May 7, 2020 Evening Verse Of The Day

The First Communion

And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood. (22:19–20)

It is impossible to overstate the monumental change these few simple phrases introduce. Christ’s words signaled the end of the Old Covenant, with its social, ceremonial, dietary, and Sabbath laws, and installed the New Covenant. With these words, Jesus marked the end of all the rituals and sacrifices, the priesthood, the holy place, and the Holy of Holies, the curtain of which God would soon split from top to bottom, throwing it wide open (Mark 15:38). All that the Old Covenant symbolism pointed toward would be fulfilled in the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus’ taking of the bread and giving thanks took place after the singing of the first part of the Hallel (Pss. 113, 114), followed by the second cup of wine, and the explanation of the meaning of Passover, while they were eating the main meal (Matt. 26:26).

Having taken the bread, Jesus then broke it and gave it to them. The bread was no longer the Passover “bread of affliction” (Deut. 16:3), nor was the breaking of the loaf a figure of Christ’s death, since none of His bones were broken (John 19:36; cf. Ex. 12:46). The disciples’ all partaking of the same loaf symbolized the unity of the body of Christ.

The Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation perverts the intent of Jesus’ reference to the bread as My body. According to that doctrine, during the mass the substance (though not the outward appearance) of the bread and wine are changed into the actual body and blood of Christ. The Lutheran notion of spiritual presence (known as consubstantiation) is also an errant view of our Lord’s words. According to that view

the molecules [of the bread and wine] are not changed into flesh and blood; they remain bread and wine. But the body and blood of Christ are present “in, with, and under” the bread and wine. It is not that the bread and wine have become Christ’s body and blood, but that we now have the body and blood in addition to the bread and wine. (Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1985], 3:1117)

Christ’s statement is no more to be taken literally than are His references to Himself as a door (John 10:9), vine (John 15:1, 5), and bread (John 6:35, 48). Such language is figurative, symbolically conveying spiritual truth using everyday items. Bread pictures things that are earthly, fragile, and subject to decay, symbolizing the reality that the Son of God took on human form and became subject to death.

The phrase which is given for you introduces the most important truth in the Bible—substitutionary atonement. As noted above, Passover conveyed the twin truths that divine wrath and justice can only be satisfied by death, but that death can be the death of innocent substitutes for the guilty. The millions of lambs that were slain throughout the centuries were all innocent. Animals are incapable of sinning, since they are not persons, and have no morality or self-consciousness. Jesus, however, is both innocent and a person—fully man as well as God. Therefore His substitutionary atonement death was acceptable to God to satisfy His holy condemnation of sin. Isaiah wrote, “He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed” (Isa. 53:5; cf. v. 12). Jesus “bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds [we] were healed” (1 Peter 2:24). God “made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21).

Then in the same way (that is, with thanks; cf. v. 19) Jesus took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.” The cup was the third cup, which came after the meal. That it was poured out for you “for forgiveness of sins” (Matt. 26:28) is another declaration of Christ’s death as a substitute for all who would believe. Sin can only be forgiven when satisfactory payment to God in the form of the death of the perfect sacrifice has been rendered. The Lord Jesus’ death was that payment. As the infinite God incarnate, He was actually able to bear the sins of and suffer God’s wrath for those sins on behalf of all who would ever believe, rescuing them from divine judgment by fully satisfying the demands of God’s justice.

His death inaugurated the new covenant which, like the Old Covenant, was ratified by the shedding of blood (Ex. 24:8; Lev. 17:11; Heb. 9:18–20). The New Covenant (Jer. 31:31–34; cf. Ezek. 36:25–27) is a covenant of forgiveness (Jer. 31:34) and the only saving covenant. As noted above, it was ratified by the blood of Christ, whose death as an innocent substitute satisfied the demands of God’s justice. (For a detailed discussion of the New Covenant, see 2 Corinthians, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary [Chicago: Moody, 2003], chaps. 7 and 8.)

