Matthew 26:26-29

Thursday Evening Bible Study

June 7, 2007


We are in the night that Jesus will be betrayed.  We are in the middle of the meal known as “The Last Supper”.

:26-29 Communion

:26 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."

this is My body – What does Jesus mean by this?

There has been a lot of discussion about this over the centuries.

The Catholic church teaches that when an official ordained priest says the right words, that the bread turns into the real, literal flesh of Jesus Christ and the wine turns into the real blood of Jesus.

They believe this so much that when they are finished with the “Eucharist” and there are leftovers, they have a special way of disposing of the leftovers since they have actual flesh and blood in front of them.

What does the Bible say?

1.  Flesh versus Spirit
After Jesus fed the five thousand, He gave a very disturbing teaching.  He began top tell them that He was the “Bread of Life” (John 6:35) and what that meant.  This is a passage that the Catholic church will often refer to, but pay attention to what it says.
(John 6:53-56 NKJV)  Then Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. {54} "Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. {55} "For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. {56} "He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.

Some of the people were quite confused.  It sounded like some kind of cannibalism.  Some of those who were following Jesus didn’t follow Him any more because of this (John 6:66).

But look at what Jesus said right after this:

(John 6:63 NKJV)  "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.

The Catholic church would say that the bread becomes literal flesh, but Jesus is saying that it’s not the “flesh” that counts, it’s the “spirit”.

Jesus is giving a spiritual teaching, telling us about the lesson of what it means to “eat His flesh” – throughout the entire chapter of John 6, Jesus makes is very clear that the key to eternal life is “believe”, not the actual eating of literal flesh.

(John 6:35-36 NKJV)  And Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. {36} "But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe.

(John 6:40 NKJV)  "And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day."

(John 6:47 NKJV)  "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life.

2.  The importance of remembering
Luke records Jesus as saying,

(Luke 22:19 NKJV)  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."

The whole point of communion is about remembering.  It’s about remembering what Jesus did for us.  It’s not about some magical thing of turning bread into flesh.  Those of you raised in the Catholic church – did the wafer taste like a wafer or like flesh?

3.  The Passover itself
This was the meal they are eating, and it was meant to be reminder of what God had done before.  It was also supposed to be a way of teaching the children about their faith.

(Exo 12:14 NKJV)  'So this day shall be to you a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance.

Now Jesus is giving a new thing to remember, His death for our sins.
Jesus is replacing the ritual of the Passover, which was intended to be about teaching and remembering, with a new ritual, communion.
The Passover meal is called the “Seder”.  There are all sorts of things done during the Seder to teach and remind the people at the table of how God delivered the Israelites from Egypt.

Part of the tradition is that there is a plate with three “matzot”, three sheets of unleavened bread.  At the beginning of the meal, there is a time known as the “Yachatz”, when the middle matzot is broken, the larger half is called the “afikomen” and is hidden until the end of the meal as a sort of dessert.  During the meal certain foods are eaten, the story of the first Passover is told, and two cups of wine are drunk.  At the end of the meal, the afikomen is taken out and eaten, followed by the third cup of wine known as the “cup of blessing”.  Then songs of praise are sung, followed by the fourth and final cup of wine.

I wonder if Jesus was using the afikomen as the picture of His body.  It was the second of three pieces of bread – reminding us that Jesus is the second person of the Trinity.

Perhaps the cup that Jesus refers to as the blood of the New Covenant is the “cup of blessing”.

When Paul was teaching on the problems of eating things sacrificed to demons, he wrote,

(1 Cor 10:16 NKJV)  The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?


The body

1.  Bearing our sins
One aspect of the bread is to remind us of the physical body of Christ that died on the cross. 

Luke says “My body which is given for you” – He gave His life for us.

Matthew records that Jesus “broke” the bread. 

When Paul talks about communion, he teaches us that Jesus said

(1 Cor 11:24 NKJV)  "Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me."

Whatever this breaking is, it was “for” us.
The breaking could not be a broken bone because Moses wrote,

(Exo 12:46 NKJV)  "In one house it shall be eaten; you shall not carry any of the flesh outside the house, nor shall you break one of its bones.

John records that indeed none of the bones of Jesus were broken (John 19:33-36)

How could He be “broken”?

