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Meditations and readings for Maundy Thursday can be found here.

The Epistle is as follows (emphases mine):

1 Corinthians 11:23-26

11:23 For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread,

11:24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

11:25 In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

11:26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Paul gives us the first description of the Last Supper. The Gospels had not yet been written.

As Paul was not one of the original Apostles, the Lord told him what had happened, possibly during the three days of his Damascene conversion.

Paul states that the Lord was the source of his information on the Last Supper at the last true Passover, which he passed on to the Corinthians when he planted their church; on the night Christ was betrayed, He took a loaf of bread (verse 23).

John MacArthur calls to our attention the juxtaposition of Judas’s evil betrayal and our Lord’s generosity of giving us His body and blood for our spiritual nourishment:

And I think it’s interesting, if you look at verse 23, that he throws that in, “That the Lord Jesus the same night in which He was betrayed took bread.” Why does he say that? Well, because he wants to set the history; he wants to put it in its historical context, because that has a great deal of meaning.

You say, “But he could have said on the eve of the Passover, or he could have said on Thursday night before the crucifixion. Why does he say “in the same night in which He was betrayed”?

Because the New Testament does something very interesting, periodically, and that is it sets the most glorious, the most beautiful, the most wonderful against the background of the ugliest so that, by contrast, the beauty is visible.

For example, in John 13 that what I think to be the most beautiful passage on love in the Bible next to the story of the cross: Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. All the way woven through the passage where He washes the feet of the disciple is the interlude of Judas who is about to go out and betray Him. And you have Satan entering his heart. Right in the midst of this whole thing.

And so, the contrast between the hate of Judas and the filth of the devil, against the beauty and the love of Jesus, makes it all the more wonderful. At the cross, where you have God the Son dying for the sins of the world, all around it is hatred and mockery and rejection, because that makes it all the more beautiful.

And here in the most beautiful ordinance that the Lord has ever given for the celebration of His Church, set against it is the terrible hatred, cruelty of a betrayal. But that gives it all the more beauty against that dark background.

When Jesus had given thanks, He broke the bread, telling the Apostles that it was His body, given for them, that they should do this — partake of it — in remembrance of Him (verse 24).

Matthew Henry points out that, throughout, bread is referred to as such:

As to the visible signs; these are bread and the cup, the former of which is called bread many times over in this passageWhat is eaten is called bread, though it be at the same time said to be the body of the Lord

MacArthur says:

It was not His body; His body was still sitting there when He said that. So, we’re not talking about literal things.

Remember, that’s exactly what the Jews thought in John 6, “How are we going to eat his flesh? There’s not enough of Him to go around,” they thought.

So, He says in verse 23, Paul does, “That the Lord Jesus took bread. And when He had given thanks” – and that’s eucharisteō in the Greek, from which you get the Eucharist. He gave thanks; He broke it, and that’s so that all could share from a common loaf, and said, “Take, eat. This represents My body which is for you.” This represents My body. What do you mean by that, Lord?

Well, the body, to the Jewish mind, represented the whole man. The total man. The whole incarnate life of Christ. “This bread represents all that I am as God incarnate.” The mystery of the incarnation is there from the day He was born till the day He died, and even when He rose again. The whole of the incarnation is summed up in the term “body.” God in human flesh. “Remember that I became Man and suffered, and was rejected, and was despised, and ultimately died for you.” But the whole thing, not just His death. In the bread is not just His death but His whole incarnation. “This is My body – represents My body which is for you.”

In the same way, Jesus took the cup and said it is the New Covenant in His blood, meant to be taken often in remembrance of Him (verse 25).