Regular observance of the Lord’s Supper is to be a constant reminder to Christians of the Lamb of God, chosen by God, sacrificed for sinners, whose death satisfied the demands of God’s justice, and whose life was poured out on our behalf so that our sins can be fully and forever forgiven. Paul summarized the significance of the Lord’s Supper when he wrote to the Corinthian believers,

For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. (1 Cor. 11:23–26)[1]

19–20 As stated above, these words of institution may come from a non-Markan source. Similar wording in 1 Corinthians 11:24–25, written before AD 60, shows that it was probably an early source used by both Luke and Paul. This supports the reliability of Luke’s research (1:1–4). The suffering motif is consistent with Jesus’ understanding of his mission as the Suffering Servant.

The “bread” (arton, GK 788, v. 19) was the thin, unleavened bread used in the Passover. “Gave thanks” translates the verb eucharisteō (GK 2373), the source of the beautiful word Eucharist often used to signify the Lord’s Supper. Luke alone has “given for you” (hyper hymōn didomenon [GK 1443]) in the saying over the bread, as well as “poured out for you” (to hyper hymōn ekchynnomenon [GK 1773]) in the cup saying (v. 20). The “pouring out” may be interpreted as a symbolic act that points to Jesus’ own death on the cross (see, however, L. C. Boughton, “ ‘Being Shed for You/Many’: Time-Sense and Consequences in the Synoptic Cup Citations,” TynBul 48 [1997]: 249–70, who points to the possibility of a future reference in this present passive participle).

“In remembrance of me” (v. 19) directs our attention primarily to the person of Christ and not merely to the benefits we receive (of whatever nature we may understand them to be) from partaking of the bread and cup. The final cup, following the sequence of several refillings during the Passover, signifies the “new covenant” (v. 20) in Jesus’ blood. The disciples would have been reminded of the “blood of the covenant” (Ex 24:8), i.e., the blood used ceremonially to confirm the covenant. The new covenant (cf. Jer 31:31–34) carried with it assurance of forgiveness through Jesus’ blood shed on the cross and the inner work of the Holy Spirit in motivating us and enabling us to fulfill our covenantal responsibility.[2]

19–20          Jesus follows generally the order of the Passover celebration, but lingers over the bread and cup in order to charge them with interpretive significance that draws on yet departs from the meaning of Passover. Interestingly, though sacrificial images are present in these verses (see below), Jesus evokes no direct comparison between the Passover lamb and himself, preferring instead to interpret the bread and cup.60 Nor does Luke portray the manner of his death with reference to the breaking of the bread, an act that is merely preparatory to the distribution of the bread and devoid of symbolic significance. If the breaking of the bread bears no metaphorical weight, this is not true of its distribution, however. “Giving one’s body” is potent as an image for giving one’s life (in battle) for the sake of one’s people.62 The sequence Luke describes with reference to the bread—took + gave thanks + broke + gave—is reminiscent of Jesus’ actions in the feeding of the multitudes in 9:16. It is remarkable that the feeding miracle is also set in a co-text in which kingdom proclamation and messianic suffering figure prominently (9:1–27). The Scriptures employ the image of “the cup” both with reference to participation in salvation and, especially, with reference to divine judgment.65 Similarly, “blood poured out” signals violent death. Jesus, then, is not enacting (or teaching his followers how to reenact) his death through his actions;67 rather, he is interpreting through his words the significance of this Passover and, thus, of his death.