I think one aspect of His brokenness took place on the cross when our sins were placed on Him.

(Isa 53:6 NKJV)  All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

David heard the cry of Jesus as our sins would be laid on Him:

(Psa 22:1 NKJV)  My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?

These were the words Jesus spoke while on the cross.

He died for us, He died to pay for us.

Communion is a time when we remember that our sins were “heaped” upon Jesus on the cross.  His bones weren’t broken, but His body was broken from my sins.

2. The church as the body
There is another aspect of the body in communion.
There is a very clear sense in Scripture that we, the church, are the body of Christ.  There is a sense in which when we take communion, there is not just a communing with Christ, but a communing with each other.

In the Jewish mindset, when you ate a meal with a person, you were becoming “one” with that person.  I eat the same bread that you eat.  We are nourished with the same bread.  We become one.

The Greek word for “communion” is also the same word translated “fellowship”.  Koinonia means “sharing”, “having something in common.

The church in Corinth was having problems because they had divisions in the church, divisions in the body of Christ.  Paul recognized how the problems could be seen in communion:
(1 Cor 11:20-30 NKJV)  Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord's Supper. {21} For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk. {22} What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I do not praise you. {23} 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; {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." {25} 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."

Note Paul’s use of “remembrance” as well.

{26} For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes.

Communion is all about remembering Jesus’ death for us.

{27} Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.

The “unworthy” manner is not particularly talking about taking communion with unconfessed sin in your life, but the problems of verse 21 – being selfish, not sharing, getting drunk, etc.

{28} But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup.

Communion ought to be a time of self examination.

{29} For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. {30} For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.

I’d say that in the context, “not discerning the Lord’s body” could very well be the problems and divisions in the Corinthians church.  Paul would talk about more of these problems in chapter twelve as he talks about the body of Christ – how people didn’t feel they belonged, how some looked down on others.

It is important that we as a church realize that we are all a part of the body of Christ.  Even in the bigger picture, there are other Christians we know who belong to other churches, and they too are also a part of the body of Christ.

I think there is a sense of weakness that comes from not recognizing the body of Christ.

2. Communion and healing
Here’s another thought on the broken body and the illnesses in the church in Corinth.
One suggestion is that when Jesus spoke of His body being “broken”, He might have been referring to the scourging that He would endure before being crucified (John 19:1)
The process of scourging:

The scourging was called the “intermediate death” because it was so painful, and because it took a person so close to death.

The condemned person would be led out to the front of the Praetorium, where the crowd was.

The prisoner would be stripped, and tied to a low post, stretching out the skin on the back so the whip would more easily cut through. 

The Jewish law had a limit of 40 lashes, but keep in mind, these are Romans administering the scourging, so we don’t know how many times Jesus was beaten.

The Romans used a “flagrum”, also called a “cat-o-nine-tails”, leather strips with pieces of bone or metal weighing down the ends, designed to tear the flesh as they hit.

Bishop Eusebius of Caesarea, the church historian of the third century, said (Epistle of the Church in Smyrna) concerning the Roman scourging inflicted on those to be executed:  The sufferer’s “veins were laid bare, and that the very muscles, sinews, and bowels of the victim were open to exposure”. (McDowell’s “Evidence that Demands a Verdict”, pg.204)

Isaiah’s prophecy of the suffering Messiah tells us something about the scourging:

(Isa 53:4-5 NKJV)  Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. {5} But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.

The “stripes” that Isaiah speaks of are the wounds received through scourging.

Isaiah links the “stripes” with healing.

This “healing” certainly involves a spiritual healing.  Peter refers to this spiritual healing when he writes,

(1 Pet 2:24 NKJV)  who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness; by whose stripes you were healed.

But could this also have involved physical healing as well?

healedrapha’ – to heal, make healthful.  This is the same word used in:

(Exo 15:23-26 NKJV)  Now when they came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter. Therefore the name of it was called Marah. {24} And the people complained against Moses, saying, "What shall we drink?" {25} So he cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a tree. When he cast it into the waters, the waters were made sweet. There He made a statute and an ordinance for them. And there He tested them, {26} and said, "If you diligently heed the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the LORD who heals you."

