Somehow, by the mysterious power of the Holy Spirit, as we eat and drink ordinary bread and wine, then by faith we are receiving Christ and being strengthened in our union with Him. It is not merely a reminder of grace; it is a fresh gift of grace. We come empty-handed—no church charges money for the bread and wine—and again receive Christ, as we did in the Word preached earlier in the service. This understanding helps subtly shift our focus: the Lord’s Supper is, first of all, a time where Christ comes again to us in grace before it is a time where we try our best to reverently remember Him. The primary direction is from heaven to earth, not earth to heaven. It is yet another movement of grace.
In recent years, there has been an explosion of books and resources encouraging the church to be “gospel-centered.” We are called to be gospel-centered parents, write gospel-centered sermons, and live as gospel-centered communities. All this is well and good. But how does a church keep the cross, the atoning death of the Lord Jesus, at the center of its ministry? Thankfully, there’s no need for ministers to scratch their heads or sit around trying to come up with innovative new ideas. The Lord Jesus Himself left clear instructions.
Sitting with His disciples for the last time before His arrest and crucifixion, “He took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me’” (Luke 22:19). Do this in remembrance of me. The Lord’s Supper, a simple meal of bread and wine, is essential to the church’s worship as she remembers and celebrates the death of her Savior.
Already we can see one blessing of the Lord’s Supper: it reminds us that Jesus’ body was broken so that ours might never be and His blood was shed in order that ours be spared. The curse of death fell upon Him, and the blessings of life are therefore given to His people. This makes clear that celebrating the Lord’s Supper is in no way adding to or continuing the once-and-for-all sacrifice of Golgotha. Jesus’ cry, “It is finished!” rings down through the centuries and is proclaimed in the Lord’s Supper. His blood has been spilt and need not be shed again. The sacrifice is complete.
In this way the supper acts as a kind of visible word. It is not bringing new information that we wouldn’t know from the Bible. Instead, it “preaches” to our eyes, hands, lips, and mouths the same gospel but in pictorial form. As I write, my two-year-old daughter has just returned from the park and toddled into my study. I can tell her that I love her.