Jesus follows up the bread word with instruction to “Do this in remembrance of me.” The notion of “remembrance” is pivotal to the celebration of Passover and cannot be limited, as it often is in English usage, to the idea of cognitive recall of a prior occurrence. In the biblical tradition, cognitive (or affective) recall is often triggered by verbal communication for that purpose, and this provides the impetus for some response or action. In a related sense, “remembrance” is often employed with the sense of “the effect of the recollection of the past for present or future benefit.”69 With the repeated celebration of Passover as precursor, and with this linguistic background for the understanding of remembrance, we may understand Jesus as instructing his followers not only to continue sharing meals together, but to do so in a way that their fellowship meals recalled the significance of his own life and death in obedience to God on behalf of others. This recollection should have the effect of drawing forth responses reminiscent of Jesus’ own table manners—his openness to outsiders, his comportment as a servant, his indifference toward issues of status honor, and the like—so that these features of his life would come to be embodied in the community of those who call him Lord. “A meal in memory of Jesus is one which celebrates and prolongs his lifestyle of justice and of serving the Father’s food to all.”

If “the cup” is a metaphorical referent to divine judgment, the train of thought thus initiated is helped along by the reference to “blood poured out,” which signals violent death and sacrifice. The phraseology of v 20 (“new covenant in my blood”) goes further, alluding to two OT texts that indicate Jesus’ interpretation of his death as an effective, covenantal sacrifice. The language of “new covenant” is drawn from Jer 31:31–34; there, as in the portrayal of the ministry of Jesus in the Third Gospel, the eschatological work of God is developed with reference to the forgiveness of sins. Indeed, throughout Luke-Acts, Jesus is presented as the Savior who grants forgiveness of sins. Setting the cup-word within the larger framework of Luke’s presentation of Jesus’ ministry disallows any notion of a “new covenant” discontinuous with the old, for Luke has emphasized the continuity between the ancient purpose of God and its fulfillment in the coming of Jesus. Similarly, in a number of Qumranic texts, the phrase “new covenant” functions as a cipher for a renewal of the covenant in conjunction with those whom God has called.73 Additionally, in the phrase “covenant in my blood,” one may hear an allusion to Exod 24:8, the covenant sacrifice that, in targumic texts, is interpreted as having been effective as an atoning sacrifice for the people by which they were brought into covenant with Yahweh. By means of this allusion, a typological relationship is drawn between the covenant sacrifice of Exod 24:8 and the death of Jesus, so that Jesus’ death is said to atone for the sins of the people and thus to enable their participation in the renewed, eschatological covenant with God.

“Covenant” is fundamentally a relational term, pointing in this case to the bond of fidelity and love between God and humanity. The “you” with whom Jesus thus renews the divine covenant refers to the apostles who have joined him at the table, but it is precisely here that Luke’s rationale for designating them in this co-text as “apostles” (rather than “disciples”) comes into sharp focus. As “apostles,” they are chosen to represent and to lead Israel (cf. 6:12–16; 22:29–30); hence, this covenant is extended beyond Jesus’ immediate table partners to all who embrace “good news to the poor” (see above on 4:18–19).

It is remarkable that this Lukan text attributes such far-reaching significance to the death of Jesus, since the notion of the cross’s substitutionary role is completely missing in the missionary sermons in Acts and otherwise present only in Paul’s farewell address (Acts 20:28). Elsewhere, Luke emphasizes more pointedly (and pervasively) the salvific role of Jesus’ exaltation.[3]

22:19 took … gave thanks … broke … gave. See comments on the same sequence of verbs used in 9:16 (and in all the other Gospel accounts of that event) and also in 24:30.

This is my body given for you. In the setting of the Passover meal, where foods symbolized historical events, the verb “is” is naturally understood as meaning “represents” rather than suggesting a transformation of the bread into another substance (especially as Jesus was bodily present, holding the bread). The “giving” of his body, together with the “pouring out” of his blood (22:20), points to his sacrificial death; in effect he himself takes the place of the Passover lamb. But exactly how this giving and pouring out are “for you” is not spelled out in Luke’s version; Matthew 26:28 adds that Jesus’s blood is poured out “for the forgiveness of sins,” and compare Mark 10:45, where Jesus says that he gives his life “as a ransom for many.”

