10 Minute Read

TODAY’S BIBLE READING:

Numbers 11:24–13:33
Mark 14:22-52
Psalm 52:1-9
Proverbs 11:1-3

TODAY’S BIBLE VERSE(S):

Mark 14:22 (CSB): “As they were eating, he took bread, blessed and broke it, gave it to them, and said, ‘Take it; this is my body.'”

REFLECTIONS ON TODAY’S BIBLE VERSE(S):

I’m not sure why it keeps popping back into my mind many years after it happened, but it does. And generally, I think about it whenever it is time to observe the Lord’s Supper.

Many years ago, a retired pastor (who had only pastored for a very short time) scheduled an appointment with me. As the meeting began, and as it progressed, I came to realize that he had come with a list, a long list, of things that he disliked about me. Some of the things were legitimate and I thanked him for pointing them out – I would make the necessary adjustments. Other things that he brought up seemed bizarre and far-fetched. Other things just seemed petty and downright mean.

As he spoke on and on, I vowed never, ever to do this to a young pastor in my old age. I would find joy in being an “Apostle Paul” to young “Timothy’s” who were in the trenches and experiencing the stresses of pastoring that I no longer had. I would be an Encourager-in-Chief to the next generation of spiritual leaders.

One of the things he brought up in that meeting was how I handled the Lord’s Supper. He said that he disagreed with my clarifications after reading Jesus’ words.

Mark 14:22 (CSB): “As they were eating, he took bread, blessed and broke it, gave it to them, and said, ‘Take it; this is my body.'”

Well, friend, while there have been many areas of my life that I have adjusted as I’ve grown in my walk with the Lord, my clarifications during the Lord’s Supper have not changed. I am more convinced now than ever that my understanding of Jesus’ words and the nature of the elements of the Lord’s Supper are thoroughly biblical. They also happen to be thoroughly Baptistic.

So, let me share Jesus’ words and then clarify what Jesus was saying:

Mark 14:22 (CSB): “As they were eating, he took bread, blessed and broke it, gave it to them, and said, ‘Take it; this is my body.'”

“Eat this bread. It is my body.”

Jesus clearly had unleavened (no yeast) bread in His hand that He had taken from the Passover meal. And with the bread in hand, He said, “This is my body.”

A few moments later, he would take the juice from the Passover meal and say, “This is my blood.”

How are we to understand Jesus’ words? Certainly, we need clarification on what Jesus said and meant.

Theologians have generally taken Jesus’ words in one of three ways. Here they are:

Transubstantiation

This is the Roman Catholic view. They believe that when the priest takes the bread and then the juice, and prays over those elements, they actually become the flesh and blood of Jesus.

“Something happened at that last meal that Jesus celebrated with his disciples, something that had never happened before: Ordinary bread and wine were transformed into the body and blood of Jesus, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity.” – Father Cal Christiansen, “How Can I Explain Transubstantiation?”

So, in a very real sense, the worshipers believe they are literally eating Jesus’ body and drinking His blood.

I am convinced that this is NOT what Jesus meant.

Consubstantiation

This is the Lutheran view. It holds that while the bread and juice do not actually become Jesus’ flesh and blood, Jesus is somehow, mystically, present in, with, and under the elements.

“What is the Sacrament of the Altar? It is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, under the bread and wine, for us Christians to eat and to drink, instituted by Christ Himself.” – Martin Luther’s “The Small Catechism”

So, while the bread and juice do not actually become Jesus’ body and blood, His body and blood are somehow, in some way, mystically in, with, and under the elements as they are partaken by the worshiper.

I am convinced that this is NOT what Jesus meant.

A Symbolic Presence of Christ

This is the view that I believe is clearly taught in Scripture.

When we hear Jesus saying, “This is my body,” and “This is my blood,” we hear Him saying that the bread and juice are powerful pictures that point to the reality.

After all, Jesus said things like this all the time. He claimed to be certain things, assuming His disciples would understand that it was not literally true. He assumed they would have the ability to understand that His words were to simply paint a powerful, truthful picture in their minds.

Mark 14:22 (CSB): “… Take it; this is my body.'” 

Mark 14:24 (CSB): “… ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.'”

John 6:35 (CSB): “‘I am the bread of life,’ Jesus told them…”

John 8:12 (CSB): “Jesus spoke to them again: ‘I am the light of the world…'”

John 10:7 (CSB): “Jesus said again, ‘Truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep.'”

John 15:5 (CSB): “I am the vine; you are the branches…”

Clearly, Jesus was not a loaf of bread – He was a man. He wasn’t literally a light bulb – He was a man. He also wasn’t literally a gate or a grapevine – He was a man.

He is not being literal. He is painting word-pictures. He did this a lot! This isn’t complicated.

So, when Jesus said that the bread was His body and the juice was His blood, He wasn’t saying that they were literally his body and blood. He was saying that they are powerful pictures that point to a reality found in Him.

IMG_2389
Wedding day (May 10, 1997)

To further illustrate, look at the picture to the right. It is my wife and me on our wedding day.

That statement is true … AND false.

It is true in that everyone who looks at the picture, who knows us, would immediately identify those two individuals as Kim and me.

But, it is false in that it is simply a digital image. In fact, it is a scan of a picture that was simply paper and ink. It is not literally Kim and me and I would much rather spend time with my wife than with that picture.

So, when I refer to that picture and say, “This is Kim and me,” everyone knows what I mean. They know that it is not literally Kim and me. But, it provides a likeness that clearly points to the reality of Kim and me.

That is how we are to take Jesus’ words.

When Jesus held up the bread and said, “This is my body,” everyone should know what He’s talking about. It is not literally His body. Instead, it is a powerful picture, a reminder of the fact that God left Heaven, took on a body, and then in that body died on the cross and rose again for the benefit of all who will trust in Him.

When Jesus held up the cup and said, “This is my blood,” everyone should know what He’s talking about. It is not literally His blood. Instead, it is a powerful picture, a reminder that just as the Old Testament saints were required to kill an innocent animal and shed it’s blood for the forgiveness of their sin, so the Lamb of God came to shed His blood and die, once for all, for the benefit of all who will believe in Him.

So, there you have it.

I periodically shorten what I have just written and clarify what Jesus said and meant before I lead a congregation in the observance of the Lord’s Supper. I want those who are about to partake of the Supper to realize that when they look at the bread and juice, they are looking at powerful pictures that point to the reality found in Jesus and His death on the cross on our behalf.

If you have any questions or comments (even if you disagree with me), feel free to leave them in the Comments section below. I typically reply within a few hours.