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Monday, July 18, 2005

Hermann Sasse is the man

This excerpt from Hermann Sasse's "The Lord's Supper in the New Testament" gets me more excited every time I read it:

A Lord's Day without the Lord's Supper is absolutely unthinkable in the New Testament. Without the Eucharist the church would have ceased to be church. It would no longer exist at all. And that goes for the whole New Testament, also for those writings in which the Lord's Supper is not directly mentioned; even there it stands in the background as a fact that belongs to the essence of the church. All this is only clearly understood, however, if all that Jesus Christ is and all that he brought, His whole person and His whole work, is indissolubly connected with the Lord's Supper. That is in fact the case, and no else than Jesus Himself has made the connection.

Therein lies the meaning of the action that we call the institution of the Lord's Supper. It is the last act of Jesus before His death, an act of unfathomable profoundness and immeasurable consequences. In the face of death, which is both the end and the fulfillment of His life's work on earth, Jesus gives His disciples redemption. What until then was only the object of the promise comes true in the moment when the Lord gives them His body and blood. Without the institution of the Lord's Supper the Gospel could be misunderstood as a teaching about redemption and Jesus Himself as the greatest of the prophets of the coming Kingdom. This misunderstanding is now no longer possible. With the Words of Institution the prophetic office of Christ is fulfilled, and his high priestly work begins. From now on wherever this Sacrament is repeated, wherever the Words of Institution resound anew, there redemption is something more than the object of the promise. It is actually given to whoever receives the Sacrament in faith. Under the forms of bread and wine what Christ sacrificed as "High Priest forever" (Heb. 6:20) and as "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29) in the one sacrifice of the cross "for many" is received.