Henry tells us more about both the bread and the cup in the Sacrament:

Bread and the cup are both made use of, because it is a holy feast. Nor is it here, or any where, made necessary, that any particular liquor should be in the cup. In one evangelist, indeed, it is plain that wine was the liquor used by our Saviour, though it was, perhaps, mingled with water, according to the Jewish custom; vide Lightfoot on Matthew 26:27. But this by no means renders it unlawful to have a sacrament where persons cannot come at wine. In every place of scripture in which we have an account of this part of the institution it is always expressed by a figure. The cup is put for what was in it, without once specifying what the liquor was, in the words of the institution. [2.] The things signified by these outward signs; they are Christ’s body and blood, his body broken, his blood shed, together with all the benefits which flow from his death and sacrifice: it is the New Testament in his blood. His blood is the seal and sanction of all the privileges of the new covenant; and worthy receivers take it as such, at this holy ordinance. They have the New Testament, and their own title to all the blessings of the new covenant, confirmed to them by his blood.

MacArthur says that covenants in the ancient world had to be ratified in blood, hence the sacrifices in the Bible, culminating with the Crucifixion:

In the Old Testament, God said to Israel, “I will lead you to the Promised Land. I will pass over your house and not execute your firstborn if you will sign on the dotted line.” And what did they sign with? The blood of a lamb on the doorpost and the lintel. And that was the fluid that ratified the promise, “God, you do your part; we will do our part.”

And throughout all of the Old Testament, God continued to say, “You’ve got to ratify the promise in blood. And they sacrificed animal after animal after animal after animal so that the blood flowed through the land of Israel through all of its history as the people continued to renew the promise over and over and over and over again.

And in fact, when covenants were made in the East, in the ancient East, they weren’t made by signing your name at the bottom. An animal was killed, and the blood was sprinkled on both parties. You were both doused in blood as a sign you were going to keep your promise. A covenant ratified by blood.

And Jesus says, “There’s a new covenant. God is making a new promise. You know what that promise is? It isn’t anymore the old one of law. It isn’t anymore the old one of you have to do this sacrifice and this sacrifice and this one. It’s a brand new promise. Here it is: I will forgive all your sins for all time.” And that was new. They had to make sacrifices continuously. “I will make one sacrifice forever, and that will be Christ. And His one sacrifice and His one ratification by blood will end the sacrificial system for good. That’s a new promise.”

God says, “I’ll give you total forgiveness forever. I’ll give you eternal life forever by the blood of Christ.” And it was as if on the cross Jesus was taking His blood and signing on the dotted line. That’s the new covenant: the blood of Christ. Not the blood of a lamb on a doorpost, where God says, “I’ll take you out of the land and get you to the Promised Land.” That’s temporal and impermanent. But the blood of the new covenant, where God says, “I’ll take you into heaven, and I’ll forgive your sin forever, unconditionally because of Jesus Christ.” That’s the new covenant.

And so, He says, “The cup represents the new covenant. No longer do you need to go back to the blood of the Passover; come back to the blood of the cross …”

Jesus said that as often as we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim His death until He comes to us once more (verse 26).

Both commentators say that we must receive the Sacrament often.

Henry reminds us that, just as we cannot go without nourishment of the body, we must similarly feed our souls:

It is moreover hinted here, concerning this ordinance, [1.] That it should be frequent: As often as you eat this bread, c. Our bodily meals return often we cannot maintain life and health without this. And it is fit that this spiritual diet should be taken often too. The ancient churches celebrated this ordinance every Lord’s day, if not every day when they assembled for worship. [2.] That it must be perpetual. It is to be celebrated till the Lord shall come; till he shall come the second time, without sin, for the salvation of those that believe, and to judge the world. This is our warrant for keeping this feast. It was our Lord’s will that we should thus celebrate the memorials of his death and passion, till he come in his own glory, and the Father’s glory, with his holy angels, and put an end to the present state of things, and his own mediatorial administration, by passing the final sentence. Note, The Lord’s supper is not a temporary, but a standing and perpetual ordinance.

However, in the verses that follow this reading, Paul warns about taking Holy Communion unworthily and says that some of the Corinthians experienced illness and death because of it:

1 Corinthians 11:27-34 – profaning Holy Communion, sickness, death, judgement

This is why most churches have strict rules about receiving the Sacrament. A few let anyone receive Communion, although that should not be the case. At minimum, one should be baptised, as in the Anglican Communion, although personally I would go further. Some denominations stipulate that only their members are allowed at the Lord’s Table, e.g. conservative Lutherans, Reformed churches and the Catholic Church. Some Reformed churches ask that visitors introduce themselves to one of the greeters when entering church for a Communion service for that very purpose.

