The Lord’s Supper – Its Purpose, Power and Promise (Part 4)

In our last study, we looked at the advice the Apostle Paul gave Christians in ancient Corinth that would bring them physical as well as spiritual health. Paul did that out of great concern that the Corinthian believers were doing more harm than good during the Lord’s Supper. What about since that time? How has the Supper changed since those early days to become what it is today in your church experience? Let’s begin by looking closely at what happened on the night before Jesus died.

The Lord’s Supper is also known as the Holy Communion and Eucharist. The Greek word eucharistia means “thanksgiving” and is used in 1 Corinthians 11:24:

“… and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”

The Apostle Paul said he received this information directly from the Lord and had delivered it to the Corinthians on a previous occasion (1 Corinthians 11:23). Paul founded the Corinthian Church and spent about 18 months with believers in Corinth before moving on to preach the Gospel in other cities. He most likely taught the young Christians about the Lord’s Supper during his time with them. The New Testament does not contain any teaching about the Lord’s Supper outside of the Gospels, so we must go to Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians for further understanding.

It’s important here to compare what Paul said the Lord delivered to him about what He said during the Passover Feast the night before He died and what the Gospel accounts record that Jesus said.

First, what Jesus told Paul:

“For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” 1 Corinthians 11:23-25

What Matthew records about the Lord’s Words during the Passover Feast:

“And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body.’ Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.” Matthew 26:26-29

What Mark records about the Lord’s Words during the Passover Feast:

“And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body.’ Then He took the cup, and when He had given thanks He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. And He said to them, ‘This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many. Assuredly, I say to you, I will no longer drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” Mark 14:22-25

What Luke records about the Lord’s Words during the Passover Feast:

“With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer;  for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.’ Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, ‘Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’ And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you. But behold, the hand of My betrayer is with Me on the table. And truly the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!” Luke 22:15-22

John records many more Words that Jesus spoke during that evening with His disciples, but the specific Words that Paul, Matthew, Mark and Luke record about the Body and Blood are not found in John’s Gospel. The only mention of bread used during the Feast is when Jesus says – ‘It is he to whom I shall give a piece of bread when I have dipped it.’ And having dipped the bread, He gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. Now after the piece of bread, Satan entered him. Then Jesus said to him, ‘What you do, do quickly.” (John 13:26-27) We find no mention of the cup or wine in the discourse between Jesus and His apostles found in John Chapters 13 – 17.

Matthew and Mark’s accounts of the Lord’s Supper do not tell us when Judas left the table to finish his betrayal of the Lord, but we learn more about Judas in Luke. In Luke’s Gospel account the Lord said this after presenting the bread and wine to His disciples – “But behold, the hand of My betrayer is with Me on the table. And truly the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!” It’s interesting to see that Judas also partook of the bread and wine before he left the table to go out into the night. Jesus was sharing an amazing spiritual insight with His disciples about the heart of the Good News He had brought with Him from Heaven – His Death, Burial and Resurrection. They would later understand the spiritual meaning of  the bread and wine and would remember the Lord’s Sacrifice every time they partook of the Supper.

Paul made it clear that the purpose of the Supper was proclaiming Christ’s Death until He returns for His Church – “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.”

Christians today are divided about the Lord’s Supper. I’ve spent the past 40 years trying to understand why something that appears to be so simple has become so difficult and divisive. In our next study, we’ll do some more digging and see what we find. I believe it’s worth our time to figure out what Jesus meant when He gave the Supper to His disciples, and later to Paul, and what He wants us to do with it now.

In Christ’s Love and Grace,

Mark McGee

GraceLife Ministries

“Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”

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