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"...This is my Blood
of the testament, which is poured out
for many for the forgiveness of sins"
Matthew 26:28

Heavenly Father, enable me by Your Holy Spirit inwardly to digest the Bread of Life that comes through Your Word in this Bible Study. May I see, appreciate, and then be moved joyfully to partake of the Holy Meal that nourishes me with Your own Son, my Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Human beings do more than eat; they partake of food as meals. Meals are important to us as occasions for celebrating important events together with family, friends, and community. A meal is a very intimate gift. When we are given a pair of shoes, for example, we receive something useful. But when we receive food, we are given a life-sustaining gift. The giver is, in fact, saying to us, "I want you to live." When we sit down to share a meal, we are saying, "I want us to draw life from the same source."

On the night before His crucifixion, Jesus instituted a special Meal that His Church is to enjoy until the end of the world. This Meal has many names: Holy Communion, the Lord's Supper, the Holy Meal, the Eucharist, the Lord's Table. Participants in this Holy Meal are present for something very special. As we search the Scriptures we shall discover the unique characteristics of the Lord's Supper.

Not Your Ordinary Meal
Question: "We eat to live;' someone once said, "we do not live to eat." Eating healthy food at regular intervals may be considered a pleasant experience, but in fact it is necessary in order for the body to survive. According to Psalm 145:15-16, who provides our food, and for what purpose? Answer: God created us, therefore He is concerned about all our needs, including the physical. Because of this concern, God supplies us with people to work the ground, good weather, and the seeds that turn into the grains that nourish us (Psalm 104:14-17). This wonderful provision should move us to gratitude and praise of His great goodness toward us. A hymn writer said it well: "My Shepherd gently guides me, knows my needs, and well provides them."
Question: Jesus taught us to pray, "Give us this day our daily bread." This request has been answered again and again. But we are in need of more than daily bread. The needs of our body can be abundantly met, yet we may still be impoverished spiritually. What does God's Word teach us about this truth in Deuteronomy 8:3, Matthew 4:4, and John 6:33-35? Answer: Food on the table may nourish our bodies, but it cannot satisfy the great hunger and thirst of the human spirit. Only God in human flesh can satisfy both body and soul.
Question: On various occasions, Jesus used meals to give the participants something special and to communicate a greater truth. What did Jesus do during the special meal recorded in John 2:1-11? What does verse 11 call this miracle? What greater truth does this miracle point out about Jesus, as revealed in Isaiah 25:6-8? What is wine symbolic of? Read Psalm 104:lSa; Joel 3:17-18; Amos 9:13-14. What does Jesus' miracle indicate His presence is meant to bring us in John 10:10b? Answer: Jesus, though a guest at the Cana wedding, miraculously changed some of the water used for Jewish rites of purifying into the best wine the guests ever tasted. The evangelist John calls this miracle a "sign." This sign points to Christ and the great banquet that will take place on the Final Day. At that time God will comfort and save His people. He will "swallow up death for all time" and "will wipe tears away from all faces." The wine is a symbol of the days of happiness and abundance God's Messiah will bring to this world.
Jesus is the presence of God the Creator who replaces all legalistic religions. Judaism, a legalistic religion of Christ's time, is symbolized by the water jugs in John 2:6. But the presence of Christ brings a joyous new life. He said, "I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly" (John 10:10)
Question: It was while eating that Jesus often taught people spiritual truth. What truth did Jesus make known while at the table in Luke 7:36-50? Answer: At the home of a certain Pharisee, Jesus used the occasion of a meal to pardon a repentant sinner (Luke 7:48). At this meal, Jesus illustrated that where He is present, divine forgiveness and eternal life are also present (Luke 7:48-50).