One should understand the significance of this generous sacrifice the Lord made for our sake and commanded us to remember often in His memory. It is not to be received lightly, but with solemn reverence.

Bible and crossContinuing a study of the passages from Luke’s Gospel which have been omitted from the three-year Lectionary for public worship, today’s post is part of my ongoing series Forbidden Bible Verses, also essential to understanding Scripture.

The Bible passages in this series have been excluded from the three-year Lectionary used by many Catholic and Protestant churches around the world.

Do some clergy using the Lectionary really want us understand Holy Scripture in its entirety? I wonder.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Luke 22:35-38

Scripture Must Be Fulfilled in Jesus

35 And he said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” 36 He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. 37 For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.” 38 And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough.”

—————————————————————–

This is the last of St Luke’s account of the inner room where Jesus instituted the Last Supper.

The preceding verses has the account of His foretelling Peter’s denial of Him hours later.

It is difficult for the remaining eleven Apostles — Judas has gone to the authorities — to understand what is happening and what will happen within the next 24 hours.

Now Jesus is telling His closest followers that they must take certain precautions for the future. He will no longer be amongst them physically to protect them. They do not grasp the import of His message, although it will make sense to them within the coming weeks.

Jesus begins by asking them if they had ever needed anything temporal when they went out briefly on their own ministry (verse 35). They respond by saying they had what they needed, as He had said at the time.

My readers who have been following these readings from Luke’s Gospel, which I started analysing in March 2013, will recall that in Luke 9:1-6, our Lord did indeed send the Apostles out for a short time, investing them with the divine grace to preach and heal. My post on the passage, with John MacArthur’s exposition, is useful to those who would like to better understand this ministry.

Luke 9:1-6

Jesus Sends Out the Twelve Apostles

 1 And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. 3 And he said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics. 4And whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart. 5And wherever they do not receive you, when you leave that town shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them.” 6 And they departed and went through the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere.

Luke 10 begins with Jesus sending out the 72 disciples in the same manner:

Jesus Sends Out the Seventy-Two

10 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two[a] others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. 4 Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ 12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.

Jesus sent both groups out with few material comforts because He protected them from a distance. His blessing ensured that all would go well in their efforts. He also intended to show them that they, too, would be able to preach and heal in His name.

Back to today’s passage from Luke. Jesus now gives them different instructions: have a moneybag, take a knapsack and … buy a sword (verse 36).

That this passage does not find its way into the three-year Lectionary is deplorable. We need to know how Jesus’s presence and absence changed the conditions of His disciples’ ministry.

That said, even in churches where Scripture is studied in detail, John MacArthur says that he has never heard a sermon preached on these verses:

Perhaps you’ve never even read that passage. I don’t think in my life I’ve ever heard a message on that passage. And yet it is one of the most important ones in the New Testament for reasons that will become apparent to you.

But, people say, Jesus is — and was — non-violent, bar the cleansing of the temple. True. But then Jesus — by His all-human, all-divine nature — did not have to be violent.

He intended for the Apostles to arm themselves for self-defence, not for attacks.

Another Gospel passage which helps clarify what He is preparing them for is John 16:1-4, also spoken at the Last Supper (KJV below, emphases mine):

1These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended.

 2They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.

 3And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me.

 4But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. And these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you.

Incidentally, John 13-16 offers the fullest Gospel account of Jesus’s final words to His Apostles before the Crucifixion. In reading them, one really feels as if one were there at the Last Supper. These chapters are another reason why John’s Gospel is my favourite.

Returning to Luke, Matthew Henry’s commentary offers this analysis of Jesus’s instructions:

[1.] They must not now expect that their friends would be so kind and generous to them as they had been and therefore, He that has a purse, let him take it, for he may have occasion for it, and for all the good husbandry he can use. [2.] They must now expect that their enemies would be more fierce upon them than they had been, and they would need magazines as well as stores: He that has no sword wherewith to defend himself against robbers and assassins (2 Corinthians 11:26) will find a great want of it, and will be ready to wish, some time or other, that he had sold his garment and bought one. This is intended only to show that the times would be very perilous, so that no man would think himself safe if he had not a sword by his side.