Even in this passage, we see a beautiful picture of both physical as well as emotional and spiritual healing.

The waters were bitter – just like our lives get when we don’t learn to forgive others.  Jesus told the story about the man who was forgiven by his master of a debt of $50million, but refused to forgive his friend for a debt of $50.  The master responded …

(Mat 18:34 NKJV)  "And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.

A few weeks ago I heard Cynthia Swindoll share some of her life story and the horrible torture of depression she suffered under for the first fifteen years of her marriage to Chuck Swindoll.  The torture finally ended when she was counseled by another gal who shared with her that she needed to forgive the people who had hurt her in her life.  She needed to forgive them because God had forgiven her.

When we have bitterness, God will show us a “tree”, God will show us the cross.  It’s at the cross that we’ve been forgiven.  We need to take that forgiveness and learn to forgive others, even when it doesn’t seem that they deserve it.  Our unforgiveness and bitterness only hurts us.

Communion ought to be a time of healing.

We ought to remember how His body was broken, the stripes across His back, and the healing that comes from the scourging of Christ.

It might be a physical healing.  It might be emotional.  It might be spiritual.

:27 Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you.

In the Passover Seder, the eating of the “afikomen” was followed by the “Birkat Hamazon”, the “Grace After Meals”.  This was a series of four “blessings” that were based on the Scripture:

(Deu 8:10 NKJV)  "When you have eaten and are full, then you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you.

After these “blessings”, the third cup, the “cup of blessing” was drunk by the participants at the Seder.

:28 "For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.

The “Old Covenant” was God’s agreement with Moses, an agreement that the Israelites would obey the Law and Yahweh would in turn be their God.  This contract, or “covenant”, was initiated by taking the blood and sprinkling it on the people (Ex. 24:3-8).

Thought the Law of Moses was a good thing, it’s purpose was to show man how far short he fell from God’s standards.  All along God had planned for another covenant, a “New Covenant”.

Jesus is now initiating the “New Covenant”, a new agreement between God and man.

(Jer 31:31-34 NKJV)  "Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; {32} "not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD. {33} "But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. {34} "No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more."

Note:  The new covenant included things like
1.  Putting God's laws into the people's heart
2.  Knowing God personally, and
3.  Forgiveness of sins.
Just as the first covenant was initiated with a blood ritual, so the second covenant, or new covenant, or new testament, was initiated with blood, Jesus' own blood.
The cup we drink at communion is to help us remember that blood and remember that we have this new relationship with God, not based on our works, but on His work for us.


The blood

“What can wash away my sins?  Nothing but the blood of Jesus”.
The little cups of grape juice are supposed to remind us of the blood of Jesus that was shed for us.
We’ve been purchased:
(1 Pet 1:17-19 NKJV)  And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; {18} knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, {19} but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.
We were purchased by the most expensive thing in the universe, the blood of God’s Son.
His blood cleanses us:
(1 John 1:7 NKJV)  But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.

:29 "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."

There is an aspect to communion that should make us look to the future.  The next time Jesus will have communion with His disciples is when He comes back.

Maybe the next time we have communion, we’ll be having it with Jesus.  Think about it.

:30 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

It was traditional at the end of the Passover meal to sing from the Psalms.  The traditional Passover Psalms were Psalms 113-118.  They would sing the songs at various points during the meal.  The last Psalm would be Psalm 118, the end of which is:

(Psa 118:22-29 NKJV)  The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone. {23} This was the Lord's doing; It is marvelous in our eyes. {24} This is the day the LORD has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it. {25} Save now, I pray, O LORD; O LORD, I pray, send now prosperity. {26} Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! We have blessed you from the house of the LORD. {27} God is the LORD, And He has given us light; Bind the sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar. {28} You are my God, and I will praise You; You are my God, I will exalt You. {29} Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.

We’ve talked about the significance of this Psalm with Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Psalm Sunday.
Jesus was the stone that the builders rejected.
He entered Jerusalem on “the day” the Lord made – fulfilling Daniel’s prophecy of the Messiah’s coming in Daniel 9:24-27.
The words “Save now” are a translation of “Hosanna”, which is what the crowd shouted as Jesus entered Jerusalem.
Jesus would die on a cross – fulfilling the picture of binding the sacrifice to the altar.