The Lord’s Supper is the Gospel. Jesus cut the meal loose from the Jewish Passover festival, which was honored according to certain calendar and legal requirements. Instead, His Church gathers to feast on His body and blood as gift. If someone comes to the Lord’s table full of self-confidence or self-doubt we exhort them, this Supper is not a sacrament, a holy thing, because you are worthy or unworthy. God’s Word of promise in, with, and under the bread and wine make it His true body and blood, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.
The promise, “which requires all hearts believe,” as Martin Luther wrote, is the true power and benefit of the Lord’s Supper. Everything depends on the “for you,” of God’s promise. This is where the Gospel action is! “This is my body, given FOR YOU.” “This is my blood, shed FOR YOU for the forgiveness of sins.” When a sinner bites down on these words he swallows the medicine of immortality.
At the same time, against this promise crashes a thousand attacks. Our old man in Adam, the world, and the devil will not let God’s good news rest. As Luther wrote, dangers and devils never rest, “the world and the flesh do not take a break either. Sins of a hundred thousand different kinds and death, position themselves all around you. All manner of stones, water, and fire are full of death every moment. Each and every bite, drink, path, and footstep are a danger to your life. Wife, child, and you yourself stand in the danger of death, with all manner of misdirections and sins, every moment. Where shall we turn? To Christ.” [AE 38:97-137]
Just as God’s promise in the Sacrament is real so are the assaults against it. This is the eschatological force of the Sacrament. The Lord’s Supper is “food for the soul, which nourishes and strengthens the new man.” Yet, it is, Luther wrote, “Food that nourishes not the body, but the new man.” [WA 30.1:24.36] Thus, at the table of the Lord the old man in Adam grapples with the new man in Christ. Flesh writhes against spirit. Satan’s struggles to escape out from under God’s heal.
In the Sacrament of the Altar the Holy Spirit, as He has done by Baptism, and through the mouth of His preacher, annihilates the old sinner. He does this to kill the old man in Adam so He can conform the new man to the image of Christ, his Lord. The same God-man who on the night in which He was betrayed took bread … The same God-man who overcame death, sin, and hell … He is the only One who can rescue the old Adam from them to bring him all the way into the eschaton.
The Lord’s Supper strengthens faith in those who struggle against sin, death, and the devil. It also enflames their love for each other, and for those who are not yet a part of their communion. In the Supper, God’s promise of salvation, and righteousness, and life are served to hopeful sinners. The Lord’s Supper then is Gospel we can wrap our lips around and savor. Not only that, through it our Lord stirs us up to receive the gift as blessing, then give ourselves in service to each other as Christ gave Himself up to sin, death, and hell.
Therefore, to omit the Lord’s Supper from any worship of God is misguided. To cut out the Lord’s Supper because, “It makes visitors feel excluded,” or, “We don’t want to make it seem like communion is more important than faith,” or, “It obstructs the growth of our church,” or, “We don’t want people to feel judged because they can’t come up with us,” is to say, in sum, “We don’t know the Gospel.”
Day and night we all fight against our sinful flesh, the unbelieving world, deathly works, hellish ideas, and the devil. However, in the Supper victory over all these things is given into our mouths to eat and drink. Christ, our “LORD Sabaoth,” and “God of the army on the march or army host,” is always engaged in battle and takes up a position on the battlefield in us. This food is good news, Gospel, for this reason. It is “actually the wages and provision, so that He can pay and feed His army and battlefield people, [that] it finally prevails and holds the field with Him. Oh, it is excellent wages, precious red gold and pure white silver, elegant, beautiful bread and good, sweet wine, and filled and richly plentiful of everything, so that it is most pleasant to be in the army on the march.” [AE 38:97-137] It is Jesus’ body and blood, given for the forgiveness of sins. It is the Gospel!