Do this in remembrance of me. The Christian celebration of the Lord’s Supper derives from this instruction, repeated also after the cup in the fuller version in 1 Corinthians 11:24–25. Whatever other significance the Lord’s Supper may carry, it remains in essence, like the Passover, a memorial of a historical saving event.[4]

Vers. 19, 20.—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. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you. Around these words, and the parallel passages in SS. Matthew and Mark, for more than a thousand years fierce theological disputes have raged. Men have gone gladly to prison and to death rather than renounce what they believed to be the true interpretation. Now, a brief exegetical commentary is not the place to enter into these sad controversies. It will be sufficient here to indicate some of the lines of thought which the prayerful earnest reader might wisely follow out so as to attain certain just ideas respecting the blessed rite here instituted—ideas which may suffice for a practical religious life. Now, we possess a Divine commentary on this sacrament instituted by our Lord. It is noticeable that St. John, whose Gospel was the latest or well-nigh the latest of the canonical writings of the New Testament, when at great length he relates the story of the last Passover evening and its teaching, does not allude to the institution of that famous service, which, when he wrote his Gospel, had become part of the settled experience of Church life. He presupposes it; for it had passed then into the ordinary life of the Church. In another and earlier portion of his Gospel, however, St. John (6:32–58) gives us a record of the Lord’s discourse in the synagogue of Capernaum, in which Jesus, while speaking plainly to those who heard him at the time, gave by anticipation a commentary on the sacrament which he afterwards instituted. The truth which was taught in this discourse is presented in a specific act and in a concrete form in the Holy Communion. In the fifty-third verse of that sixth chapter we read, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.” How is this now to be done? We reply that our Lord has clothed these ideas and brought them near to us in this sacrament; while, by his teaching in the sixth chapter of St. John, he guards this sacrament from being regarded on the one hand as an end in itself, or on the other as a mere symbol. Certain truths, great landmarks laid down in this discourse, have to be borne in mind. (1) The separation of the flesh of the Son of man into flesh and blood (John 6:53) presupposes a violent death submitted to for the sake of others (John 6:51). (2) Both these elements, the flesh and the blood, are to be appropriated individually by the believer (John 6:56). (3) How appropriated? St. Bernard well answers the question which he asks: “What is it to eat his flesh and to drink his blood, but to share in his sufferings and to imitate the life he lived when with us in the flesh?” (St. Bernard, on Ps. 3:3). “If ye suffer with him, ye shall also reign with him.” The Holy Eucharist is from one point of view a great truth dramatized, instituted for the purpose of bringing before men in a vivid manner the great truths above alluded to. But it is something more. It brings to the believer, to the faithful communicant, to the one who in humble adoring faith carries out to the best of his ability his Master’s dying charge—it brings a blessing too great for us to measure by earthly language, too deep for us to fathom with human inquiry. For the partaking of this Holy Communion is, first, the Christian’s solemn public confession of his faith in Christ crucified; his solemn private declaration that it is his deliberate wish to suffer with his Lord and for his Lord’s sake; that it is, too, his firm purpose to imitate the earthly life lived by his Lord. The partaking of this Holy Communion, too, is the Christian’s most solemn prayer for strength thus to suffer and to live. It is, too, his fervent expression of belief that this strength will be surely given to him. Further, the partaking of this Holy Communion is, above all, the Christian’s most solemn prayer for living union with Christ—“that Christ may dwell in his heart by faith.” It is, too, his fervent expression of belief that “then we dwell in Christ, and Christ in us; we are one with Christ, and Christ with us.” This confession, declaration, and prayer he constantly renews in obedience to the dying command of his Master. It is difficult to understand how any belief in a physical change in the elements of bread and wine, such as is involved in the theory of transubstantiation held in the Roman Church, or of consubstantiation in the Lutheran community, can be supposed to enhance the reverence of the communicant, or to augment the blessing promised. The words of the Lord, “This is my body … my blood,” cannot surely be pressed, seeing that the same Divine Speaker was in his discourses in the habit of using imagery which could not literally be pressed, such as “I am the Bread of life,” “I am the Door of the sheep,” “I am the true Vine,” etc. Nothing that can be conceived is more solemn than the simple rite, more awful in its grandeur, more Divine and far-reaching in its promises to the faithful believer. Human imaginings add nothing to this Divine mystery, which is connected at once with the Incarnation and the Atonement. They only serve to envelop it in a shroud of earth-born mist and cloud, and thus to dim if not to veil its Divine glory.[5]

