It is one thing to think about the reason for the Supper. Perhaps another side of that coin is to ask what happens when we are partaking of it? Or another way of phrasing the question is “What benefit do we receive from the Supper?” I am thinking of focussing on a practical question. One that wants to see the beyond the promise extended to seeing the promise fulfilled.
The answer begins with the exhortation to examine ourselves. This is an exercise that causes the conscience to be pricked by the law, as it is reminded of all short comings and offenses. This is when we are brought to a place to understand, hopefully, that there is no righteousness in us apart from Christ. It is this self examination, when illumined by the Holy Spirit, that we see the reality of our sinful nature, our unfaithfulness to God, and that we are underserving of his blessings. In our self examination there is no additional voice needed to bring condemnation, because the Law is more than adequate. The Law reminds us of the implication of our failure; the wrath of God which is warmed against us and our sin. Our self examination reminds us of our mortality. That none of will escape death and the impending judgment. It brings to our mind, the awareness of our frailty in the presence of an awesome, holy, and just God.
Left in this state of self reflection, we would be in a constant torment. No wonder we are timid before God’s law. Who wants to see their ugliness, their deformities, and imperfections? No one. It is the vain person who loves to see their own reflection and so in our self examination we long for perfections that we can adore as our own. Here is the place where the heart finds rescue rather than despair. It is only after reflecting on the depths of our inadequacies, that we find the treasure of the Gospel of Christ. It is the deep deep water that drowns our pride, and the Gospel is the air that fills our lungs as they are bursting from the pressure of death surrounding them. This is the mercy of God.
We see here that there is no hope in ourselves. We see that frailty and temporal life in the flesh is not eternal. Here we find the Supper as a great aid for our body. Here the Supper is given to us in the moment of our self examination. So that in light of our wicked deeds a person can see the crucified Lord, the body given for us, the blood shed for us. In the Supper we see the one who was pierced for our transgressions, who was bruised for our iniquities. It is in the Supper, instituted by the Son of God, that we see how the guilt was taken away. In the Supper we see the glory, purity, and perfection given to us by faith. We could be considered vain, but we are not admiring a righteousness that we have earned, but admiring a great gift that we have received. A wonderful new life, grounded in the righteousness of Christ, that is ours by faith.
So now we see how the Supper invites us to the promises of the Gospel. It is the Gospel presented before our eyes. It speaks to our eyes of the Son of God and his death on the Cross at the hands of sinners. It testifies that Death could have no hold over him. The Supper encourages the flock of the Shepherd, that though he is in heaven and they are on earth, they are not forgotten. That we share in his sufferings and soon we will share in his glory. We are partakers now in the death of Christ, as he bore our sin, as our old man died on the Cross. We are also partakers in the life of Christ, as he rose for our justification, he has given us his Spirit who breathes new life in the resurrection in us.
The Supper contains all the spiritual graces for the Christian. It is God’s blessings for his people while they are on earth on display in sign form. So then, we understand properly that the Supper is a presentation through which we may see ourselves rightly and be rescued from condemnation by the display of the love of Christ for us. It is a reminder of God’s faithfulness that he would redeem a people and glorify the Son. A reminder that he gave the Son to die and be raised again, so that all of those who would believe, would have life everlasting. And it is a foretaste that for all of those who eagerly await, there will be a life of eating and drinking with God in heaven forever.