Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Lord’s Supper: Before, During and After

Photo by Frederique Defrade 2010


God’s Triune nature, reflected in triplets of Scripture throughout the Bible, is echoed in the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:17-30; Mark 14:12-21; Luke 22:7-30). This memorable meal, with special significance to Jesus, to His apostles, and to born-again believers, looked back to the past, celebrated the present, and anticipated the future.

The Lord’s Supper, convened by Jesus with His disciples the night before He was crucified, took place on the first day of the feast of unleavened bread (Matthew 26:17) during Passover. Finding the guestroom for this meal involved three people: the disciples Peter and John, and an unnamed servant (Mark 14:13-16; Luke 22:8-13).

Jesus arranged for this supper by telling the disciples to go into the city, to meet the servant whom they would recognize by his carrying a  pitcher of water, and to ask his master to lend Jesus the large upper room for the meal (Mark 14:13).

There are many theories about what Jesus and the twelve consumed at the meal, but Scripture only mentions bread (Mark 14:22; Matthew 26:26), fruit of the vine (Mark 14:25; Matthew 26:29; Luke 22:18), and a dip for the bread (Mark 14:20; Matthew 26:23), most likely olive oil (Exodus 29:2) containing bitter herbs (Numbers 9:11). Lamb would not be on the menu that day, as no work, such as killing, preparing, and cooking a lamb, could be done on the first day of the feast of unleavened bread (Leviticus 23:4-7).

It is fitting that the Passover lamb could not be sacrificed until the following day (Exodus 12:6), when Jesus Christ, the sacrificial Lamb Who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29), would Himself be crucified beginning at the third hour (Mark 15:25) of the day (around 9AM), with the time of death at the ninth hour, around 3PM (Mark 15: 34).

Jesus knew the agonizing ordeal He would face in a few hours, yet He began His last meal by giving thanks (Matthew 26:27; Mark 14:23; Luke 22:17-19), emphasizing that we should thank God in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

He knew that He was about to be betrayed, arrested and subjected to three false trials; rejected, humiliated, and scorned by His chosen people; and beaten, crowned with thorns, and crucified. Even worse, all but John of His beloved disciples abandoned Him during this ordeal; He had to witness the heartbreak of His mother; and at the moment He took on all of mankind’s sins, God had to look away and Christ could not call Him “Father” (Matthew 27; Mark 15; Luke 23; John 19).

Jesus explained the symbolism of the Last Supper to His disciples (Matthew 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:17-20). The bread He broke represented His body that would be broken on the cross; the fruit of the vine represented His blood that would be shed to take away mankind’s sin; and all were to drink of the cup to symbolize their spiritual union with Him.

The same three products consumed at the Lord’s Supper constituted the meat and drink offering given at the feast of firstfruits, which looked forward to Jesus as the First to rise from the dead to a glorified body. The meat offering was cakes made of two tenth deals of fine flour mixed with olive oil, and the drink offering was the fourth part of an hin of wine (Leviticus 23:13).

The absence of leaven in the offering cakes, in the manna God provided to feed His children in the wilderness (Exodus 16:15,31), and in the Passover bread connotes the absence of sin (1 Corinthians 5:6-7) in Christ. He is the Bread of Life (John 6:35,48), the Bread of God (John 6:33), and the Living Bread giving eternal life (John 6:51) to all those who trust in His death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6) .

For Jesus and His apostles, the Lord’s Supper therefore remembered God’s deliverance and acts of worship established in the past: His sparing the firstborn Hebrew children from the angel of death in Egypt (Exodus 12:12-13; 21-23); the feast of unleavened bread (Exodus 12:17; 23:15; 34:18; etc.) to commemorate the Passover, and the temple offerings at the feast of firstfruits (Leviticus 23:13).

At the first Passover, the scarlet thread of redemption by the blood was dramatically shown in the blood sacrifice of the lamb, to mark with blood the lintel and two side posts of each doorway (Exodus 12:5-7;22-23). This forerunner of the sign of the cross signified that the angel of death should “pass over” the homes thus marked, sparing the life of the firstborn within.

For all those sealed by our faith in Jesus’ shed blood on the cross, death will “pass over” us in that our physical body will die, but we will pass through the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23:4)., and we will live eternally with Christ (2 Corinthians 5:8). Our soul and spirit will forever be with the Lord and will ultimately inhabit our glorified body, which will never age, get sick, or die (1 Corinthians 15:35-54).

During the first Lord’s Supper, Jesus and His apostles were highly engaged in the present moment. Jesus had longed for and was now savoring His fellowship with the disciples (Luke 22:15), serving them (Matthew 26:26-27; Mark 14:22-23), and teaching them by His example, by explanation, and by warnings that they would betray, deny, or abandon Him (Matthew 26:21-24; Mark 14:18-21; Luke 22:21-34).

The disciples responded at first with self-examination, each asking with great sorrow if he was the one who would betray Christ (Matthew 26:22; Mark 14:19), but this soon degenerated into arguing over who would be the guilty one and even into jockeying for position regarding who could be considered the “best” disciple (Luke 22:23-24).

How this must have grieved Jesus, particularly on the eve of His crucifixion, and yet don’t we do the same today? We examine our own hearts all too briefly, then attempt to justify ourselves by judging sins in others and concluding wrongly that we’re better by comparison.

While remembering the past and living in the present, Jesus also used His last supper before His death to prophecy the future. He prophesied that His body would be broken and His blood shed in His crucifixion. He looked forward to the new covenant between Holy God and sinful man, reconciling them by His perfect, sinless sacrifice to pay the entire debt for all our sins (Matthew 26:28). Finally, He prophesied His coming Kingdom, when He would again eat the unleavened bread and drink the fruit of the vine in fellowship with His beloved at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Matthew 26:29; Luke 22:16,18).

