"Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves." James 1:22 (NKJV)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Week 9: "Do This in Remembrance of Me," Part 1

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take it; this is my body." Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it. "This is the blood of my covenant, which is poured out for many," he said to them. ~ Mark 14:22-24

"Do this in remembrance of me." ~ Luke 22:19b

For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. ~ 1 Corinthians 11:26

Eight weeks down. Thirty-two weeks to go. This week's assignment is the Lord's Supper.

There was a time when people were willing to die, and some were willing to kill, to defend their understanding of what Jesus meant when He said "this is my body" and "this is my blood." In England, between the years 1555 and 1558 (the reign of the Roman Catholic Queen, "Bloody Queen Mary"), 288 Protestant Reformers, including men, women and children, were burned at the stake. Why? In his history of the protestant reformation in England, John Charles Ryle explained:

The doctrine in question was the real presence of the body and blood of Christ in the consecrated elements of bread and wine in the Lord's Supper. Did they, or did they not believe that the body and blood of Christ were really, that is corporally, literally, locally, and materially, present under the forms of bread and wine after the words of consecration were pronounced? Did they or did they not believe that the real body of Christ, which was born of the Virgin Mary, was present on the so-called altar so soon as the mystical words had passed the lips of the priest? Did they or did they not?That was the simple question. If they did not believe and admit it, they were burned.

Personally, I hold the view of the Protestant reformers that the bread and wine (or grape juice) are symbolic and not literally transformed into the body and blood of Jesus. I won't attempt a defense of that point of view here. If you want to read more about the mainstream Protestant understanding of the Lord's Supper, I defer to Pastor John Piper's excellent sermon of August 13, 2006 about why and how we celebrate the Lord's Supper.

I mention the fact that people have died, and been willing to kill, to defend their understanding of the Lord's Supper, because that history starkly contrasts with my own feelings about the Lord's Supper. I'm obviously not suggesting that we ought to kill in the name of sound doctrine. I'm afraid, however, that I've personally taken the Lord's Supper far too lightly. I've never given the Lord's Supper much thought, and the experience has never been deeply meaningful to me.

I started this week by reading what the Bible has to say about the Lord's supper. Outside of the gospel accounts of Jesus's last supper with His disciples, the key passage is in the Apostle Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, chapter eleven. Setting aside the controversial question of what Jesus meant by "this is my body" and "this is my blood," the remainder of what the Bible has to say about the Lord's Supper is straightforward. Followers of Jesus are commanded to take the Lord's Supper to remember what Jesus did (1 Cor. 11:24) and to proclaim the sufficiency of what Jesus did (1 Cor. 11:26). We ought to regularly take the Lord's Supper with other Christians (Acts 2:42, Acts 20:7), and we ought to do so with an attitude of thanksgiving (1 Cor. 11:24) and self-examination (1 Cor. 11:27-28).

Next Sunday is Easter Sunday. This week, I will be taking the Lord's Supper twice---on Thursday with my small group and on Good Friday evening with my church. In preparation, I want to spend time this week remembering Jesus's last day on earth. Jesus's last supper with his disciples looked forward to the Lord's Passion, and the ordinance ofthe Lord's Supper is a time for remembering it. Two weeks ago, I got "saturated in the Gospels." This week, in preparation for taking the Lord's Supper, I want to narrow my focus to Jesus's last day. I also want to spend some more time prayerfully considering the Apostle Paul's teaching on the subject of the Lord's Supper. And, on a lighter note, I'm going to try making unleavened bread, which is probably the type of bread that Jesus and his disciples ate the night before Jesus was crucified.

Until next time, grace and peace to you.


  1. I was just reading about Jesus' last Passover last night, and indeed it was unleaven bread. :) ~Nicole

  2. Unleavened bread. Yes, the belief that it was unleavened bread arises from the three Synoptic Gospels which suggest that the last supper was a Passover meal. (Matt. 26:17-21, Mk 14:12-18, Lk 22:7-16). The eating of leavened bread was forbidden during Passover. There is, however, some controversy among scholars about when Jesus's last supper took place in relation to the Passover. The controversy arises from John 13:1, which says that the supper took place "before the Passover feast." Also see, John 13:29, 18:28, and 19:14 all of which suggest that the last supper took place before the Passover. It's apparently a topic of much scholarly debate. It's a topic that I'm mildy intersted in, but not very concerned about. It's way beyond the scope of this blog. The Bible does not specify the type of bread that Jesus used; it just says bread. All of that is why I qualified my statement with "probably."

  3. That is very interesting because I was just discussing the day of Jesus' death w/my father-in-law. He's been involved with a messianic movement for a while, so he's be following the Torah and it's all quite interesting. Anyway, I am definitely not an expert in Jewish festivals, but from Matt 26:17, "One the 1st day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread...." So Exodus 12:17-20, talks about the Feast of Unleavened Bread being celebrated for 7 days (v19). So, it may have not been Passover, but it was during the feast, so my conclusion is there was no yeast....so unleavened bread. Granted, I'm not a bible scholar at all, but I also know that the Word is consistent. Even if as humans we like to pick it apart. John 13:29, I can still make fit into it being the Passover, the last 2, not so much. But I'm sure if I ask Stan, he'll give me a good explaination since he has a much better understanding of the Jewish festivals. This is interesting! Thanks for making me dig deeper in the Word! :) ~Nicole

  4. I suspect that you're exactly right, NIcole, although I don't know enough about the Jewish calendar and regulatations to say for sure. I agree that as believers we ought to start from the premise that the Bible is consistent. The trick sometimes is figuring out how two seemingly inconsistent things are actually consistent without becoming incredulous and intellectually dishonest. I find that sometimes there is great value in working through those problems. Maybe sometimes there is not much value in it, but I enjoy this kind of stuff. Another possibility that I've seen suggested is that Jesus and his disciples took the passover meal early in light of the fact that Jesus knew his time had come and his death was imminent. Thanks so much for your thoughtful comments. I love them!