Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Wednesday, January 18, 2017
Explaining the Lord’s Supper
What is the Lord’s Supper and why do we believe what we believe which is that we are eating Christ’s body and blood in, with and under the bread and wine? In order to understand the Lord’s Supper and its Sacramental value we must first look at what Jesus was doing when He gave us the Lord’s Supper. We must go back to the original Sacrament which is the Passover meal.
Matthew, as well as Mark and Luke, remind us that Jesus was celebrating the Jewish Passover meal with His disciples (Apostles) for the last time when from this meal He gives us a new meal, the Lord’s Supper. “17Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, ‘Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?’ 18He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and say to him, “The Teacher says, My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.”’ 19And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover” (Matthew 26:17-19).
So, let us go back and understand the Passover so we might understand what Jesus is giving us in the Lord’s Supper. In the Passover the Children of Israel were given specific instruction concerning what they were to do when the Lord would strike Egypt with the last plague, the killing of the firstborn of Egypt, so they would be protected when the angel of death passed over Egypt. They were to select a lamb, an unblemished lamb as pure as they could find, and they were to slaughter the lamb, sacrifice it. They were to take some of the blood of the lamb and paint it on the door post and lintel of the door, in essence marking the door with the up and down and left to right sign of the cross. This marking of the door is what the angel of death would see and pass over that house not killing the first born. They were to roast the lamb and eat it. In other words they were to eat the sacrifice so that it became a part of them.
The ceremonial law which would be given as Israel wandered through the wilderness dictated many sacrifices for the Israelites all of which pointed to the One ultimate sacrifice of Christ on the cross. As a part of many of these sacrifices the one offering the sacrifice was to eat of the sacrifice, again, thus participating in the sacrifice so it became a part of them.
In order to help us to make a good, right and salutary connection we must also remember that as John the Baptist came as a way preparer for the Messiah, He spoke of Jesus. In the Gospel of John we read, “The next day [John] saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’” (John 1:29). Notice that John called Jesus the Lamb of God. Also remember that the sacrifice of the Passover was the Lamb which was eaten and became a part of the people.
Now, on the night in which He was betrayed, on Maundy Thursday, Jesus celebrated this Passover with His disciples. “26Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’ 27And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you, 28for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom’” (Matthew 26:26-29).
So, as Jesus was celebrating the Passover meal with His disciples, at one point in the meal He took bread, blessed it and gave it to His disciples. With the bread in His hand He told them to take and eat the bread which was His body. Because Jesus was the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, it was important that as He offered Himself as the sacrifice for the sins of the world, that those who participate in the benefit of His sacrifice also eat of the sacrifice; thus, Jesus declares that the bread being eaten actually is His body. Jesus does not say the bread represents nor is changed into, but is actually His body.
After He distributed His body/bread to His disciples, He then took the third of four cups of the Passover, the cup of Redemption, blessed it and passed it around for His disciples to drink with the words, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” Notice here again, Jesus did not say the cup of wine symbolized or changed into, but was His blood. And here again, as they drank His blood/wine it became a part of them. Thus, as those who eat Jesus’ body and drink Jesus’ blood, the body and blood of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, they are participating in Jesus so He becomes a part of them. As He is a part of those eating and drinking, His life becomes theirs, His suffering and death become theirs, and His resurrection and eternal life become theirs.
The eating and drinking of Jesus’ body and blood and recognizing this eating and drinking of His body and blood in the Sacrament are so important that Paul tells us, “23For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ 25In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ 26For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. 27Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. 28Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 31But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. 32But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world” (1 Cor. 11:23-32).
To not recognize this Lord’s Supper as the Sacrament it is and that one is actually eating and drinking the body and blood of Jesus therefor participating in Him, brings judgement upon oneself. Notice also, that Jesus never explains how this is happening, our eating and drinking His body and blood (as we explain) in, with and under the bread and wine. He simply tells us this is what we are doing; thus, we eat and drink in faith believing the Word of Jesus whose Word does what it says and gives the gifts He says it gives. And we rejoice and say, “Amen,” God is faithful. “Amen,” gift given, our being given to, thanks be to God and to Him be the glory.