A Stronger Union
“Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him” (vv. 54–56).- John 6:41–59
Yesterday, we saw the indispensable role of faith in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. To partake of Christ requires us to believe that Jesus offered Himself for us (John 6:35–40), and this is true not only in the Christian life in general, but also when we come to the Lord’s Table. If our hunger and thirst would be satisfied, we must believe in our Redeemer.
Question and answer 76 of the Heidelberg Catechism go on to explain that eating Christ’s body and drinking His blood in the Lord’s Supper involve more than just trusting in Jesus. The Holy Spirit grants us faith, and we exercise that faith (Eph. 2:8–9), but in the sacrament, the catechism says, the Spirit unites us “more and more to Christ’s blessed body.” Receiving the Lord’s Supper in faith is a means by which our union with Christ is strengthened. The Lord’s Supper is not the instrument of justification— it is not the means by which we lay hold of the perfect righteousness of Christ and are united to the Savior. That instrument is faith alone (Gal. 2:15–16). But once we are united to Jesus, the Lord’s Supper is an instrument by which our union with God’s Son becomes stronger and more vital.
The Heidelberg Catechism uses today’s passage to prove this assertion. Note the striking language of John 6:41–59. Obviously, Jesus is not advocating cannibalism. Yet we must not empty His words of their force. He is communicating this vital truth: we need the entire Christ as much as, even more than, we need to eat. In other words, our life is impossible without Him. Moreover, in calling attention to His flesh and blood, Jesus makes it clear that we need Him in His humanity as well as His deity. By faith alone, we are united to the entire person of Jesus. In the Lord’s Supper we feed on the whole Christ, and we are reminded that we depend on His perfect humanity as much as we rely on His perfect deity. Communing with our Savior at His table is a special way for us to direct our adoration and love toward Him in His humanity, which was crushed for our sake. At His table, by His Spirit, we meet Him in the flesh. We are lifted to the heavens so that we may commune with the whole Savior, the One who sits at the Father’s right hand and intercedes for us (Heb. 7:25–26). There we meet with Him and remember anew that He has bought us with His own blood.
We are not advocating the Roman Catholic view of transubstantiation or the Lutheran view of consubstantiation when we affirm the true presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper. As we will see, we simply mean that we meet with the whole Christ at His table. We do mean that when we meet with Him at His table, we are feeding on Him in His humanity and His deity by faith and that in so doing our union with Him grows stronger and more vital.
Passages for Further Study