In pondering our communion with Christ at the Table, there is a temptation to interpret the Lord’s Supper as simply communion with nothing more than a spiritual Christ. In truth, our communion at the Lord’s Table is with the incarnate Christ. It is with the whole person of Christ, who was born in Bethlehem, who ministered in Galilee, who was crucified and raised in Jerusalem, and who is now seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven, with whom we have fellowship. It is the whole person of Christ who is the one signified in the sacrament. It is He and no other who nourishes us unto eternal life. That which is signified in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is none other than Christ, the bread of life, as we find it in John 6.
In participating in the Supper, we deepen our union with the incarnate Christ. Being united to Christ, then, we are entitled to all the benefits of Christ’s redemptive work which flow by virtue of His truly human and truly divine natures. In receiving the ordinary bread and wine at the Table, we receive the body and blood of Christ as the substance of the sacrament. From His substance, we receive the fruits of the sacraments, which are the virtue of His life, His passion, and His sacrifice. These fruits are primarily expressed in our growth in faith, deepened assurance, and increase in holiness.
The mystery of the Lord’s Supper raises a common question: how can ordinary bread and wine accomplish this? Where does that power come from? According to the words of institution for the Supper, the ordinary bread and wine used at the sacred meal is given its power by Christ and it is Christ’s purpose to use these ordinary elements to signify, to represent, and to deliver His body and blood. Christ exercises this power through appointed ministers who set these elements apart for the sacred purpose of feeding the soul. For this reason, it is not only the bread and wine itself which are signs, but the actions of the minister as well. When the minister breaks the bread and pours the wine in front of the congregation, the minister is signifying the sacrificial death of Christ for us. In the same way the giving of the bread and wine to us and the eating of the bread and drinking of the wine show us that the death of Christ is for our salvation. Thus,
… as surely as I see with my eyes the bread of the Lord broken for me and the cup shared with me, so surely his body was offered and broken for me and his blood poured out for me on the cross. Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 75
When we hear the words “Take, eat, this is my body”, we should understand that this expression is sacramental. This means when we eat of the bread and drink of the wine, our souls feed upon the body and blood of Christ. Simply put, this eating and drinking of the soul is the application of Christ to the soul. It is believing that Christ has shed his blood for me and has paid the ransom for my redemption. Hence,
… as surely as I receive from the hand of the one who serves, and taste with my mouth the bread and cup of the Lord, given me as sure signs of Christ’s body and blood, so surely he nourishes and refreshes my soul for eternal life with his crucified body and poured-out blood. Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 75
Truly, this eating of Christ’s body and drinking of Christ’s blood is to experience the healing presence of Christ that makes us alive. We conclude with the words of Robert Bruce,
As the soul quickens the body, so He quickens the soul, not with an earthly or temporal life, but with the life which He lives in heaven… He works within you a spiritual feeling that in your own heart and conscience you may find the effect of His Word. Thus, by the conjunction of Christ with my soul, I get a thousand times a greater benefit than the body does by the soul, for the body by the presence of the soul gets only an earthly and temporal life, subject to continual misery, but by the presence of Christ in my soul, I see a blessed life, I feel a blessed life, and that life daily increases in me more and more.