Jesus said, “Take, eat; this is my body” and “this is my blood” in Matthew 26:26-28. What does it mean? Is that really Jesus’ body? Is that really Jesus blood? There are three positions put forth to answer those questions.
First, some have said that this means Jesus is actually physically there. This doctrine is called transubstantiation and is held by Roman Catholics. Others have said that Jesus is actually there around, under, above, and in the bread. This is the view put forth by Martin Luther. Finally, the bread and fruit of the vine is understood to be a memorial.
The Catholic and Lutheran views make many of the same mistakes. They fail to understand Jesus’ figurative language in the institution of the Lord’s Supper. For example, Jesus said “I am the door,” but no one believes that Jesus actually became or was a door. They also misunderstand the relationship of Jesus’ divine and human natures. Jesus is fully divine (John 1:1) and fully man (Jn. 1:14). The Catholic and Lutheran views believe the divine nature overwhelmed the human nature rather than maintaining a distinction between the natures in the one person of Jesus.
The bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper must be recognized as symbolically representing the body of blood of Jesus. This understanding best fits with the Scripture. Jesus, in his resurrected and glorified body, is in Heaven by the Father’s side. He is there victoriously interceding for us.
As we eat the Lord’s Supper every Sunday, we are confronted with the holiness of Christ and our own sinfulness. How marvelous it is to know that Jesus, who bore our sin in his body on the tree, is in Heaven mediating for us even as we are forced to consider our sinfulness. Praise God.