We celebrate the Lord’s Supper as a memorial or a remembrance of what Christ did on the cross, but it can be different in some other churches.
According to the Roman Catholic Church, at the Lord’s Supper the bread and the wine mystically change into the actual body and blood of Christ. However, the outward characteristics of the bread and wine remain unaltered. This miracle is believed to be brought about by the priest’s prayer. After this they believe that the bread and wine are holy and sacred.
The Lord’s Supper is a re-enactment of the Last Supper, the final meal that Jesus Christ shared with His disciples before His arrest, and crucifixion. At the meal, Jesus ate bread and wine and instructed His disciples to do the same in memory of Him. Let’s check the earliest account of the Lord’s Supper.
In 1 Corinthians, Jesus “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” (1 Cor. 11:23-25NIV).
When Jesus passed around the bread and said “This is my body” did it change into His body? Of course not! His real body was beside them. It was ordinary bread and nothing was mysterious. It was a symbol of the coming death of His body. Or a figure of speech like a metaphor. When Jesus passed around the cup of wine and said “This cup is the new covenant in my blood” did it change into His blood? Of course not! His real blood was inside His real body. It was ordinary wine and nothing was mysterious. It was a symbol of the coming sheding of His blood (death) and the new covenant it instituted. Or a figure of speech like metonymy, where something is described by something else that is associated with it (like cup, wine and blood). His body and blood were present physically as for any human being, not in the bread and wine.
A passage from John where Jesus said, “I am the bread of life”, is used to support the belief that the bread and wine become Christ’s body and blood (Jn. 6:43-59). Jesus told a crowd of Jews, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day” (Jn. 6:53-54). But this is not about the Lord’s Supper because:
– the Lord did not introduce the Lord’s Supper until the end of His ministry one year later.
– In this passage eating and drinking are metaphors for believing in Jesus. Unlike the Lord’s Supper, this eating and drinking gives eternal life.
At the Reformation, protestants rejected the idea of consuming Christ’s body and blood at the Lord’s Supper. Christ’s sacrifice doesn’t need to be repeated in this way– it was “once for all” (Heb. 10:10).
Jesus doesn’t have a gravestone or a monument, the Lord’s Supper is how we can remember Him. The bread and wine are a memorial and they don’t become Jesus. This is a time to remember and reflect on what Christ has done through His death. The bread and the cup of wine help us to remember that Christ’s body was broken for us and His blood was shed for us.
Lord, thanks for giving us a way to remember your substitutionary death on the cross for the sins of the world. The bread reminds us of your body which suffered when it was given for us. And the wine reminds us of the blood shed at your crucifixion. We offer thanks and praise for your sacrifice as we share the emblems together.