Question: The Word of the Lord, necessary for spiritual nourishment, comes to us in the written form, the Bible. We read, study, and savor it by meditating upon it and by hearing it preached. Through this Word, what does the Holy Spirit give us? Read 2 Timothy 3:16. God has provided a very unique way for us to be blessed by Him. What means does He use to connect us with Himself in Mark 14:22-24? Answer: God's written Word is necessary for continued growth in all aspects of our Christian life, from instruction in spiritual discipline, to concrete ways we are to exhibit the righteousness of Christ among others. In addition, God gives us what Luther calls the "visible Word." Because in the Lord's Supper Jesus' words of promise attach His body to the bread and His blood to the wine, Holy Communion is the "visible Word." The Word delivers Jesus personally to us as God's special "Food" for our sin-laden spirit.
Who is Invited?
Question: Jesus did eat and drink with sinners, and was criticized for it (Matthew 9:10-11). His mercy invites all to receive life in and from Him (Matthew 11:28; John 6:35-51). But did He invite the general public to His special Supper in Matthew 26:27? Answer: Jesus is God the Father's heavenly Food sent to give us life in its fullest sense. All sinners are on His guest list, but some tragically exclude themselves (Matthew 22:1-6). The special Sacrament of His Supper is not for the general public, especially not for people given to false religion (Romans 16:17; 1 Corinthians 10:18-22; Hebrews 13:10), but for His Church of forgiven sinners who take Him at His word of promise (Acts 2:42; 1 Corinthians 11:26-30).
Who is on the Menu?
Question: On the evening before Jesus shed His sin-cleansing blood, He offered His disciples something unexpected. Carefully read the narrative of Mark 14:22,24. Does Jesus say, "This is like My body. . . This is like My blood"? Is Christ saying that He is giving Himself to us "symbolically"? According to 1 Corinthians 11:23-27 and Matthew 26:26-28, what special gifts are offered to all who come to this Supper? Answer:No. Jesus was not using symbolic language, but was speaking clearly and literally. In real bread and real wine (1 Corinthians 11:23-25) Jesus comes to deliver to us His real body (v. 24) and blood (v.25). What a mystery, yet reality, because Jesus said these words! We eat orally but in a mysterious, sacramental way we eat the very body and blood of our crucified and resurrected Lord. Through this sacramental eating we receive forgiveness (Matthew 26:26-28). What a gifted menu we receive in God's Son!
Question: 8. According to 1 Corinthians 10:16, who is blessed by this most personal gift? Answer: All who eat and drink the Sacrament receive the body and blood of Christ with their mouths. Those who humbly trust in their Savior and His promise rejoice to receive His life-giving gift. Those who despise and mistreat His gift receive it to their judgment (1 Corinthians 10:16-17; 11:17-34).
How Good is this Food?
Question: The Lord's Supper is not a "snack" food of useless calories. This Meal provides incomparably rich spiritual nourishment to those who partake. Jesus' creation of this special Meal is fulfillment of the promise first made and experienced in the ancient Jewish Passover meal. What fulfilled promise is described in Exodus 12:7-8, 13? How do Romans 5:9, Ephesians 2:13, and Hebrews 9:19-22 further explain the fulfilled blessings now delivered to you through Jesus' body and blood? Answer: Jesus is the true Passover Lamb whose blood means that eternal death has "passed over" us (Hebrews 9:19-22; see also John 1:29). While the old Sinai Covenant was sealed with animal's blood (Exodus 24:8), Jesus inaugurated the new testament, sealed with His own blood. His blood is the life of the new community of people born out of that new testament (Ephesians 2:13). We, the members of the new testament community, can be certain of being declared acquitted of the guilt of all our sins (justified) because of Jesus' blood (Romans 5:9).
Question: When personal tragedies, a weak faith, or the attacks of Satan tempt you to think that God is far away or unconcerned, how does the Lord's Supper relieve this anxiety? Read Matthew 28:20; Luke 10:9; John 14:18-20. Answer: Jesus promises always to be with us (Matthew 28:20), near us (Luke 10:9), and in us (John 14:18-20). The risen and ascended Jesus sustains us in all our troubles. He does His most intimate sustaining invisibly in us, through the eating and drinking done at the Lord's Supper.
How Do We Prepare for this Meal?