In verse 37, Jesus tells the Apostles that He must fulfil Scripture. Here He cites Isaiah 53:12:

Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,[j]
    and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,[k]
because he poured out his soul to death
    and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
    and makes intercession for the transgressors.

This is even more evidence that our Lord was meant to be crucified for our sins. Contrary to what revisionists or unbelieving ‘Bible scholars’ say, this was God’s plan for His Son from the beginning of the world. Nothing went wrong. Everything unfolded as He predestined.

MacArthur explains:

Our Lord Himself explicitly claims that He is the fulfillment of Isaiah 53, that is crucial…crucial to an understanding of the fact that Jesus knew who He was and why He had come. It is also the single most powerful New Testament interpreter of the meaning of Isaiah 53 because just the one quote, “He was numbered with the transgressors,” means that the whole chapter applies to Him because that phrase, “He was numbered with the transgressors,” which means that God treated Him as a sinner is repeated in different forms twenty times in Isaiah 53…twenty times in Isaiah 53 in one way or another, it says that Jesus was punished as a sinner…twenty times. This is just one of the twenty.

Luke 22:38 tells us that the Apostles found two swords. Jesus told them that they would suffice. This shows us that Jesus did not instruct them to spread the Gospel by violent means. However, He did expect them to be able to do His work, defending themselves when necessary.

A sword would also allow them to cut wood for fires and defend themselves against wild animals.

We might ask how the two swords just happened to be there. MacArthur surmises:

Probably one belonged to Simon the Zealot and the other one to the tax collector, Matthew. Don’t know. They would be the most likely people to have carried those things. But in the whole time they were with Jesus, they didn’t need any weapons. They would use them for purposes other than aggression.

However, just a few verses later in Luke 22, we read of Jesus’s betrayal and arrest on the Mount of Olives. Peter — the ‘one’ here — grabs a sword:

50 And one of them struck the servant[h] of the high priest and cut off his right ear.

Jesus rebukes the action and performs a final miracle before the Crucifixion:

51 But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him.

He acquiesced to His arrest because:

53  this is your hour, and the power of darkness.”

Next time: Luke 24:11-12

Last year I featured two posts on Maundy Thursday.  One was ‘What is the Triduum?’

The other is called ‘Maundy Thursday: “One of you will betray Me”‘.  As I can add nothing more to it, I therefore invite you to read the story behind Holy Thursday and ponder the significance of its traditions as events unfold in John 13.

jesus-praying-mount-of-olives-leadedglassworldcomThat Thursday evening, Jesus and the Apostles gather together privately on Passover for what would be the Last Supper.  Let’s look to John 13 (New American Bible) for the story.

Jesus shocks the Apostles by saying he must wash their feet.  How could their great Rabbi (‘Teacher’) do such a thing, an act that would not be expected of even the lowliest Jewish slave?

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Master, are you going to wash my feet?”

Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing, you do not understand now, but you will understand later.”

Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.”

Simon Peter said to him, “Master, then not only my feet, but my hands and head as well.”
Jesus said to him, “Whoever has bathed has no need except to have his feet washed, for he is clean all over; so you are clean, but not all.”

The washing of the feet is an act of humility that precedes the ultimate act of humility, the Crucifixion.  But what did Jesus mean by ‘so you are clean, but not all’?  The Apostles would soon find out.

Afterward, Jesus issues His ‘mandate’ (‘maundy‘, from the Latin ‘mandatum’) to the Twelve — which also holds for us today:

You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am.  If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet.
I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.  Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him.  If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it.

Then, He says:

I am not speaking of all of you. I know those whom I have chosen. But so that the scripture might be fulfilled, ‘The one who ate my food has raised his heel against me.’
From now on I am telling you before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe that I AM. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”  When he had said this, Jesus was deeply troubled and testified, “Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”

Read the rest of this entry »

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