This Is My Body
Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 26:26b (Holman) . . .and broke it,. . .
Since the unleavened bread, being flat, was brittle, pieces had to be broken off rather than “torn” off. Breaking it predicted the sufferings about to take place.
Jesus’ body will be broken, in the sense of being wounded and pierced. It is easy to see in Jesus’ words here a forecast of the soon-coming fulfillment of Isaiah 53:5,6b, “He was pierced because of our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on Him, and we are healed by His wounds. . . .The LORD has punished Him for the iniquity of us all.”
Matt. 26:26c . . .and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take and eat it;”
Jesus “gave it”; He dispensed the elements. He distributed them willingly from His own hands; this reminds us He would offer the sacrifice voluntarily.
“Take.” He commanded them to receive the elements. They did not merit this gift; their sole input was to simply receive it solely by faith due to God’s grace.
We “eat” to make something part of us. To “eat” this bread symbolizes our appropriating the benefits of what Jesus did for us on the cross. To let us know He wants to enter us and nourish us spiritually, He told us He is the Bread of life.
The message here is significant. Christ’s benefits are offered to all of us, but actually benefit only those who by faith appropriate them. To all who do not embrace the benefits of Jesus’ death, He is a Savior who does not save them.
Matt. 26:26d “This is My body.”
Few words have more divided Christ-followers than these four have. There are four main views. One, transubstantiation. This is the Roman Catholic position. It says the elements, when taken, change into the literal flesh and blood of Jesus.
Two, consubstantiation. Luther invented this term. He believed the elements do not change, but Christ’s substance is united with them in some special way.
Three, a spiritual presence. John Calvin held this view. He felt believers receive an extra blessing by the act of taking the Lord’s Supper. Jesus is present in the meal in a special way; thus it has power in and of itself to give spiritual benefit.
We Baptists and many other evangelicals do not hold to any of these three. First, we believe no mystical change happens to the elements. We do not think they turn into the body and blood of Jesus. His body and blood were there before the disciples, and thus could not have been in the elements also at the same time.
Second, we believe nothing mystical comes alongside the elements; the body and blood of Jesus are not present with us in the elements. By definition, a body, to truly be a body, cannot be in more than one place or one form at one time. Since Jesus’ body is in Heaven, it cannot be with the elements on Earth simultaneously.
Third, we do not believe the Lord’s Supper has any mystical, spiritual power to dispense. God is spirit, and we find interaction with Him in nothing physical.
Baptists and many others embrace a fourth position. We see the Lord’s Supper as a remembrance. A preponderance of Baptist Lord’s Supper tables have inscribed on them, “This do in remembrance of Me.” We view the elements as symbols, as when I show someone a picture and say, “This is my Ruthie.”
This was the position of our Swiss Baptist Reformer, Ulrich Zwingli, who met with Luther at Marburg Castle (Oct. 1-4, 1529) in Germany to discuss their doctrines. They agreed on essentially every major teaching, except for the level of Jesus’ presence in the Lord’s Supper. Zwingli, after appealing repeatedly to John 6:63, “The flesh profits nothing”, finally felt obligated to apologize to Luther, “I beg your pardon that this passage breaks your neck.” Luther replied, “German necks don’t break that easily, and you are in Germany, not Switzerland.”
After this stalemate, Zwingli extended his hand to Luther, who refused to shake it. Zwingli, crushed at the Reformation leader’s slight, quietly wept. Luther said to Zwingli, “I abandon you to God’s judgment, and pray that He will enlighten you.” Zwingli countered, “We will do the same, you need it as much as we.”
We believe the bread and juice are mementos, taken in remembrance of Jesus’ broken body and shed blood. They vividly remind us of our Savior’s death, and kindle again our gratitude for what He has accomplished on our behalf.
We believers disagree on the extent of Jesus’ bodily presence in the Lord’s Supper, but two things we all agree on. First, we believe Jesus, though God of true God, had a body and blood. The Son of God voluntarily took on Himself a true human body and literal blood. The fact He became flesh and blood is utterly amazing. Always remember, at one time He had neither, and was spirit only.
Never take for granted what the immortal, invisible One did for us. Jesus died a real death in a real body that was buried in a real tomb He really vacated.
Second, we all believe the Lord’s Supper serves as a neon billboard situated in the center of our life paths. It tells us to walk worthy of our calling before we go any farther. The Lord’s Supper question is, “Are you right with God; right now?”
If not, immediately ask for forgiveness, and determine to move toward making everything right in our relationships with others. Some say “I am not worthy” and refuse to take the Supper time after time, claiming they do not want to be guilty of taking it unworthily. This reaction is wrong. We may need to forego it once in order to make things right with another person, but the proper response is not to keep missing the Supper, but to make things right with God and others now.
Matt. 26:27a Then He took a cup, . . .
The bread and juice were distributed separately. Juice separated from the bread pictures blood separated from the body, which presents to our mind’s eye the unmistakable imagery of death, yea, of death by violence. This was especially true of crucifixion. It was sadism perfected, reserved for slaves and the worst criminals.
Matt. 26:27b . . .and after giving thanks,. . .
Bible teacher John Phillips found a tender thought in these words. Jesus would soon suffer beyond human ability to comprehend, yet gave thanks. Why? Because He was able to look past His shed blood and see us being blessed by it 2000 years later. He could see us forgiven, saved, and seated around the throne, looking like Him. He could hear us singing our songs of praise this morning.
Matt. 26:27c . . .He gave it to them, and said, “Drink from it, all of you.”
By ordering all to drink, Jesus stressed the unity and equality of believers. He welcomes all His followers to His table. It is the bond that unites us all. His death is the beating heart of our faith. Take out His blood, and you rip out the core. “Leave out the cross, and you have killed the religion of Jesus” (Spurgeon).
Everyone gathered around the throne in Heaven will be there because of the blood of Jesus. People have always been saved the same way, by faith in God as thus far revealed. In God’s predetermined fullness of time, the ultimate sacrifice was offered. Everyone saved since Golgotha has been saved due to the cross appropriated. Everyone saved before Calvary was saved due to the cross in anticipation. In God’s mind, it was as good as done. The Father trusted the Son.
Since God the Father trusted the Son, shouldn’t we? Our confidence in Him should be unwavering. I regret I do not trust Him more. Since foresight was good enough for the Father, hindsight ought to be good enough for us. We experience the crucifixion actually done, already accomplished, and verified by a resurrection.