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What is really present in the Lord’s Supper?

I teach a university class on doctrine, and while it is a Lutheran university, the majority of the student body is not Lutheran.  This leads to some interesting challenges.  One

of the greatest challenges comes in teaching about the Lord’s Supper.  After all, I often have students from across the theological spectrum, including some non-Christians.  This means that there can be some nasty disagreements over the Lord’s Supper.  Some believe that the bread and wine are changed into Christ’s body and blood; some believe that the bread and wine are merely symbols; some are not even sure what the Lord’s Supper is.  So, the challenge I have is to bring this divergent group to understand the Lutheran doctrine of the Lord’s Supper.

My solution was really simple.  I give my students a worksheet with questions about the Lord’s Supper, have them divide into small groups and look at what the Bible says in order to answer the questions.  I have yet to find a single group out of any one class who came up with answers that were less than Lutheran!  When we look at Jesus’ words, and what the Bible says about the Lord’s Supper, it is amazingly clear.

Take Mark’s simple account of what Jesus did.  “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” (Mark 14:22 ESV).  Jesus’ clear words say that the bread is His body.  At no time does Jesus declare that this is a representation, or parable.  It is significant that most of Jesus’ parables are introduced to us as parables, but this clearly is not.  This is straight, direct discourse.  To interpret it as anything else is to import meaning into the text.  The same happens when we look at Jesus’ words over the cup “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 covenant, which is poured out for many’” (Mark 14:23-24 ESV).  Again the clear words say that this is Jesus’ blood.  If you look at the accounts in Matthew 26, Luke 22, and 1 Corinthians 11 you will find the same, clear direct language.

But, you might say, “How can this bread be Jesus’ body and this wine be Jesus’ blood?  It doesn’t make sense to me.”  My answer is the simple, that’s OK, we don’t need to understand everything; rather it is an issue of trust.  Is Jesus truly God, as He claims?  As God, is Jesus limited in what He can do?  Then why should we argue that He cannot do what He says that He is doing here?

When Jesus gives you this wonderful gift, don’t argue with Him, but simply accept with joy the gift that He gives.

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