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“This is my body…This is my blood” – Jesus Christ

October 27, 2011

I’ve been having an interesting conversation with a Calvinist-ish (my term, not his) friend about whether the Lord’s Supper is Christ’s Body and Blood, or if it represents Christ’s Body and Blood.  My friend says that Jesus meant “This symbolizes my body and blood.”  Now, call me crazy, but when Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity,  says something, I believe it, and Jesus didn’t say anything about “symbolizes”.  I’m struggling to respond with anything more than, “Jesus says it is, so it is,” and maybe that’s all that is necessary.  I found a quotation from the Book of Concord in James Brauer’s Worship, Gottesdienst, Cultus Dei that I think is helpful and sums up what I’m trying to say.  Let me know if you have other thoughts about how to approach this.

Here’s the quote:

All the circumstances of the institution of this Supper testify that these words of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, which are in themselves so simple, clear, plain, firm, and beyond doubting, can and should be understood in no other way than in their usual, proper, commonly accepted meaning.  For since Christ gave this command at the table during supper, there is no doubt that he was speaking about real, natural bread and natural wine and also about oral eating and drinking.  There can be no metaphora (that is, a change in the meaning) of the word “bread,” as if the body of Christ were a spiritual bread or a spiritual meal for the soul.  Christ himself also gives the assurance that this is no metonymia (that is, in a similar manner, no change of meaning) of the word “body” — he was not speaking of a sign of his body, or of a symbol, or of a figurative body, or of the power of his body and its benefits, which he won with the sacrifice of his body.  On the contrary, he was speaking of his true, essential body, which he gave into death for us, and of his true, essential blood, which was poured out for us on the tree of the cross for the forgiveness of sins.

Now there is no more faithful and more reliable interpreter of the words of Jesus Christ than the Lord Christ himself.  He understands his own words and his heart and intention best.  Given his wisdom and intelligence, he best understands how they are to be explained.  Here, in the institution of his last will and testament and this enduring covenant and agreement, he did not use flowery language but rather the most appropriate, simple, unambiguous, and plain words.  He also did so in all articles of faith and in every other institution of the signs of his covenant and grace, or sacraments, such as circumcision, the various sacrifices in the Old Testament, and Holy Baptism.  Moreover, so that there can be absolutely no misunderstanding, he explained this more clearly with the words, “give for you, poured out for you.” He lets his disciples retain the simple, proper understanding of the words, and he commands them to teach all nations and to hold to everything that he commanded them, the apostles.

Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration VII, 48-51

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From → Theology

3 Comments
  1. Jonathan permalink

    Check out The Eucharist in the New Testament by Jerome Kodell, a preview of which is available on Google Books, though not the portion relevant to your predicament. Though written from a very Catholic viewpoint (he’s really big on historical criticism), it makes some very interesting observations. He discusses for a few pages the nature of Jewish meals in the New Testament times and concludes that no Jewish man listening to his rabbi speak such words in such a context would have understood/received them in any way other than absolutely literally.

    • Thanks for the suggestion; it sounds interesting. I also want to check out Sasse’s “This is My Body.” I think it would be helpful.

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