on Matthew 26 :26
Jesus took bread - This is the first institution of what is termed the Lord's Supper. To every part of this ceremony, as here mentioned, the utmost attention should be paid.
To do this, in the most effectual manner, I think it necessary to set down the text of the three evangelists who have transmitted the whole account, collated with that part of St. Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians which speaks of the same subject, and which, he assures us, he received by Divine revelation. It may seem strange that, although John (13:1-38) mentions all the circumstances preceding the holy supper, and, from 14:1-31 the circumstances which succeeded the breaking of the bread, and in chapters 15, 16, and 17, the discourse which followed the administration of the cup; yet he takes no notice of the Divine institution at all. This is generally accounted for on his knowledge of what the other three evangelists had written; and on his conviction that their relation was true, and needed no additional confirmation, as the matter was amply established by the conjoint testimony of three such respectable witnesses.
Matthew 26:26 Mark 14:22 Luke 22:19 1 Corinthians 11:23-24 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread and blessed it (ευλογησας and blessed God) and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat, this is my body. And as they did eat, Jesus took bread and blessed (ευλογησας, blessed God) and brake it, and to them, and said, Take, eat, this is my body. And he took bread and gave thanks, (ευχαριϚησας, i.e. to God), and gave brake it, and gave unto them, saying: This is my body which is given for you: This do in remembrance of me. The Lord Jesus, the same night in which he was betrayed, took bread; And when he had given thanks (και ευχαριϚησος, i.e. to God) he brake it, and said, Take, eat, this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.
After giving the bread, the discourse related, John 14:1-31, inclusive, is supposed by Bishop Newcome to have been delivered by our Lord, for the comfort and support of his disciples under their present and approaching trials.
Matthew 26:27-29 Mark 14:23-25 Luke 22:20 1 Corinthians 11:25 And he took the cup, and gave thanks (ευχαριϚησας), and gave it to them, saying: Drink ye all of it. And he took the cup; and when he had given thanks, (ευχαριϚησας), he gave it to them; and they all drank of it. Likewise also the cup, after supper, saying: After the same manner also, he took the cup, when he had supped, saying: For this is my blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many or the remission of sins. And he said unto them, This is my blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many. This cup is the New Testament in my blood, which is shed for you. This cup is the New Testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom. Verily I say unto you, I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God.
After this, our Lord resumes that discourse which is found in the 15th, 16th, and 17th chapters of John, beginning with the last verse of chap. 14, Arise, let us go hence. Then succeed the following words, which conclude the whole ceremony.
Matthew 26:30 Mark 14:26 Luke 22:39 John 14:1 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out into the Mount of Olives. And when they had sung a hymn, they went out into the Mount of Olives. And he came out, and went as he was wont to the Mount of Olives. And his disciples also followed him. When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples over the brook Kedron.
From the preceding harmonized view of this important transaction, as described by three Evangelists and one Apostle, we see the first institution, nature, and design of what has been since called The Lord's Supper. To every circumstance, as set down here, and the mode of expression by which such circumstances are described, we should pay the deepest attention.
As they were eating - Either an ordinary supper, or the paschal lamb, as some think. See the observations at the end of this chapter.
Jesus took bread - Of what kind? Unleavened bread, certainly, because there was no other kind to be had in all Judea at this time; for this was the first day of unleavened bread, (Matthew 26:17), i.e. the 14th of the month Nisan, when the Jews, according to the command of God, (Exodus 12:15-20; Exodus 23:15; Exodus 34:25), were to purge away all leaven from their houses; for he who sacrificed the passover, having leaven in his dwelling, was considered to be such a transgressor of the Divine law as could no longer be tolerated among the people of God; and therefore was to be cut off from the congregation of Israel. Leo of Modena, who has written a very sensible treatise on the customs of the Jews, observes, "That so strictly do some of the Jews observe the precept concerning the removal of all leaven from their houses, during the celebration of the paschal solemnity, that they either provide vessels entirely new for baking, or else have a set for the purpose, which are dedicated solely to the service of the passover, and never brought out on any other occasion."
To this divinely instituted custom of removing all leaven previously to the paschal solemnity, St. Paul evidently alludes, 1 Corinthians 5:6-8. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ, our passover, is sacrificed for us; therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the Unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
Now, if any respect should be paid to the primitive institution, in the celebration of this Divine ordinance, then, unleavened, unyeasted bread should be used. In every sign, or type, the thing signifying or pointing out that which is beyond itself should either have certain properties, or be accompanied with certain circumstances, as expressive as possible of the thing signified. Bread, simply considered in itself, may be an emblem apt enough of the body of our Lord Jesus, which was given for us; but the design of God was evidently that it should not only point out this, but also the disposition required in those who should celebrate both the antetype and the type; and this the apostle explains to be sincerity and truth, the reverse of malice and wickedness. The very taste of the bread was instructive: it pointed out to every communicant, that he who came to the table of God with malice or ill-will against any soul of man, or with wickedness, a profligate or sinful life, might expect to eat and drink judgment to himself, as not discerning that the Lord's body was sacrificed for this very purpose, that all sin might be destroyed; and that sincerity, ειλικρινεια, such purity as the clearest light can discern no stain in, might be diffused through the whole soul; and that truth, the law of righteousness and true holiness, might regulate and guide all the actions of life. Had the bread used on these occasions been of the common kind, it would have been perfectly unfit, or improper, to have communicated these uncommon significations; and, as it was seldom used, its rare occurrence would make the emblematical representation more deeply impressive; and the sign, and the thing signified, have their due correspondence and influence.