Luke 22:19. Which is given for you. The other two Evangelists leave out this clause, which, however, is far from being superfluous; for the reason why the flesh of Christ becomes bread to us is, that by it salvation was once procured for us. And as the crucified flesh itself is of no advantage but to those who eat it by faith, so, on the other hand, the eating of it would be unmeaning, and of hardly any value, were it not in reference to the sacrifice which was once offered. Whoever then desires that the flesh of Christ should afford nourishment to him, let him look at it as having been offered on the cross, that it might be the price of our reconciliation with God. But what Matthew and Mark leave out in reference to the symbol of bread, they express in reference to the cup, saying, that the blood was to be shed for the remission of sins; and this observation must be extended to both clauses. So then, in order that we may feed aright on the flesh of Christ, we must contemplate the sacrifice of it, because it was necessary that it should have been once given for our salvation, that it might every day be given to us.[6]

19. The taking, breaking and distribution of bread were regular features of the Passover observance and would cause no surprise. But as he gave it to his followers Jesus said, This is my body, words which have caused endless controversy in the church. The critical point is the meaning of is. Some argue for a change of the bread into the body of Christ, but the verb can mean very various kinds of identification, as we see from such statements as ‘I am the door’, ‘I am the bread of life’, ‘that rock was Christ’. In this case identity cannot be in mind, for Jesus’ body was physically present at the time. It must be used in some such sense as ‘represents’, ‘signifies’, or, perhaps, ‘conveys’ (cf. Moffatt, ‘This means …’). The statement is a strong one and must not be watered down, but it must not be overpressed either. The addition, which is given for you, looks forward to Calvary (cf. Fitzmyer, ‘The vicarious gift of himself’). It speaks of Jesus’ death for his people. This is not something that springs from the Passover ritual. That spoke of deliverance but not of vicarious sacrifice. Jesus is interpreting his death in a Passover context and making it clear that it has saving significance. Ellis thinks that the words about the body and blood here ‘can be explained only as an implicit reference to the suffering Servant who, as the covenant representative, “poured out his soul to death and … bore the sins of many” (Isa. 53:12).’ The command, Do this in remembrance of me, does not mean, as some claim, that the communion is essentially a pleading of Christ before the Father. It is lest we forget, not lest he forget.[7]

22:19 some bread” Notice that the lamb is not mentioned. This meal has a completely new relevance for the church and is not linked inseparably to an annual Feast of national Israel. It symbolized a new deliverance (exodus) from sin (cf. Jer. 31:31–34).

“ ‘This is My body’ ” There have been four major understandings of this meal in the church: (1) Roman Catholic trans-substantiation, which means that this is in reality the body of Christ; (2) Martin Luther’s con-substantiation, which is slightly less literal than number 1; (3) John Calvin’s spiritual presence, which is slightly less literal than numbers 1 and 2; and finally (4) Zwingli’s symbolic (Baptist) understanding. The interpretation that the elements actually become the body and blood of Christ comes from John 6:43–58 which, in context, is the feeding of the five thousand and the Jews expectation that the Messiah would feed them as Moses did, not the Lord’s Supper.

