Luther’s Small Catechism – The Lord’s Supper

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[This article was originally written to be published on Holy Saturday, the Saturday following Maundy Thursday (the day Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper) and Good Friday (the day Jesus died on the cross for our sins) and the day before Easter Sunday (the day Jesus rose to life again from the dead).]

On this Holy Saturday, we remember the day that Jesus’ body took its sabbath rest from the work of redemption just completed on Good Friday. Early tomorrow, we will celebrate His rising to life again, which certifies to us that the Father has accepted Jesus’ perfect life and sacrificial death as the just payment for our sins. It is the Father’s declaration, “You are forgiven!”

So how does this forgiveness come to you, who live 2,000 years after Jesus died on the cross? We have already discussed in past articles how He gives forgiveness to you in Baptism and in Absolution. We come now to the final way that He promises to give you forgiveness: through that same body that hung on the cross, died, and rose to life again, and the blood that He poured out for you.

“Our Lord Jesus Christ, the same night in which He was betrayed (Maundy Thursday), took bread and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to His disciples saying: ‘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, gave thanks, and 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 and for many, for the remission (forgiveness) of sins. This do as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’” (Matthew26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:14-20, 1 Corinthians 11:23-25)

When Jesus instituted this precious sacrament, He told us how to receive His forgiveness: “Take, eat….Drink of it all of you.” What is it that He tell us to eat and drink?: the bread and wine which He distributes, as well as His body and blood, which were “given” and “shed for you…for the remission of sins.” St. Paul confirms this sacramental union when he says, “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?”(1 Cor. 10:16)

It is important to believe the Words of Institution as Jesus spoke them. Though our mind may not comprehend how His body and blood can be united with bread and wine, He tells us that it is. (It is the same difficulty we have with understanding how the Son of God can also be the Son of Man.) And so, we are to believe the Words Jesus speaks, including the reason why He gave us the Sacrament, “for the remission of your sins.”

In the Garden of Eden, sin entered the world as Adam and Eve physically ate the forbidden fruit from the tree. God now gives us the antidote to that forbidden fruit, the fruit of the tree of life (the cross), when He bids us to eat Jesus’ body and blood with the bread and wine for the forgiveness of your sins. A Blessed Easter!