These circumstances considered, will it not appear that the use of common bread in the sacrament of the Lord's Supper is highly improper? He who can say, "This is a matter of no importance," may say with equal propriety, the bread itself is of no importance; and another may say, the wine is of no importance; and a third may say, "neither the bread nor wine is any thing, but as they lead to spiritual references; and, the spiritual reference being once understood, the signs are useless." Thus we may, through affected spirituality, refine away the whole ordinance of God; and, with the letter and form of religion, abolish religion itself. Many have already acted in this way, not only to their loss, but to their ruin, by showing how profoundly wise they are above what is written. Let those, therefore, who consider that man shall live by every word which proceeds from the mouth of God, and who are conscientiously solicitous that each Divine institution be not only preserved, but observed in all its original integrity, attend to this circumstance. The Lutheran Church makes use of unleavened bread to the present day.
And blessed it - Both St. Matthew and St. Mark use the word ευλογησας, blessed, instead of ευχαριϚησας, gave thanks, which is the word used by St. Luke and St. Paul. But instead of ευλογησας, blessed, ευχαριϚησας, gave thanks, is the reading of ten MSS. in uncial characters, of the Dublin Codex rescriptus, published by Dr. Barrett, and of more than one hundred others, of the greatest respectability. This is the reading also of the Syriac and Arabic, and is confirmed by several of the primitive fathers. The terms, in this case, are nearly of the same import, as both blessing and giving thanks were used on these occasions. But what was it that our Lord blessed? Not the bread, though many think the contrary, being deceived by the word It, which is improperly supplied in our version. In all the four places referred to above, whether the word blessed or gave thanks is used, it refers not to the bread, but to God, the dispenser of every good. Our Lord here conforms himself to that constant Jewish custom, viz. of acknowledging God as the author of every good and perfect gift, by giving thanks on taking the bread and taking the cup at their ordinary meals. For every Jew was forbidden to eat, drink, or use any of God's creatures without rendering him thanks; and he who acted contrary to this command was considered as a person who was guilty of sacrilege.
on Matthew 26 :26
See also Mark 14:22-26; Luke 22:15-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-25.
As they were eating - As they were eating the paschal supper, near the close of the meal.
Luke adds that he said, just before instituting the sacramental supper, "With desire have I desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer." This is a Hebrew manner of expression, signifying "I have greatly desired." He had desired it, doubtless:
(1) that he might institute the Lord's Supper, to be a perpetual memorial of him;
(2) that he might strengthen them for their approaching trials;
(3) that he might explain to them the true nature of the Passover; and,
(4) that he might spend another season with them in the duties of religion. Every "Christian, about to die will also seek opportunities of drawing specially near to God, and of holding communion with him and with his people.
Jesus took bread - That is, the unleavened bread which they used at the celebration of the Passover, made into thin cakes, easily broken and distributed.
And blessed it - Or sought a blessing on it; or "gave thanks" to God for it. The word rendered "blessed" not unfrequently means "to give thanks." Compare Luke 9:16 and John 6:11. It is also to be remarked that some manuscripts have the word rendered "gave thanks," instead of the one translated "blessed." It appears from the writings of Philo and the Rabbis that the Jews were never accustomed to eat without giving thanks to God and seeking his blessing. This was especially the case in both the bread and the wine used at the Passover.
And brake it - This "breaking" of the bread represented the sufferings of Jesus about to take place - his body "broken" or wounded for sin. Hence, Paul 1 Corinthians 11:24 adds, "This is my body which is broken for you;" that is, which is about to be broken for you by death, or wounded, pierced, bruised, to make atonement for your sins.
This is my body - This represents my body. This broken bread shows the manner in which my body will be broken; or this will serve to recall my dying sufferings to your remembrance. It is not meant that his body would be literally "broken" as the bread was, but that the bread would be a significant emblem or symbol to recall to their recollection his sufferings. It is not improbable that our Lord pointed to the broken bread, or laid his hands on it, as if he had said, "Lo, my body!" or, "Behold my body! - that which "represents" my broken body to you." This "could not" be intended to mean that that bread was literally his body. It was not. His body was then before them "living." And there is no greater absurdity than to imagine his "living body" there changed at once to a "dead body," and then the bread to be changed into that dead body, and that all the while the "living" body of Jesus was before them.
Yet this is the absurd and impossible doctrine of the Roman Catholics, holding that the "bread" and "wine" were literally changed into the "body and blood" of our Lord. The language employed by the Saviour was in accordance with a common mode of speaking among the Jews, and exactly similar to that used by Moses at the institution of the Passover Exodus 12:11; "It" - that is, the lamb - "is the Lord's Passover." That is, the lamb and the feast "represent" the Lord's "passing over" the houses of the Israelites. It serves to remind you of it. It surely cannot be meant that that lamb was the literal "passing over" their houses - a palpable absurdity - but that it represented it. So Paul and Luke say of the bread, "This is my body broken for you: this do in remembrance of me." This expresses the whole design of the sacramental bread. It is to call to "remembrance," in a vivid manner, the dying sufferings of our Lord. The sacred writers, moreover, often denote that one thing is represented by another by using the word is. See Matthew 13:37; "He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man" - that is, represents the Son of man. Genesis 41:26; "the seven good kine are seven years" - that is, "represent" or signify seven years. See also John 15:1, John 15:5; Genesis 17:10. The meaning of this important passage may be thus expressed: "As I give this broken bread to you to eat, so will I deliver my body to be afflicted and slain for your sins."
on Matthew 26 :26