“ ‘do this in remembrance of Me’ ” This is a PRESENT ACTIVE IMPERATIVE. The phrase is unique to Luke’s Gospel. The word anamnēsis occurs twice in Paul’s account of the Lord’s Supper in 1 Cor. 11:24, 25. Luke may have gotten his terminology from Paul’s churches. This is probably why there are several non-Lukan forms and words in Luke 22:19b–20.[8]

Institution of the Supper (19, 20). 19. And he took bread, and gave thanks (see on Mark 6:41). In Matthew and Mark it is “and blessed it.” The one act includes the other. He “gave thanks,” not so much here for the literal bread, as for that higher food which was couched under it; and He “blessed” it as the ordained channel of spiritual nourishment. and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body, which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. ‘The expression, “This is my body,” ’ says Alexander most truly, ‘which is common to all the accounts, appears so unambiguous and simple an expression, that it is hard to recognize in it the occasion and the subject of the most protracted and exciting controversy that has rent the Church within the last thousand years. That controversy is so purely theological that it has scarcely any basis in the exposition of the text; the only word upon which it could fasten (the verb is) being one which in Aramaic (or Syro-Chaldaic), would not be expressed, and therefore belongs merely to the Greek translation of our Saviour’s language. [But this supposes our Lord now spoke in Aramaic—the contrary of which we believe.] Until the strong unguarded figures of the early Fathers had been petrified into a dogma, at first by popular misapprehension, and at last by theological perversion, these words suggested no idea but the one which they still convey to every plain unbiased reader, that our Saviour calls the bread His body in the same sense that He calls Himself a door (John 10:9), a vine (John 15:1), a root (Rev. 22:16), a star, and is described by many other metaphors in Scripture. The bread was an emblem of His flesh, as wounded for the sins of men, and as administered for their spiritual nourishment and growth in grace.’ 20. Likewise also the cup after supper—not after the Lord’s Supper, as if the taking of the bread and of the cup in it were separated so far as that; but after the paschal supper, and consequently immediately after the distribution of the bread. The accounts of Matthew and of Mark would seem to imply that He gave thanks on taking the cup, as well as with the bread; but here, at any rate, and in the most authoritative account, perhaps, which we have, in 1 Cor. 11:23, &c., that is not said. saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you. In Matthew (26:28), “This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” In 1 Cor. (11:25) “This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.” Most critics now maintain that the word here rendered “testament” [διαθήκη] should be rendered covenant, not only here but wherever else it occurs in the New Testament; being used in the Old Testament constantly by the LXX. translators for the well-known Hebrew word signifying ‘covenant’ [בְּרִית], which never signifies ‘testament.’ Here, in particular, there is a manifest allusion to Exod. 24:8, “Behold, the blood of the covenant [דָמ־חַבְּרִית] which the Lord hath made with you concerning all these words.” Now it is beyond doubt that ‘covenant’ is the fundamental idea, and that in the Old Testament the word is correctly rendered “covenant.” But let it be observed, first, that ‘testament’ or ‘will’ is the proper classical sense of the Greek word, and ‘disposition’ or ‘covenant’ but a secondary sense; and next, that in Heb. 9:15, &c., the sense of ‘testament’ appears to be so obviously what the apostle reasons on, that to exclude it there, and restrict the meaning to ‘covenant,’ can only be made to yield the harshest sense. But the true harmony of both senses of the word, and how, in the case of Christ’s death, the one runs into the other, will be seen, not by any criticism on the word, but by reflecting on the thing. If it be true that by ‘covenant,’ or eternal divine arrangement, all the blessings of salvation become the rightful possession of believers solely in virtue of Christ’s death, does not this almost irresistibly suggest to every reflecting mind the idea of a testator’s death as a most true and exalted conception of the virtue of it? What can be a more natural view of the principle on which the fruits of Christ’s death become ours than that of a testamentary disposition? Then, observe how near to this idea of His death our Lord Himself came in what He said, when the Greeks sought to “see Jesus” on the eve of His last Passover, “The hour is come when the Son of man should be glorified: Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit” (John 12:23, 24). Observe, too, His mode of expression twice over at the Supper-table, “I appoint [διατίθεμαι] unto you, as My Father appointed [διέθετο] unto Me, a kingdom” (Luke 22:29); “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give unto you” (see on John 14:27): and it will be seen, we think, how each idea suggests the other. While that of ‘covenant ‘is confessedly the fundamental one, that of ‘testament’ is accessory or illustrative only. Yet the one is as real as the other, and presents a phase of the truth exceeding precious. In this view Bengel substantially concurs, and Stier entirely.[9]

