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Last Supper

These are my notes from my ladies’ Sunday School class this morning. I’ll be posting the notes from my class here each week. Click here for last week’s lesson.

Through the Bible in 2014 ~ Week 46 ~ Nov. 9-15
Matthew 26-28, Mark 14-16, Luke 22-24, John 13-21
The Last Supper ~ The Lord’s Supper

Last week we took a look at the last act of Jesus’ public ministry, the woes to the Pharisees. Today, we’re studying the last act of His private ministry to His disciples–the Last Supper, and with it, the institution of the Lord’s Supper for the church.

Mark 14:12-16
It was time for the annual celebration of Passover. As you will recall, the Passover pointed to Christ and was fulfilled in Christ. As the Passover celebrated God’s people being released from the bondage of slavery to Egypt, the Lord’s Supper celebrates Jesus releasing the Christian from bondage to the slavery of sin. As the Passover lamb was slaughtered and the blood applied to the wooden doorposts so death would not come to that house, Jesus, the Lamb of God, was slaughtered and bled on a wooden cross, so that if His blood is applied over the doors of our hearts, we will not suffer eternal death.

That’s why, as Christians, we now observe the Lord’s Supper instead of the Passover. For us, the Passover has been fulfilled in Christ. But for the disciples, on that night, it had not yet been fulfilled. So they began by celebrating the last Passover and ended by observing the first Lord’s Supper. It was a bridge between the old covenant and the new.

Peter and John (they’re mentioned by name in Luke 22:8) went into town, found the man whose house they were to use, and began to prepare the Passover meal. From the notes on verse 12 in my MacArthur Study Bible*:

After the lamb was slaughtered and some of its blood sprinkled on the altar, the lamb was taken home, roasted whole, and eaten in the evening meal with unleavened bread, bitter herbs, charoseth (a paste made of crushed apples, dates, pomegranates, and nuts, into which they dipped bread), and wine.

Luke 22:14-20
The end of the Passover (14-18)
This passage begins with the last Passover. Jesus will not partake of the Passover again until Heaven, after His death, burial, and resurrection have fulfilled it. Here, Jesus brings the old (Law) covenant and Passover to a close. For the last time, the first of the four cups of Passover, the cup of thanksgiving, is passed around. It is an appropriate time for the disciples to look back and give thanks to God for His good Law, and His love, kindness, care, and patience with His covenant people. It is also a time to look forward and give thanks -although the disciples don’t yet understand it- for the sacrifice Christ is about to make to atone, not only for their sin, but for the sin of all those who will come to trust in Him.

A New Meal (19-20)
With the breaking and blessing of the bread, a new ordinance is born for the church, the Lord’s Supper. The bread represents Christ’s body. (It does not actually or materially become Christ’s literal flesh, and the wine does not become His literal blood, as the false teaching of transubstantiation posits. Christ’s words are a metaphor, the same as when He said, “I am the door,” or “I am the bread that comes down from Heaven.”) He breaks it, as his physical body will soon be broken. He breaks it for his disciples, as his physical body will be broken for all future disciples. He gives the broken bread to His disciples -they did not take it themselves or earn it- as Christ gives life to Christians without any work on our part to earn or merit it.

In verse 20, Jesus likewise gave His disciples what had been the third cup of Passover, the cup of blessing. And what a blessing it was! Christ’s blood, shed for the remission of our sins. It represented the new covenant of grace– trusting in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection as payment for our sin for right standing with God, rather than looking ahead to Messiah with the keeping of ceremonial Law.

1 Corinthians 11:23-34
Flash forward a couple of decades from the upper room to the church at Corinth. This church had allowed sin to corrupt their observance of the Lord’s Supper so much that Paul said (20) could no longer rightfully be considered “the Lord’s” supper. In verses 23-34, he sets about to instruct them on the proper way to come to the Lord’s table. Because this is an instruction to the church, we also draw upon this passage to learn how we should conduct the Lord’s Supper today.

A few implicit things to understand
First Corinthians is a letter to the church at Corinth. The church consisted of baptized Believers. Paul was not instructing lost people on receiving the Lord’s Supper. Lost people partaking in the Lord’s Supper would not have made any sense (then or now) because it was the celebration of the new covenant between God and His new covenant people, Christians. Lost people are not part of that new covenant. Their participation in the Lord’s Supper is sort of like an unmarried man and woman hooking up and having sex versus a man and woman getting married and then celebrating and consumating their marriage covenant by having sex.

The Lord’s Supper is not a lucky charm or magic wand that takes care of spiritual problems. Partaking of the bread and wine (or juice) will not save anyone who is unsaved. It is also not some sort of spiritual “booster shot” that imparts righteousness, grace, forgiveness, or holiness to the person who partakes, nor does it somehow supernaturally protect a person from demons or life’s negative circumstances. Neither does it prove that a person who claims to be a Christian is actually saved. It is simply an outward celebration of salvation by those who have already been saved.

Because the Lord’s Supper is a church ordinance, it is to be celebrated by the gathered body of the church (not at home {unless the church is meeting in a home} or somewhere else by individuals, families, groups of friends, etc.) and presided over by the pastor and elders or deacons of the church. Since it is not salvific and does not impart any kind of spiritual “good luck” there is no need to partake of it outside the meeting of the church body. It is a church celebration.

23-26– Paul sums up the gospels’ accounts of the institution of the Lord’s Supper by Jesus, relating that it commemorates Christ’s death for His people, and reminding us that it is a celebration of the new covenant of God with Believers through Jesus. He also says that when we, as a body of Believers, celebrate the Lord’s Supper, it is a picture of the gospel to the lost, so that they might come to know Christ as Savior.

27-32– We are not to underestimate the seriousness and solemnity of the Lord’s Supper. Once again, I think the notes on these verses in my study Bible* say it better than I could:

“In an unworthy manner” means ritualistically, indifferently, with an unrepentant heart, a spirit of bitterness, or any other ungodly attitude.

To come to the Lord’s Table clinging to one’s sin does not only dishonor the ceremony, but it also dishonors His body and blood, treating lightly the gracious sacrifice of Christ for us. It is necessary to set all sin before the Lord, then partake, so as not to mock the sacrifice for sin by holding on to it…

When believers do not properly judge the holiness of the celebration of Communion, they treat with indifference the Lord Himself- His life, suffering, and death…The offense was so serious that God put the worst offenders to death, an extreme but effective form of church purification. (Keep in mind, these are Believers, not lost people, we’re talking about, here.)

Believers are kept from being consigned to hell, not only by divine decree, but by divine intervention. The Lord chastens to drive His people back to righteous behavior and even sends death to some in the church to remove them before they could fall away.

The Lord’s Supper is a big deal. We are not to be flippant about it. Christians are to approach His table in reverence, awe, and gratitude for the extreme sacrifice God made through Christ to rescue us from hell. While it is not for unbelievers to participate in, it is a beautiful picture of the gospel to them, and a reminder to us -as individuals and the body of Christ- of just how much our sin and reconciliation to God cost Jesus. As often as we do it, let’s do it in remembrance of Him.

 

If you’d like to read more about the Lord’s Supper and the ins and outs of observing it in the church today, check out Joe Thorn’s excellent series of articles (they are brief and easy to understand), The Lord’s Supper:

For Sinners
Open or Closed?
Fencing the Table
A Means of Grace
Only in the Assembly
Sip It, Don’t Dip It
How Often?
Wine or Welch’s?

*Quotes taken from The MacArthur Study Bible, English Standard Version, Crossway Publishers, Wheaton, Illinois, 2010.

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