Around 2,000 years ago,
a group of very important people were gathered in an upper room (Mark 14:18, Luke 22:13). Though God had gathered them all together, it was clear that the focus was on one particular person. The time they had spent together was unique. It was filled with preaching and miracles, lynch mobs and suffering. All the while, the central figure made them promises. The first promise was that He himself was a promise (Matthew 1:18, Luke 1:26ff). He was promised to be born a King. As His ministry continued, He promised that those who believed and were baptized would be saved (Mark 16:16). The faith that He promised was from God (Matthew 16:17) and that faith brought life (Matthew 20:28). He healed the sick (Matthew 8:28ff), raised the dead (Matthew 9:18ff) and corrected the erring (John 5:39ff). All the things He did were part of His Father’s plan (John 3:16). Eventually the day came when He promised that the Good News He brought would cause people to hate Him (John 7:7), mock Him, scorn Him and eventually crucify Him (Matthew 20:19). As horrible as this sounded, it was a good promise. As horrible as it sounded, it was a real promise from God Himself that He would rise from the dead (Matthew 17:23).
This brings us back to that upper room. Not only were they gathered around bread and wine for eating and drinking (Matthew 26:17), they were gathered for another promise. Like all of the promises made by this person, the promise on the night when He was betrayed, was good and real. When He spoke the promise, His voice was as clear as His intentions. He was giving His grace to His followers. Like the day these people were promised faith and salvation on account of water and His Word, the promise of this night came with the common and the Supernatural. Tonight, the elements were different than Baptism. Tonight they were the bread and the wine used in the Passover feast. The Passover (Exodus 12) was a promise in and of itself for those people so many years before. It was a promise of deliverance from their bondage to Egypt. Death would come to the firstborn of all who did not have the blood protecting them. Tonight was different. It was not just eating and drinking to celebrate something that happened a long time ago to people now dead… tonight was different. God Himself, who made the Passover was now bringing His grace to His people once again. This time it wasn’t only the “here and now” people, but for all people who believed.
The bread was unleavened. Why? In their haste to leave Egypt, the Israelites had to take their bread with them while it was still flat. So what was in the cup? The Passover meal had wine. Jesus continued with using wine. We know this because the Greek New testament word is οινοs (oi-nos) and in the Old Testament it is “yayin” which are the words for wine (fermented, alcoholic drink made from grapes). There can be no misunderstanding on this because there is also a word for regular grape juice. In Greek, the word is “trux” (unfermented grape juice) and it is never used once in the Bible.
In the Lord’s Supper, we are sometimes faced with people who have trouble consuming wine because of issues of allergies or addictions. For those who have gluten allergies, our Church has always allowed for making bread from grains that do not contain that allergen. For people with alcohol troubles, the church throughout history has answered this in two ways. First, is called “intinction”. This is when the person taking Communion dips the wafer in the cup. The other method is when the wine is mixed (at about 10:1) with water. It is important to remember that the AMOUNT of bread and wine is not the key issue. The key issue is that the elements prescribed by Jesus are present. When churches like Baptists and other protestants use things like grape juice, not only do they not believe in the true presence of Christ, even if they did, the promise is associated with alcoholic wine (“oinos”) there is no promise associated with grape juice (“trux”). If we were to use an element that is not prescribed by Jesus, we have no promise associated with it and therefore no confidence in it.
When we read “do this in remembrance of me”, we are not just repeating some act for people long-since dead. When we remember Christ in His Sacrament, we are confessing that His word is still good and His promises are still for you and for me when He says “This [bread] IS my body.” And “This cup [of wine] IS my blood”. As certainly as His promises are literal and not figurative, we may trust His Word is literal and not figurative when he gives us His true body and blood in EVERY real way in the bread and wine.