Paul de Vries: What the Lord’s Supper Means Now

Eating food is a formidable factor in our lives – physically and spiritually.  How we eat can help us maximize our achievements, benefit our health, or enhance our sleep.  In other ways, eating can dull our senses, damage our health, and destroy our sleep.  Fasting can be spiritually potent – but also feasting can be spiritually moving.  Both are endorsed in our Scriptures, at the proper times.  But the Lord’s Supper is attractive food that is transformative.

Jesus instituting the Lord’s Supper is a life-changing narrative.  Over time there have been many theories of the Lord’s Supper’s meaning – but I still find it uniquely helpful and delightful to return to the simple original ancient story, so accessible – such as in Luke 22:7-22.

In the vibrant evangelical movement in which I was raised, the Bread and the Cup were constantly referenced as “mere symbols” of Jesus’ body and blood.  However, in my youth I saw a huge problem with that interpretation.  A “mere symbol” is a contradiction in terms, since true symbols are powerful and they engage directly what they symbolize.  Better terms would have been “vibrant symbols,” or “transformative symbols.”  In contrast, our Roman Catholic neighbors affirm that through the prayers of an ordained priest the bread is transubstantiated into the Body of Christ and the wine is transubstantiated into the Blood of Christ.  Consequently, those items are no longer bread or wine – in spite of their appearances.  The Scriptures do not require such metaphysics, and transubstantiation is quite a strain to believe.

Other positions for interpreting the Lord’s Supper include “consubstantiation,” where, with the right prayer, the bread and wine become the literal Body and Blood of Christ while remaining bread and wine.  There is also the “real presence” interpretation, where prayers of the clergy bring Christ’s spiritual presence into the celebrative event of the Lord’s Supper.  All these theories are used for institutionalizing one of the greatest stories – and such institutionalizing has its place.

However, providentially we still have the very ancient stories of Jesus transforming Passover meal into the Lord’s Supper.  The roots in Passover are significant – (1) because Jesus repeatedly overtly references Passover, (2) because Jesus was also committed to being the Bloody Ultimate Passover Lamb the very next day, and (3) because Jesus’ painful work on Calvary was all about holistic liberation, redemption, and reconciliation – as was the first Passover.  The new Passover meal includes the living presence of the Passover Lamb who was slain and lives forever, along with Bread and a Cup of wine or juice representing his gifts of grace – his Body and his Blood.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Paul de Vries