Question: All Christians acknowledge that the presence of the Holy Spirit is needed for a beneficial enjoyment of Communion. Some Christian churches say they "call upon" (epiclesis) the Spirit in order to change the bread and wine into Jesus' body and blood. Such a view of what the Holy Spirit does for us at the Lord's Supper is wrong. What does the Holy Spirit do? Read Matthew 5:6; John 16:8; and 1 Corinthians 12:3. Answer: The bread and wine are not changed into the body and blood. We know this because Paul speaks of breaking bread and sharing the cup (1 Corinthians 10:16; see also 11:26). We need the Holy Spirit for right reception of Jesus Christ as Lord (1 Corinthians 12:3). God the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sins and our need of a Savior (John 16:8). Jesus is the only Righteousness that can satisfy the holiness of God and hunger of our spirit (Matthew 5:6).
Question: Coming prepared to the Lord's Table is a serious matter. What does the inspired apostle Paul remind the Corinthian Christians about proper spiritual preparation before partaking of the Lord's Supper? Read 1 Corinthians 5:7; 11:27-29. What then is the best way to prepare oneself for this sacred Meal, accord-ing to Matthew 9:12-13: 11:28. Answer: Paul calls us to "examine" ourselves spiritually so that we can rightly appreciate what is being given to us in the Lord's Supper. The best way to prepare oneself for the Lord's Supper is to acknowledge one's sin and failure and to trust completely in the sin-cleansing power of Christ. He is willing to freely heal us of our heavy burden of sin and guilt.
Why We are to Come
Question: Some churches speak of going to this Meal to offer our "sacrifice:' Other churches tell us that this Meal is the occasion when we show loyalty to Christ and witness to each other. What Jesus desires for us in Communion can be misunderstood and misapplied. What does the response of Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42 teach about this matter? What do Luke 11:28; John 1:1, 14, and 17, teach us about the primary reason we are present at the Lord's Table? Answer: At the Lord's Supper, all of the liturgical actions are meant to focus on what Jesus Himself, as the Word of God in human flesh, is doing for us, rather than any attempt on our part to do something to gain His favor. There is no need for any kind of sacrifice at the Lord's Supper. Jesus' sacrifice is complete, never to be repeated (Hebrews 7:27; 9:28). To talk about the church offering a sacrifice, or a priest offering a sacrifice, is to remove the focus from Jesus' once and forever complete sacrifice (Hebrews 7:27; 9:28; 10:10).
Jesus is present among us not seeking to be served, but graciously to serve us with Himself. Martha was busy in doing good things, but her sister, Mary, had chosen something better. Mary simply sat at Jesus' feet to be the receiver of what He wanted to give her and her sister. By listening to Jesus, Mary truly honored Him. Jesus is God's Word to us (John 1:14), the very fountain of divine grace. Blessed are we when we flood our eyes, ears, and hearts with God's Incarnate Word (Luke 11:28).
The Greater Feast Yet to Come
Question: The Church, in its liturgy, often says that the Lord's Supper is a "foretaste" of the Final Feast on the Last Day. In what way is our future eternal joy certain because of this most sacred Meal? Read John 6:35, 39-40; 11:25; 14:19 Answer: The resurrected Christ walks with us through our life's journey. Though we do not see Him visibly, He is the true bread that nourishes our lives. We will see Him face to face one day, when we shall live with Him forever.
Dear Heavenly Father we thank You that we have learned through God's Spirit-inspired Word that in the Lord's Supper; Jesus unites us to Himself with His very body and blood. Christ's body and blood have washed away our sin. Now, as our heavenly Food from heaven, He nourishes our faith in Him. We look forward to the day when, through Your grace, His invisible bodily presence in this Meal is replaced with the wonderful sight of seeing Him face to face forever Amen.

The same Jesus, who once walked the shore of the Sea of Galilee, comes in the Lord's Supper to unite us to His very body and blood. Christ gives us Himself and wraps us in His forgiveness. He comes to enable us to show His love in our own small acts of self-giving to those around us (Matthew 28:19; John 13:14-17; 17:21; 1 Corinthians 10:17; Ephesians 5:1-2).

- Randy Shields with Slavik Horpynchuk

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