Harmony of the Gospels

Tom Lowe



(22)Institution of the Lord’s Supper
Matthew 26:26-29, Mark 14:22-25 (Focal Passage), Luke 22:17-20

Location: Upper Room
Date: Thursday of Jesus’ Final Week

1 Corinthians 11:23-34

 23For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: 24And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. 25After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. 26For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come. 27Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. 29For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. 30For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. 31For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. 32But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. 33Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another. 34And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation. And the rest will I set in order when I come.

It meant a lot to Jesus to spend those hours with His disciples. He loved them, and their presence encouraged Him. He took the cup and the bread of the Passover and transformed them into memorials of His own blood and body, for He wanted the disciples to remember Him.

Definition: LORD’S SUPPER — the ritualistic practice, usually during a worship service, in which Christians partake of bread and wine (or grape juice) with the purpose of remembering Christ, receiving strength from Him, and rededicating themselves to His cause. It is one of two sacraments or ordinances instituted by Christ to be observed by His church until He returns.

And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said, Take, eat: this is my body. (Mark 14:22)
And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. (Matthew 26:26)
And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. (Luke 22:19)

The Passover feast opened with a prayer of thanksgiving, followed by the drinking of the first of 4 cups of wine.  (Some argue that the wine was deluded with 2/3 water and was not intoxicating.) Next they ate the bitter herbs and sang Psalms 113-114.  Then they drank the second cup of wine and began eating the lamb and the unleavened bread.  After drinking the third cup of wine, they sang Psalms 115-118; then the fourth cup was passed among them.  It is likely that between the third and fourth cups of wine, Jesus instituted the Supper.  Note: the bread and the wine were common, not only at Passover meals but also at every meal in that culture.

After observing His last Passover, the Savior instituted what we know as the Lord’s Supper. The essential elements—bread (an unleavened flat cake) and wine—were already on the table as part of the Passover meal; Jesus clothed them with new meaning. First He took bread, blessed and broke it.  The broken bread pictured His body given for the sins of the world.  As He gave it to the disciples He said, “Take, eat, this is My body.” Since His body had not yet been given on the cross, it is clear that He was speaking figuratively, using the bread to symbolize His body.

The Passover pointed ahead to the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world (John 1:29).  The Lord’s Supper announces that this great work has been accomplished. The Lord’s Supper is beautifully outlined in the three words: (1) He took—humanity upon Himself; (2) He broke—He was about to be broken on the cross; (3) He gave —He gave Himself for us. The term  “Lord’s Supper” is used only in 1 Corinthians 11:20[1]. The practice is also known as Communion (from  1 Cor. 10:16[2]), the Lord’s Table (from  1 Cor. 10:21[3]), and the Eucharist (from the Greek word for “giving thanks”;  Luke 22:17, 19[4]).

Jesus took bread. The head of the Jewish household was accustomed to doing this during the Passover feast. Jesus gave a completely new significance to the action.

This is my body.  If the words of the Lord had intended to convey a transformation of the bread into His body they would have read “This has become my body.” During the Passover feast the Jewish householder took bread in his hand and said, “This is the bread of affliction which our fathers ate in the land of Egypt,” meaning, of course, that the one represented the other. By His words the Lord changed the whole significance and emphasis of the feast from looking back to the typical redemption from Egypt to faith in the redemption from sin accomplished by His death. For a clear example of the use of the word “is” as “represents” see  Galatians 4:25[5]. The bread and wine were only outward symbols of our Lord’s death and a reminder to us of the cost of our redemption during our Lord’s absence. Nothing in the Gospels indicates that these were to be viewed as a means of grace, or that they were physically necessary for one’s salvation. “This is my body” was spoken symbolically, as when He called Himself the Door or the Vine.

Jesus was physically present as he spoke these words, so the disciples did not literally eat his body or drink his blood, something abhorrent to the Jews anyway (Leviticus 7:26-27[6]). This shows the impropriety of the Roman Catholic view of the Eucharist (trancesubstantiation), that the bread and wine are changed into Christ’s body and blood.

There are four opinions concerning the true meaning of the Lords Supper. Many of Jesus’ actions and words at the Last Supper, such as the breaking and distributing of the bread, were part of the prescribed Passover ritual. But when Jesus said, “This is My body” and “This is My blood” while distributing the bread and the cup, He did something totally new. These words, which were intended for our blessing, have been the focus of sharp disagreement among Christians for centuries. In what sense are the bread and wine Christ’s body and blood? What should the Lord’s Supper mean to us? The answers to these questions are often grouped into four categories, although there are variations within these four broad views.