Each time we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, we should remember Christ’s sacrifice, thank Him for our salvation, and look forward to His Second Coming, as we shall see next week!
© 2015 Laurie Collett
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26 comments:

  1. A beautiful essay! Your words on The Last Supper remind me to rest on his finished work, to lean His spirit now, and to hope in His glory to come. Thanks for sharing your gift here.

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    1. Thank you so much, Karen, for your visit and lovely comment! Praise God that when He cried, "It is finished!" it truly was. His work alone saves us. May we yield daily to His Holy Spirit and look forward to His sure return!
      Many blessings to you,
      Laurie

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  2. Dear Laurie,
    This goes to show the level of importance the Last Supper fits into the Gospels, and the Bible overall, particularly with the institution of the Passover, and the week-long Feast of Unleavened Bread, all connected with the death, burial and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, presented in the Triune nature of God, proving that it is his grace, and not our efforts which saves us.
    God bless.

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    1. Amen, Frank! The scarlet thread richly woven through the tapestry of the Bible, and the perfect sacrifice of Christ foreshadowed in the Old Testament Feasts, highlight His finished work and His grace alone that can save us.
      God bless,
      Laurie

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  3. Hi Laurie,
    I love the way we are told to examine ourselves before we take the bread and the wine. This helps us to realize that none of us are perfect, it is the Word itself that is our judge, not one another, and that being part of the body of Christ is co operation not competition.
    God bless

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    1. Hi Brenda,
      So well said and such an important reminder. Ours is not to judge others but only to examine our own heart, and to love Him and one another. Praise God for His holy perfection that is attributed to each of us who trust Him, separating us from our sins as far as the East is from the West. May we serve Him faithfully as members of His body.
      Many blessings to you,
      Laurie

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  4. I love hearing the story again and again, and I like when it is expanded upon, putting human emotions to the story makes it more real to us. It is so big that it would be impossible to feel as Mary did, but it makes me understand more, or how Jesus felt. Taking on the sin of the entire world is unimaginable to me, watching a son die on the cross to save humanity. Unfathomable. Thanks for sharing this.

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    1. Dear Nikki,
      His love truly is unfathomable -- the Father giving His only Son, and the Son enduring the cross for the joy of saving sinners who rejected and despised Him. Praise God for His boundless mercy, love and grace!
      Thank you so much for your visit and lovely comment, and may you have a blessed week in Him!
      Laurie

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  5. I enjoy your devotionals so full of scripture and rhetoric, Laurie. The parallelism is amazing and the way you pull it together for us is fantastic.

    Thanks so much,
    Dawn

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    1. Thank you so much, Dawn, for your very kind and encouraging words! I'm so blessed to hear that you enjoyed the post. The more we study the Bible and see how perfectly it fits together, the more we appreciate it as the inspired Word of God.
      Many blessings to you,
      Laurie

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  6. Amen, Laurie, by His stripes we are healed ❤️

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    1. Amen, Beth! Praise God for His self-sacrificing love and power in His blood! Thanks for your visit and comment and God bless,
      Laurie

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  7. Most of the disagreements and confusion about the Lord's Supper stem from the failure to study the passages about the Passover in Exodus 12 and Leviticus 23. While Passover memorialized Israel's deliverance from Egypt, It also portrayed what Christ would do for us. In celebrating Communion, we celebrate what Christ did for us, but we are also confirming it a part of his plan from the creation of the earth, revealed one step at a time.

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    1. Amen, Donald! Praise God that He knew from the beginning what was needed to save us, and not only arranged for it perfectly but even foreshadowed it. What a mighty God we serve!
      God bless,
      Laurie

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  8. Thank you for putting this together so nicely. It is good to be reminded of all the small details that can get rushed over as we read. Thanks for stopping by my blog too! It's nice to meet you.

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    1. Thanks so much for your sweet comment! I'm blessed to hear you enjoyed the post. It's nice to meet you also and hope you'll be back soon!
      May you have a blessed weekend!
      Laurie

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  9. Thank you so much for sharing this at the #SmallVictoriesSundayLinkup!

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    1. Thanks so much for hosting, Echo, and for your visit & comment!
      God bless,
      Laurie

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  10. I am so thankful for the work Christ did on the cross and that He now lives interceding for us! I'm a member of a church where we celebrate communion every Sunday and it's such a blessing.

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    1. Amen, Gayl! Praise God that we serve a risen Savior Who has experienced our struggles, yet without sin, and He now intercedes for us with the Father! Through His work on the cross, God no longer sees the believer's sins, but only Christ's righteousness.

      Thanks so much for your visit and lovely comment. May you have a blessed weekend in Him,
      Laurie

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  11. Thanks so much for this very informative piece... I am so thankful for the blood of Christ shed for me.

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    1. You're very welcome, Heather, and thanks so much for your visit and comment! Praise God for His blood shed to cleanse us from all our sins!
      God bless,
      Laurie

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  12. The Lord's supper was an important time, although his disciples did not understand the significance. We continue to be reminded as often as we take of the bread and grape juice that His body was broken for our healing and his blood washes away every sin. Thank you for sharing with us here at Tell me a Story.

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    1. Amen, Hazel! They could not accept that He was about to die, whereas now we have God's Word recording and confirming His prophecy, and that of the Old Testament prophets, that He would die to pay our sin debt and rise again to give believers eternal life. May we never take that for granted. Thanks for sharing your insights and for hosting and God bless,
      Laurie

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  13. Thanks for sharing this at Booknificent Thursday!
    Tina

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    1. You're very welcome, Tina! Thanks for your comment & for hosting.
      Many blessings to you,
      Laurie

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