Read: John 14:15-26
Chapters 14 - 17 of the gospel of John record the discourses Jesus had with His disciples at the time when He was in the upper room and at the time when He instituted the Lord’s Supper among them. These chapters therefore also give rich instructions concerning the meaning of the Lord’s Supper.
The Reformers, especially John Calvin, taught the truth that Christ is indeed present with His church in the Lord’s Supper. The church of Rome insisted that Jesus is bodily present in the elements of the Lord’s Supper. According to this teaching, Christ is present only where He is both in His human and divine nature. Even the great Reformer Martin Luther who restored to the church the most glorious and blessed truths of the gospel, was confused in his teaching about the Lord’s Supper. He taught that Jesus is bodily present ‘in’, ‘with’ and ‘under’ the elements of the Lord’s Supper, though in a mysterious and invisible way.
The confusion of Luther with regards to the presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper, caused Luther to defend a teaching that confused the human and divine natures of Christ. We believe that Jesus as the Son of God has both a divine and a human nature after His incarnation. The human nature of Christ is like ours, limited and confined to one place. After the ascension of Jesus Christ, He is now bodily in heaven and no longer on earth. It is therefore wrong to teach that Christ is in any way bodily present with the church when she celebrates the Lord’s Supper. Christ, according to His human nature, cannot be present everywhere on earth where the Lord’s Supper is being celebrated.
Though Christ is now bodily in heaven, according to His divine nature and by His Spirit, He is present with His church. This presence is not limited to the times when the church celebrates the Lord’s Supper. Jesus promised always to be with us even to the end of the world. This is a great comfort for the church while she is still on earth.
The Lord’s Supper in its true meaning is a sign and pledge of the real abiding spiritual presence of Christ with His church. When the Lord’s Supper is celebrated by the church, Christ is present. He is the divine host at the table of the Lord’s Supper. He imparts His heavenly and spiritual blessings to those who partake of the Lord’s Supper by faith.
The Lord’s Supper is not merely an outward memorial feast. The blessed reality of celebrating the Lord’s Supper is the reality of communion and fellowship with Christ. In the celebration of the Supper, we rejoice in the blessings He gives as the living Lord in the midst of His Church.
When we celebrate the Supper, we should think of Christ being both in heaven and on earth. Jesus is in heaven according to His human nature, now as the exalted glorious Lord, and according to His everywhere present divine nature Jesus is now both in heaven and earth. According to His ever present divine nature, He is never absent from us. What a blessed mystery.