The Transubstantiation View. The first view is that of the Roman Catholic Church. This view holds that the bread and wine become the actual body and blood of Christ when the words of institution are spoken by the priest. This doctrine, known as transubstantiation, holds that while the physical properties (taste, appearance, etc.) of the bread and wine do not change, the inner reality of these elements undergoes a spiritual change. While this view may help to foster a serious attitude toward the Eucharist, it fails to grasp the figurative nature of Jesus’ language. Jesus could not have been holding His actual body and blood in His hands. He probably meant, “This bread represents My body” and “This wine represents My blood.” Jesus often used figurative language, just as a person does today when showing someone a photograph and saying, “This is my father.”

The Consubstantiation View. The second viewpoint, developed by Martin Luther, is that Christ’s body and blood are truly present “in, with, and under” the bread and wine. The elements do not actually change into Christ’s body and blood. But in the same way that heat is present in a piece of hot iron, so Christ is present in the elements. The Lutheran position is often called consubstantiation. This position can encourage the recipient of the Eucharist with the realization that Christ is actually present at the Supper. But it also misses the figurative use of Jesus’ words. It also may tend to draw more attention to the bread and wine than to Christ Himself.

The Symbolic View. The third position, known as the symbolic or memorial view, is derived from the teachings of the Swiss reformer, Ulrich Zwingli. Although his teaching is not completely clear, he basically held that the bread and wine were only symbols of the sacrificed body and blood of Christ. He taught that the Lord’s Supper is primarily a memorial ceremony of Christ’s finished work, but that it is also to be an occasion when God’s people pledge their unity with one another and their loyalty to Christ. This is the viewpoint held by most Baptist and independent churches. Being a Baptist, this is the position that I hold. All the other views read into Christ’s words more than what He actually said—Jesus said, “This do in remembrance of me;” He did not say that the believer would receive anything from the observance.

The Dynamic View. Finally, there is the view of John Calvin and the Reformed and Presbyterian churches that follow his teachings. Known as the dynamic or spiritual presence view, it stands somewhere between the positions of Luther and Zwingli. Calvin agreed with Zwingli that the bread and wine are to be understood symbolically. Christ is not physically present in the elements, because His risen, glorified body is in heaven. Still, He is dynamically and spiritually present in the Lord’s Supper through the Holy Spirit. In the worship service (but not at any one precise moment), when the Word of God is proclaimed and the Lord’s Supper is received, the glorified Christ actually gives spiritual nourishment from His own glorified body to those who receive it. As bread nourishes the physical body, so Christ’s glorified body enlivens the soul. Because of the organic union between Christ, the risen Head, and the members of His body, the church, this nourishment is conveyed to Christians by the Spirit who dwells in them. Calvin admits that the way the Spirit does this is a genuine mystery. Yet, it is not contrary to reason—just above reason.

Calvin at times places more emphasis on Jesus’ glorified flesh and blood than the Scriptures teach. But his position helps to explain why the Eucharist is so important for the Christian to observe, and why it is such a serious offense to misuse it. His view also corresponds well with those Scriptures that speak of God’s nourishing and empowering work in His people.

Biblical Teachings. In 1 Corinthians 10:16[2], the apostle Paul rebuked the Corinthians for their involvement with idolatry. He referred to the cup as “the communion of the blood of Christ” and the bread as “the communion of the body of Christ.” The Greek word for “communion” has the meaning of “fellowship, participating, and sharing.” From the context it appears that Paul is saying that when Christians partake of the cup and the bread, they are participating in the benefits of Christ’s death (referred to as His blood) and resurrection life (His glorified body). The most important of these benefits are the assurance of sins forgiven (through Christ’s blood) and the assurance of Christ’s presence and power (through His body).

The “one body” (the universal church) in  1 Corinthians 10:17[7] connects with the “body of Christ” in verse 16[2] in the sense that the entire church of Christ is organically related to the living, glorified human body of Christ now in heaven. The “one [loaf of] bread” (v. 17[7]), representing Jesus the “bread of life” ( John 6:35[8]), is eaten by all believers at the Supper, symbolizing their unity and common participation in the one body of Christ. The great discourse of Jesus on the bread of life (see John 6:25–68), while not intended to be a direct theological explanation of the Lord’s Supper, helps to explain how receiving the Eucharist can be one way in which Christians “feed” on the Lord (John 6:55–57[9]). Other important ways are by prayer and the hearing of God’s Word through the Scriptures.

When Christ instituted the Lord’s Supper, Judas had apparently already departed. The bread and wine represented Christ’s broken body and shed blood in a futuristic sense. Today these same symbols commemorate Christ’s body and blood given for us at Calvary. The command is this do in remembrance of me (vs. 19). The frequency of the observance is stated in I Corinthians 11:25 as “this do ye, as oft as ye drink it.” The early church may have observed it quite often (Acts 2:42, 46[10]), but each local church is free to determine the frequency with which it will observe this ordinance.

