Q&R: If not penal substitution, why celebrate the Eucharist? – Bradley Jersak


Once one has left a penal substitutionary understanding of the Cross behind, how do you understand the meaning of the Lord’s Supper?


The Eucharist (which means “thanksgiving”) is a beautiful gift whereby I join the great banquet, one of Jesus’ favorite images for the Kingdom of God. This is the Passover meal that commemorates our exodus out of slavery and death passes over us. This is the table of Psalm 23 that he spreads before us when the Good Shepherd anoints us with oil and presents us with his overflowing cup. This is the celebratory banquet the Father prepares for every prodigal who comes home. This is a foretaste of the wedding feast of the Lamb we’ll all experience at the end of days.

Second, I receive the body and blood of Christ as the fruit of the Tree of Life, which is the Cross of Christ. The veil to the holy of holies has been torn from top to bottom, reopening the paradise of God. We now have access to the Tree that grants eternal life, and his name is Jesus.

Finally, when I receive the Lord’s Supper, I remember that the Cross is NOT a revelation of the wrath of God or the punishment of the Father’s Son. Rather, we remember that the Cross is God’s self-disclosure as self-giving, radically forgiving love. It is the way of LOVE in which he died that we see that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who has conquered darkness, dread, and death. Communion then is not about rehashing penal substitutionary theory but our thanksgiving participation in God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness. So we receive it with joy and gratitude.

Picture of Brad Jersak

Brad Jersak

Bradley Jersak is an author and teacher based in Abbotsford, BC. He serves as a reader and monastery preacher at All Saints of North America Orthodox Monastery. Read More