day? Some of our Protestant friends like to sing a hymn that says: “There is power, power, wonder-working power in the blood of the Lamb.” We’d agree. There is! But we’d also ask: “And where can I find that blood?” In the Lord’s Supper, at His Altar, the Crucified and Risen Savior gives the salvation that He won by His once-for-all sacrifice on the cross.

Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was offered only one time; however, in the Lord’s Supper, our same Living Lord comes to us every time with the very body and blood that were the ransom price of our bodies and souls; through them, He gives us His forgiveness. And, “where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.” Where the Son of God comes to you in love, gives you forgiveness, and pours into you His divine life, there you also discover salvation. Salvation is communion with the Father through the Holy Spirit.