1 Corinthians 11:26 “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”
What better way to assure us that Jesus’ own body took our place on the cross, that his own blood was spilled to wash away our sins, that all of this was real, that it truly happened, than to give us that very same body and blood in our time? The Lord’s Supper is more than just a bite to eat. It is a preaching of Jesus’ death on our behalf thousands of years later. It is a particularly vivid way in which he preaches the Gospel to you and me.
Someone might be tempted to ask, “Isn’t God’s word enough for that? Doesn’t God’s word preach all the Gospel I need to know?” Of course it does. God’s word contains all that we need for faith and life. But that doesn’t mean God wouldn’t give us more, or that we couldn’t benefit from having more. Consider how intimately, how personally he applies his promise of forgiveness in Jesus’ supper. Here we receive a personal promise from God, given directly to each of us.
“This is my body, which is for you…” Jesus says. Those two little words “for you” are as important as any Jesus spoke on the night when he instituted his supper. Hours later Jesus died for the sins of the world. He reconciled the world to God. God wants all people to be saved. I know that.
But sometimes I need to be assured that all of this applies to me. Jesus died for my sins. He reconciled me to God. God wants me to be saved.
When we receive Jesus’ very body and blood in the Lord’s Supper, we receive that personal assurance in a way in which nothing else does. Here my Savior is coming to me directly with his body and blood. He applies all that he lived for, all that he died for, immediately to me. He gives me a personal promise from God.
Perhaps we can better understand why the Lord does it this way when we look back to the customs involved with Old Testament sacrifices. The Lord once made a covenant with the children of Israel at the foot of Mt. Sinai. There he made them his chosen people. In the ceremony formally marking this relationship, sacrifices were offered for the whole nation. God assured the people that they were included as a part of his covenant with them. They were reconciled to God, he loved them, and he had nothing but good intentions for them.
Then, in addition to his word, he gave them something more. Moses took some blood from the sacrifices and he sprinkled it on all the people. As that blood showered down on the people, each person who was spattered received the individual assurance that they were included in all that those sacrifices stood for. They could be sure, “God’s promise counts for me.”
Future fellowship offerings throughout Israel’s history offered a similar assurance. Part of each sacrifice was burned up to the Lord. But a part of that same sacrifice was also eaten by the person who brought it. This made the sacrifice a meal between the worshiper and the Lord. Again, the person who participated in the sacrifice could be sure, “This all applies to me. No sins stood between me and my God. We have eaten from the same table and the same food today.”
You and I were not able to be there when Jesus first hung on the cross. Jesus had no intention of offering himself for sin over and over again, nor did he need to. His one death paid for them all. But we can still say with all confidence, “This applies to me,” because Jesus continues to gives us that same body and blood in this supper. It is our personal promise from God.