Wednesday, May 24, 2023

A Meditation On The Meaning Of The Lord's Supper


    In today's post I want to briefly lay out what is meant by the Lord's Supper. The intent of this post is not to give an exhausted listing of all that is conveyed by it. Rather, this post will focus on the account of the Lord's Supper in Mark 14:22-26. The Lord's Supper is rich in how God uses it to strengthen the faith of any follower of Jesus that partakes of it in the local church. Theologian Wayne Grudem, on page 1222-1223 of the 2nd edition of his Systematic Theology, gives a sample of the rich meanings associated with this covenant meal. 

1. Christ's death.

2. Our participation in the benefits of Christ's death. 

3. Spiritual nourishment.

4. Unity of believers. 

5. An affirmation of Christ's love. 

6. A portrayal of the blessings of salvation reserved for the believer.

7. It is where the Christian affirms to themselves their faith and love for for Jesus. 

    Below is a sketch of what we find in Mark 14:22-26 concerning the meaning of the Lord's Supper.

1. What is meant by the Lord’s Supper?     Mark 14:22-26

A. What is not meant.

This is not a bloodless sacrifice of our Lord’s body and blood, per the Roman Catholic Church (from here R.C.C). The Catechism of the R.C.C still refers to the Mass as "the offering of Christ in an unbloody manner." We can note the following reasons this is not the Lord’s Supper. 

    First, Christ died once and for all sin, and thus need not be sacrificed again (1 Peter 3:18; Hebrews 9:28). 

    Second, our Lord, in His humanity, is in heaven (Hebrews 1:2-4). By the Holy Spirit Christians have access to He as man and God, rather than through the elements (1 Corinthians 12:12-13). 

    Third, the Mass represents the teaching that the Pope is the Vicar, and thus the head of the church. Colossians 1:16-20 tells us it is not the Pope, nor R.C.C magesterium consisting of the Pope, Cardinals, and heirarchy, but Christ, Who is the head of the church.         

    Christ is not present in the elements in a spiritual way, as our Lutheran friends would suggest. Instead, Christ is present by His Spirit in those who have been born again and in His Church as a whole, composed of genuinely converted persons. 

B. What is meant by the Lord’s Supper.

    Below I list out the following truths we find in Mark 14:22-26, along with cross references.

*The wonder of Christ’s incarnation. Mark 14:22-23; Mt 1:23; John 1:14.

Mark 14:22-23 "While they were eating, He took some bread, and after a blessing He broke it, and gave it to them, and said, 'Take it; this is My body.' 23 And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, and they all drank from it.

*The work of Christ’s redemption. 

Mark 14:24 "And He said to them, 'This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.'"  

    In the Passover celebration, four cups are featured. The first two, that of "sanctification" and "deliverance", are drank early in the meal. In addition, participants would had eaten bitter herbs and unleavened bread to remember their harsh treatment while enslaved to their Egyptian captors. Near the end of the Passover, two more cups would had been drank: "the cup of redemption" and "the cup of the kingdom". 

    It is in Luke 22:14-23 we see two cups, that of redemption, and kingdom. Furthermore, Jesus is focusing the inaugural Lord's Supper upon the third cup, redemption, since it points to His mission. The fourth cup of the kingdom was not partaken by Christ, since it pointed to what He would do in the bringing forth of the kingdom's full reality in His second coming.  This is why the Lord's Supper has believers to look back on the cross and to look forward to His return (compare 1 Corinthians 11:26).

*The wonderful promise of His soon return. Mk 14:26 

Mark 14:25 "Truly I say to you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God. 26 After singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives."

    As mentioned, the cup of the Kingdom was not drank by Jesus. His Kingdom, though introduced and revealed spiritually in His first coming, will only be made visible and fully realized when He comes again. 

*The work of the local church. 

    Mark 14:26 "After singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives." 

    What was the hymn that Jesus and the disciples sang? In Jewish Passover celebrations, it was common to sing from the collection of Psalms known as "The Hallel Psalms". They were so named due to the phrase contained in the opening verses of Psalms 113-118. It was common to conclude the Passover with words such as we find in Psalm 118:25-29 

"O Lord, do save, we beseech You; O Lord, we beseech You, do send prosperity! 26 Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord; We have blessed you from the house of the Lord. 27 The Lord is God, and He has given us light; Bind the festival sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar. 28 You are my God, and I give thanks to You; You are my God, I extol You. 29 Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting."

    This final Hallel Psalm prophetically points to the ultimate Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, in the phrase "festival sacrifice bound to the altar". When Jesus instituted this Lord's Supper meal, it was on the evening of the day the Passover Lambs were sacrificed. 

    The Lord's Supper reminds us of not only what Jesus accomplished in His first coming, but also of His spiritual presence in His church, and each individual Christian, made possible by the work of the Holy Spirit (see 1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 6:19-20; 12:12-13). We know that the Lord's Supper is meant to remind Christians of their relationship to each other, as well as to Jesus, through two passages. The first is found in 1 Corinthians 10:16-17

"Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ? 17 Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread."

    Then the second text that shows how the Lord's Supper reminds us of life in the local church, 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 

"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; 24 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.” 25 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.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes."

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