Matthew 26:26-29 (The Communion of Christ’s Body)

After numerous predictions that He would be delivered up for crucifixion, during the Passover celebration with His disciples on Wednesday of Passion Week Jesus shocked His disciples with the pronouncement that it would be one of them eating at His table and sharing His communion who would betray Him.  While they were eating Jesus also took bread and blessed it, and then broke it and gave it to the disciples saying, “Take, eat; this is My body which is given for you; do this for my remembrance” (Mat 26:26, Luk 22:19 literal).  As breaking bread was a communal act done with those with whom one was in close fellowship or κοινωνία, to act contrary to that κοινωνία was traitorous, not just to one, but to the whole community.  For by partaking of the one loaf that is broken, participants become sharers in the corporate body, so that as one member suffers, all the members suffer with it, and as one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it (1Co 12:26).  Hence, in eating of the shared loaf in an unworthy manner Judas became guilty not just of Christ’s physical body that was put to death, but of His corporate body that suffered with Him; hence the emphasis of his traitorous deed in the very early church.

As we break bread together in remembrance of Christ, is it only in sorrow for His death, or also in joy and consolation for His resurrection?  And is the communion we share only with Him, or also with those of His body who continue to suffer in His name but are overcoming to be glorified with Him and obtain the crown of life?  Cf. 2Co 1:3-7, 1Th 4:18 and the preceding context, Jam 1:12, Rev 2:10.  Similarly, if one partakes of the shared communion in an unworthy manner as Judas did, is it against Christ only that he sins, or does he also sin against His body the Church which is a part of Him, and that suffers with Him?  Cf. Act 5:5,11,13.

In the record we have then of the early Church, when they celebrated the Lord’s Supper, was it just a ceremony of remembrance tacked on to the rest of their worship, or was it truly a communal celebration of their communion not only with the Lord but also with one another as His body?  See Act 2:42,46, 20:7,11; cf. also the following occurrences of κοινωνία, variously translated as fellowship, sharing, or participation, that may also be translated and understood as communion: Act 2:42, 1Co 1:9, 10:16, 2Co 6:14, 2Co 13:14, Gal 2:9, Phil 1:5, 2:1, 3:10, Phm 1:6, 1Jo 1:3,6,7; cf. Mar 10:29-30.  How does this help us to understand the way that the Corinthians’ celebration of the Lord’s Supper had degenerated from its true spirit, for which Paul rebuked them?  See 1Co 11:17-22.  How do his words indicate that the Lord’s Supper was also much more than just a community meal?  See 1Co 11:22,34, and cf. again Act 20:7,11 indicating that they didn’t break bread until after midnight!

Besides breaking bread and sharing it with the disciples as a visible symbol by which to remember both His physical body that was given for them and the spiritual body of His Church of which they are a part, what additional part of the Lord’s Supper did Jesus institute that evening?  See Mat 26:27-28, Mar 14:23-24.  At what point in the meal did Jesus share the cup as the new covenant in His blood?  See Luk 22:20, 1Co 11:25.  In Luk 22:17-20, was Luke referring to more than one cup that was shared that evening, or was he simply introducing an overview of the Lord’s Supper in Luk 22:15-18 to emphasize to the new Gentile churches to whom he was writing the purpose of the Lord’s Supper to “proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (1Co 11:26), and then repeating additional specifics in Luk 22:19-20?  Cf. Mat 26:29 and the emphasis that Jesus would by no means drink of the fruit of the vine again until He did so anew with His disciples in His Father’s kingdom.  Notice too that the actual grammatical construction in Luk 22:20 properly refers back to the cup already mentioned in Luk 22:17: “And the cup likewise, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood which is poured out for you’” (literal).

Notice however, that although the gospels seem to refer to only one cup to emphasize the new covenant Jesus was instituting in His own blood that was poured out for the forgiveness of sins as what they understood to be the most important thing to communicate to new believers from the Lord’s Supper, according to Jewish tradition dating to at least the second century, participants actually drank from four cups of wine during the Passover celebration in Jesus’ day, which we will consider in our next lesson.