19, 20. Then he took (some) bread, gave thanks, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, This is my body given for you. This do in remembrance of me. And in the same way after supper (he took) the cup, saying, This cup (is) the new covenant in my blood, poured out for you. For the authenticity of 19b, 20 see the note on this passage on pp. 968, 969.

A few more hours and the old symbol, being bloody—for it required the slaying of the lamb—will have served its purpose forever, having reached its fulfilment in the blood shed on Calvary. It was time, therefore, that a new and unbloody symbol replace the old. Nevertheless, by historically linking Passover and the Lord’s Supper so closely together Jesus also made clear that what was essential in the first was not lost in the second. Both point to him, the only and all-sufficient sacrifice for the sins of his people. Passover pointed forward to this; the Lord’s Supper points back to it.

Having taken from the table a thin slice or sheet of unleavened bread, Jesus “gave thanks” and then started to break up the slice. The words which the Lord used in this thanksgiving have not been revealed. To try to reconstruct them from Jewish formula prayers would serve no useful purpose. How do we even know that our Lord availed himself of these prayers?

The breaking of the bread, to which reference is made in all four accounts, must be considered as belonging to the very essence of the sacrament. This becomes clear in the light of that which immediately follows, namely, “This is my body given for you.”

To interpret this to mean that Jesus was actually saying that these portions of bread which he handed to the disciples were identical with his physical body, or were at that moment being changed into his body, is to ignore (a) the fact that in his body Jesus was standing there in front of his disciples, for all to see. He was holding in his hand the bread, and giving them the portions as he broke them off. Body and bread were clearly distinct and remained so. Neither changed into the other, or took on the physical properties or characteristics of the other. Besides, such an interpretation also ignores (b) the fact that during his earthly ministry the Master very frequently used symbolical language (Mark 8:15; John 2:19; 3:3; 4:14, 32; 6:51, 53–56; 11:11). It is striking that in all of the instances indicated by these references the symbolical or figurative character of our Lord’s language was disregarded by those who first heard it! In each case also, the context makes clear that those who interpreted Christ’s words literally were mistaken! Is it not high time that the implied lesson be taken to heart? Finally, there is (c): when Jesus spoke of himself as being “the vine” (John 15:1, 5), is it not clear that he meant that what a natural vine is in relation to its branches, which find their unity, life, and fruit-bearing capacity in this plant, that, in a far more exalted sense, Christ is to his people? Is it not clear, therefore, that the vine represents or symbolizes Jesus, the genuine Vine? Thus also he calls himself—or is called—the door, the morning star, the cornerstone, the lamb, the fountain, the rock, etc. He also refers to himself as “the bread of life” (John 6:35, 48), “the bread that came down out of heaven” (John 6:58). So, why should he not be, and be represented and symbolized by, “the broken bread”? Accordingly, the meaning of “the broken bread” and the poured-out wine is correctly indicated in a Communion Form which represents Christ as saying: “Whereas otherwise you should have suffered eternal death, I give my body in death on the tree of the cross and shed my blood for you, and nourish and refresh your hungry and thirsty souls with my crucified body and shed blood to everlasting life, as certainly as this bread is broken before your eyes and this cup is given to you, and you eat and drink with your mouth in remembrance of Me.”

Jesus adds, “This do in remembrance of me.” It was the desire of our Lord that by means of the supper, here instituted, the church should remember his sacrifice and love him, should reflect on that sacrifice and embrace him by faith, and should look forward in living hope to his glorious return. Surely, the proper celebration of communion is a loving remembrance. It is, however, more than that. Jesus Christ is most certainly, and through his Spirit most actively, present at this genuine feast! Cf. Matt. 18:20. His followers “take” and “eat.” They appropriate Christ by means of living faith, and are strengthened in this faith.

