“And the Word became flesh. . . . [Jesus said] My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in Him.” John 1:14; 6:55-56)
The Eternal Son took on human nature, but more than that, took on flesh, dilapidated human nature, so that He could restore it. He entered fully into the world of sin and death so that He could bring life and righteousness. Light entered the darkness so that darkness could be turned to light.
And now Jesus tells us that this flesh that He took on has become food, food that gives life, food that binds Him to us and us to Him. The bread on this table is not another incarnation of Jesus. It would be a sin, and a grievous one, if we were to bow down and worship this bread in the way the wise men bowed down to worship the infant Jesus. But through this bread we do feed on Jesus, the living and life-giving Incarnate Son of God.
Jesus is the bread that came down from heaven: He who eats and drinks of Jesus has eternal life, and Jesus will raise you up on the last day.
—Peter Leithart (blogpost)
“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (John 1:14)
God doesn’t need the incarnation any more than He needs the world. He would be the same infinitely joyful, infinitely lively and infinitely satisfied God if we had never existed and if Jesus had never been born.
God doesn’t need the incarnation, but the incarnation is not alien to God. God is boundlessly good, with a goodness that is infinite love. He is a ring of self-giving love from Father to Spirit to Son to Spirit to Father. Philanthropy—love for humans—comes naturally to the Triune God, the fitting expression of the goodness God is.
His Triune goodness is displayed in His willingness to become flesh and “mingle” with us (Nyssa). . . . Our good is to mingle with Him.
—Peter Leithart (blog post)
In Revelation, after harlot Jerusalem falls, angels issue two suppers: One is an invitation to the birds of the heavens to eat the flesh of kings and the flesh of commanders and the flesh of mighty men and the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them and the flesh of all men, both free men and slaves. The other is the invitation to the saints to the marriage supper of the Lamb. The two meals are inseparable, and they point to the two alternative destinies for human beings: We are either eaten and consumed in the wrath of God, or we are invited to consume bread and wine at the marriage supper of the Lamb.
We should not think of the Eucharist not so much as Christmas—as if the Son were born again in bread—but instead think about it instead in terms of Advent. This table marks a triple Advent: It celebrates the past coming of the Lord; it is the coming of the Lord; and it looks ahead to the coming of the Lord. We commemorate the life, death and resurrection of Jesus; we feed on Him by the Spirit; we proclaim the Lord’s death until He come.
When we view it as an Advent meal, we see that this Supper is about Jesus’ absence as well as His presence; it’s about the future as well as the present. It is a present feast, a feast we celebrate because the Lord has come. But it is not yet a full banquet, because the Lord is still to come.
One of the great, and often ignored, contributions of the Reformation was to return worship to the people. Somehow, many Protestants have got the idea that prayer books, with written prayers, responsive readings, creeds and the like are Roman Catholic and medieval. Nothing could be further from the truth. Prayer books were a product of the Reformation and they were written so that the congregation could participate fully in the act of worship.
—Peter Leithart, “Transforming Worship” Foundations 38 (Spring ’97):30
It is equally a fundamental truth of Scripture that we are how we worship. The kind of worship the church engages in shapes the kind of community she becomes and forms the character of individuals who make up the community. This was one of the great insights of the Reformation, for the Reformers were not contesting outright idolatry but wrong worship of the true God. They were struggling not about who was worshipped, for all agreed on that question; they gave their lives to a struggle about how Christians are to worship.
Worship, the Reformers insisted, had to be pure in order to be pleasing to God, and by “pure” worship they meant, first, worship that conformed to Scripture and, second, worship that arose from a genuine devotion to the Lord. [i.e., “worship in spirit and truth,” John 4:23-24]
—Peter Leithart, “Transforming Worship,” Foundations 38 (Spring ’97):27
With the current situation of the American church in mind, we can say the following: frequent eating and drinking at the Lord’s table will inoculate the church against the Gnosticism of modern Christianity (not to mention trendy spiritualisms) that would reduce religion to a private, inner, purely “spiritual” experience; a church whose central religious rite includes baked goods is being trained in proper dominion over creation and will refuse resurgent nature worship in both its religious and political guises; a church that celebrates a feast of wine is being formed into a joyful community that contests the equation of Christian seriousness with prudishness; a church that celebrates the communal meal is bound into one body and will resist the corrosive individualism of modern culture that has too often invaded the church; a church that shares bread at the Lord’s table is learning the virtues of generosity and humility; a church that proclaims the Lord’s sacrificial death in the Supper is exercising itself in self-sacrifice and becoming immune to the lure of self-fulfillment. Not automatically, but in the context of biblical teaching and a robust community life, the skills and virtues practiced at the Lord’s table will spill over to fill the whole church with a eucharistic ethos. In short, the Supper exercises the church in the protocols of life in the presence of God.
—Peter J. Leithart, “The Way Things Really Ought to Be: Eucharist, Eschatology and Culture” Westminster Theological Journal 59 (1997):176