And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it. (Mark 14:23)
And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; (Matthew 26:27)
And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves: (Luke 22:17)

The cup. Three cups were passed around by the Jewish householder during the Passover meal; the third, which is probably that referred to here was known as “the cup of blessing.”  The cup spoke eloquently of His precious blood which would be shed on the cross of Calvary

And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many. (Mark 14:24)
For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. (Matthew 26:28)
Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you. (Luke 22:20)

He spoke of it as the cup of the New Testament or New Covenant in His blood, which was shed for His own. This means that the new covenant, which He made primarily with the nation of Israel, was ratified by His blood. The complete fulfillment of the New Covenant will take place during the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ on earth, but we as believers enter into the benefits of it at the present time.  Covenant, as it is used here, is not the term used to express an agreement between equal parties.  God alone initiated the terms of the covenant, and man could only accept or reject.

This new Covenant would do what the old covenant sacrifices could not do--take away sins and cleanse the heart and conscience of the believer.  We are not saved from our sins by participating in a religious ceremony, but by trusting Jesus Christ as our savior.  When we celebrate the Lord’s Supper by faith, we have communion with Him (1 Corinthians 10:16, 17[2][7]).  This is not some “magical experience produced by the bread and cup.  It is a spiritual experience that comes through our discerning of Christ and the meaning of the Supper (see 1 Corinthians 11:2–34).

The cup contained the fruit of the vine, which in turn was a symbol of the blood of the new covenant. The new, unconditional covenant of grace would be ratified by His precious blood shed for many for the forgiveness of sins. His blood was sufficient to provide forgiveness for all. But here it was shed for many in that it was only effective in removing the sins of those who believe.

The New Testament, or new covenant, refers back to  Jeremiah 31:31–34[11]. God promised Israel and Judah (the Jews) a new covenant in which He would restore them to their land, forgive their sin, and rule over them. This will be accomplished literally with God’s chosen people, Israel, not with the church. However, the basis for that new covenant was the shed blood of Christ. We, as believers today, participate in the salvation aspects of that new covenant, but not in the other unique benefits promised to Israel.

The New Testament is associated with regeneration (Jeremiah 31:33[11]), for the Mosaic law never provided the way to heaven. “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23).  And note: “Apart from the shedding of blood there is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22; Ephessians1:7); therefore also no covenant, no special relationship of friendship between God and His people.  Reconciliation with God always requires blood, an atoning sacrifice.  And since man himself is unable to render such a sacrifice, a substitutionary offering, accepted by faith, is required ( Galatians 2:20[12]).

Jesus says, “This cup (is) the new covenant of my blood.” But why does He speak of a new covenant?  Do not such passages as  Romans 4:16[13] clearly teach that the old covenant, the one made with Abraham, “the father of us all,” is still in force?  They certainly do.  Nevertheless, there has been a tremendous change, a change so significant that even Jeremiah (31:31[11]), looking into the future, could speak of a new covenant.  That newness consists in this: (a) that for believers in the new dispensation the law is no longer on tables of stone but on their hearts, the Holy Spirit having been poured out into these hearts; and (b) that the covenant is no longer almost exclusively between God and Israel but between God and all believers, regardless of race or nationality (Romans 10:12, 13[14]).

The old covenant given By God to Israel required continual sacrifices for sin.  But Christ death provided a perfect sacrifice, and made possible both justification and regeneration (Hebrews 8:6-13[15]). 

"My Blood of the New Testament" is taken from  Exodus 24:8 with allusions to Jeremiah 31 and  Zechariah 9:11. The covenant in Exodus 24:8[16] was sealed with blood; the blood was not animal blood, but Christ’s own blood, shed for the remission of sins.  The word testament did not mean a covenant, which is an agreement between equals, but a settlement by a great or rich man for the benefit of another. As the most common form of settlement was, and still is, by testament or will, the word came to have this meaning almost exclusively.

Shed For Many For The Remission Of Sins. Here is a clear statement that the death of Jesus was necessary to enable God to forgive sins. It, in fact, made it right or morally justifiable for Him to do so.

It should go without saying that the bread and wine were typical or representative of His body and blood. His body had not yet been given, neither had His blood been shed. Therefore it is absurd to suggest that the symbols were miraculously changed into the realities. The Jewish people were forbidden to eat blood, and the disciples knew therefore that He was not speaking of literal blood, but of that which typified His blood.  Jesus did bless the bread and wine, but the bread remained bread the wine remained wine, and the physical act of receiving the elements did not do anything special to the 11 disciples.