With respect to “And in the same way after supper (he took) the cup,” etc., note the following:

Jesus says, “This cup (is) the new covenant in my blood.”

But why does he speak of a new covenant? Do not such passages as Rom. 4:16; Gal. 3:8, 9, 29 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), 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 written 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 (Rom. 10:12, 13).

Note also “the new covenant in my blood, poured out for you.”

In all four accounts (Matthew, Mark, Luke, 1 Cor. 11) a relation is established between Christ’s blood and his covenant. As reported by Matthew and Mark, Jesus said, “my blood of the covenant”; here in Luke—with little if any difference in meaning—“the new covenant in my blood.” The expression goes back to such passages as Exod. 24:8; Jer. 31:31–34. See also the significant passage Lev. 17:11. And note: “Apart from the shedding of blood there is no remission” (Heb. 9:22; cf. Eph. 1:7); therefore also no covenant, no special relation 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 (Isa. 53:6, 8, 10, 12; Matt. 20:28; Mark 10:45; John 3:16; 6:51; Rom. 5:19; 8:32; 2 Cor. 5:20, 21; Gal. 2:20; 3:13; 1 Peter 2:24).

As Luke reports it, Jesus said, “… my blood, poured out for you.” Both Matthew (26:28) and Mark (14:24) read “poured out for many.” There is no conflict. Christ’s true disciples (The Eleven) were included in the “many.”[10]

22:19. Along with lamb, unleavened bread was also a central part of the Passover meal. The family, having recited the Exodus story through questions and answers and sung parts of the traditional Hallel collection of psalms in Psalms 113–118, would give a prayer of thanks over the bread and eat the Passover meal. Jesus apparently took the role of the father of the family and gave thanks for the bread. As he did so, he replaced the Passover celebration with a new celebration of unleavened bread. This one interpreted the bread not as representing what Israel had to carry out of Egypt but the body of Jesus broken on the cross for his followers.

It is difficult to know how the disciples would have reacted as Jesus spoke of his body given for them. Later they would realize what he had done and why he wanted them to repeat this rite again and again. No longer did they need to celebrate the Passover and look back to the Exodus redemption. Now they could celebrate the Lord’s Supper or Last Supper and look back to what Jesus did for them by dying on the cross. Jesus would no longer drink and eat physically and visibly with them, but each generation of disciples could remember his desire to eat this last meal and the meaning he gave to it.[11]

[1] MacArthur, J. (2014). Luke 18–24 (pp. 282–284). Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] Liefeld, W. L., & Pao, D. W. (2007). Luke. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Luke–Acts (Revised Edition) (Vol. 10, p. 313). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Green, J. B. (1997). The Gospel of Luke (pp. 761–764). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[4] France, R. T. (2013). Luke. (M. L. Strauss & J. H. Walton, Eds.) (p. 345). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[5] Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1909). St Luke (Vol. 2, pp. 198–199). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.

[6] Calvin, J., & Pringle, W. (2010). Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists Matthew, Mark, and Luke (Vol. 3, p. 212). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[7] Morris, L. (1988). Luke: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 3, pp. 324–325). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[8] Utley, R. J. (2004). The Gospel according to Luke (Vol. Volume 3A, Lk 22:19). Marshall, TX: Bible Lessons International.

[9] Brown, D., Fausset, A. R., & Jamieson, R. (n.d.). A Commentary, Critical, Experimental, and Practical, on the Old and New Testaments: Matthew–John (Vol. V, pp. 325–326). London; Glasgow: William Collins, Sons, & Company, Limited.

[10] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Gospel According to Luke (Vol. 11, pp. 961–963). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[11] Butler, T. C. (2000). Luke (Vol. 3, pp. 368–369). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

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