While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”(Matthew 26:26–28)
This is the first institution of the Lord’s Supper. It is mentioned also in Mark 14, Luke 22, and 1 Corinthians 11. Matthew and Mark say He blessed the bread. Luke says He gave thanks. Matthew Henry’s commentary says Jesus was not blessing the bread, but giving thanks to God who gives us bread and wine. This could also be considered a precedent for giving thanks before a meal.
It is significant that in Bible times they did not cut the bread, but broke it. Bread then was thin and brittle. Since the bread represented the body of Jesus, which was broken for us, it is appropriate that it be broken in this sacrament. As our life depends on the bread God provides, so our eternal life depends on Christ’s body, which was broken for us. The cup represents the blood of Jesus, which was shed for the remission of sins. Jesus said it is “my blood of the new covenant.”
It is the new offering of God’s only Son that ushered in the means of salvation that we are commemorating. In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul issues a stern warning that one who eats the bread and drinks the cup in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord and will bring judgment upon himself. Since the blood is for the remission of sins, Paul is saying that if we partake while sinning we are in danger of judgment.
The Jews had a similar sacrament known as the Seder, the traditional Passover week dinner celebrated by the Hebrews since the Exodus. This meal is a thanksgiving celebration, commemorating God’s protection, deliverance, and redemption. It was at this meal, the seder, that Jesus instituted Holy Communion, the Lord’s Supper.
He was observing with His disciples the ritual meal to commemorate Israel’s redemption from slavery in Egypt according to Exodus 12:14–20. They ate unleavened bread according to the Scriptures. The cup of the fruit of the vine was a traditional part of the ritual meal. Jesus’ reference was to the elements of the ritual meal with application to his own sacrifice as the “lamb” and to inaugurate the new covenant prophesied in Jeremiah 31:31–34. “‘This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,’ declares the Lord. ‘I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people’” (v. 33).
According to Paul, Jesus told His disciples, “Do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me” and told them that when they observe Communion they are proclaiming the Lord’s death till He comes. (see 1 Corinthians 11:25–26). Thus, as His disciples today, partaking of the sacrament should be a time of remembering the Lord’s death and thanking Him for His great sacrifice so we can be saved from the penalty for sin.
What a feast You have prepared for us, Lord! Your own body and Your own blood, the sacrifice of God’s own Lamb who takes away the sins of the world. Thank You for Your sacrifice. Thank You for giving us this feast of remembrance. As I consider the bread and the wine, I realize that without Your death, I would not have life. I bow in worship and adoration before You this day. Thank You for this amazing new covenant that brings me into right relationship with You because of what You have done on the cross.
–Adapted from Encountering Jesus: Praying the Commands of Christ into Your Life by Norval Hadley. This book is available at prayershop.org. Use the code CONPSP3 at checkout to receive an additional 10% discount.
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Praise the one who is King of kings and Lord of lords. Give thanks for everything in which you may find godly pleasure today: for work, food, books, music, and friends. Confess any pain you have unnecessarily brought into the lives of others. Commit yourself to doing to others today what you would have them do to you. Ask God to guide you in all your ways, to guard you against all that would harm you in body and soul, and to strengthen you in the face of temptation.
Pray for your pastor and church leaders. Ask God to give them wisdom and integrity and the filling of the Holy Spirit, that they may be mature in faith and may exercise their offices with prayer, patience, and humility.
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