Shed for many.  Christ’s death, while sufficient in itself to provide for the remission of sins for every person, is here regarded as actually effective only for believers
The word "for" means “in behalf of” which indicates a substitutionary death.

Verily I say unto you, I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God. (Mark 14:25)
But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom. (Matthew 26:29)
For I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come. (Luke 22:18)

The Savior reminded His disciples that He would not drink from the fruit of the vine with them again until He returned to earth to reign. Then the wine would have a new significance; it would speak of the joy and blessedness of His Father’s kingdom. With these words, He indirectly informs them that His earthly life is almost over.  Jesus did eat bread, fish, and honey after his resurrection (John 21:9-15[18]).  But there is no record that He drank the fruit of the vine.

Jesus enjoyed the fellowship of those men who had believed His message of the kingdom.  They were the ones who had followed Him, knowing that He was truly the Messiah.  They were the ones who had left everything in order to follow him.  They had been called to a radical form of discipleship.  Jesus announced that this was the last Passover he would eat with them until all that it means would find fulfillment in the kingdom of God.

The question is often raised whether we should use leavened or unleavened bread, fermented or unfermented wine for the Lord’s Supper. There is little doubt that the Lord used unleavened bread and fermented wine (all wine in those days was fermented). Those who argue that leavened bread spoils the representation (leaven is a picture of sin) should realize that the same is true of fermentation. It is a tragedy when we become so occupied with the elements that we fail to see the Lord Himself. Paul emphasized that it is the spiritual meaning of the bread, not the bread itself that counts. “For indeed Christ, our Passover was sacrificed for us. Therefore, let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Cor. 5:7, 8). It is not the leaven in the bread that matters, but the leaven in our lives! 

That day. When He comes again in glory.
Since we must be careful not to come to the Lords table with known sin in our lives, the Supper should also be an occasion for looking within, examining our hearts, and confessing our sins (1 Corinthians 11:27-32[19]).
For us to receive a spiritual blessing from the Supper, it takes more than mere physical participation.  We must also be able to “discern the body” (1 Corinthians 11:29[19]), that is, see the spiritual truths that are inherent in the bread and the cup.  This spiritual discernment comes through the Spirit using the Word.  The Holy Spirit makes all of this real to us as we wait before the Lord at the table.

We may note one more thing.  In these verses we can see again the two things that we have so often seen.  Jesus was sure of two things.  He knew he was to die, and he knew his kingdom would come.  He was certain of the Cross, but he was just as certain of the Glory.  And the reason for the two certainties is that he was as certain of the love of God as he was of the sin of man, and he knew that in the end that love would conquer that sin

                       ____________________Scripture References_____________________

[1](1 Corinthians 11:20) When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s supper.

[2](1 Corinthians 10:16) The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?

[3](1 Cor. 10:21) Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils

[4](Luke 22:17,19) And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves…And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. 

[5](Galatians 4:25) For this Agar is (represents) mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. 

[6](Leviticus 7:26-27) Moreover ye shall eat no manner of blood, whether it be of fowl or of beast, in any of your dwellings. 27Whatsoever soul it be that eateth any manner of blood, even that soul shall be cut off from his people. 

[7](1 Corinthians 10:17) For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread. 

[8](John 6:35) And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. 

[9](John 6:55-57) For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. 56He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. 57As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. 

[10](Acts 2:42, 46) And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers…46And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, 

[11](Jeremiah 31:31–34) Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: 32Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: 33But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. 

[12](Galatians 2:20) I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

[13](Romans 4:16) Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all, 

[14](Romans 10:12, 13) For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. 13For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

[15](Hebrews 8:6-13) 6But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. 7For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. 8For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: 9Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. 10For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: 11And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. 12For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. 13In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.

[16](Exodus 24:8) And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, 

[17(Zechariah 9:11) As for thee also, by the blood of thy covenant I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water. 

[18](John 21:9-15) 9As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread. 10Jesus saith unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now caught. 11Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken. 12Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine. And none of the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord. 13Jesus then cometh, and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish likewise. 14This is now the third time that Jesus shewed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead. 15So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.

[19](1 Corinthians 11:27-32) 27Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. 29For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. 30For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. 31For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. 32But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.

Do you have any questions or comments?

 One Jewish tradition tells of the time when their ancestors walked through the Red Sea on dry ground. After safely arriving on the other side, the water crashed down on the Egyptian army. As all of Pharaoh’s men perished, the tradition congers up a picture of heaven where the angels are rejoicing over the miraculous deliverance. But God silenced the heavenly hosts and said, “My creatures are drowning and you are praising me?!” God’s love is so powerful and sure, that even the death of those who oppose him breaks his heart.

The Ten Commandments, Schlessinger & Vogel, 1998, p. 183

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