The Lord’s Supper gives us the opportunity to reflect on the sacrifice Jesus made for us!
Consider the meals we share together. We rarely gather simply to eat, but also to serve and share with others. We typically celebrate special occasions by sharing a meal. These moments at the table communicate something about an event’s importance, and they connect us to one another in a way that other activities do not. So it’s no surprise that on the night before His death, Jesus chose to explain the significance of His suffering and death with a meal.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS (Matthew 26:26-29, 1 Corinthians 11:17-22)
1. Begin by asking a couple of people in your group to share a story about the most celebrated or memorable meal they have ever been a part of. Have them include details, such as the menu, the company, the ambiance, the occasion—anything that made it special. Why do you think food and meals are so often a part of our celebrations in life?
2. When you think of Scripture, what memorable meals come to mind?
3. This scene with Jesus and His disciples took place during the annual Passover celebration. How did Jesus give new meaning to the Passover celebration?
The Passover meal served as a reminder of God’s deliverance, love, and power. Jesus used this significant time to teach about Himself and foreshadow His death on the cross. The Lord’s Supper celebrates believers’ spiritual and permanent deliverance from sins. Rather than dying for only one family, the Lamb of God died for all the world (see John 1:29).
4. As the disciples observed and listened to Jesus at the first Lord’s Supper, what do you think might have been going through their minds? How much do you think they understood when Jesus spoke about His body and blood?
5. 1 Corinthians 11:17-22: According to Paul, how were the Corinthians falling short when it came to having the Lord’s Supper? How were these practices impacting the community of believers as a whole?
6. What changes would the Corinthians need to make to ensure that it really was the Lord’s Supper?
7. What do these verses teach us about the importance of the Lord’s Supper?
8. Why do you think Christians need to be reminded about the meaning and purpose of the Lord’s Supper?
9. Are you ever tempted to start examining others instead of yourself? How can you prevent this from happening? What are some practical ways a person can “examine himself”?
As you reflect on what Christ has done for you, what are your feelings? What is an appropriate response to His sacrifice?
When do you tend to approach worship or a part of the worship experience, such as the Lord’s Supper, too lightly? What are some ways we can help each other guard against those complacencies and habits?
What will you do this week to reflect the change Christ has made in you?
26:17-19. The phrase “the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread” (27:17) was another way of referring to the day of the Passover. The feast derived its name from the fact that no yeast was used in the cooking for these meals. This commemorated Israel’s hurried departure from Egypt (see Ex. 12). They had to leave on such short notice that they did not have time to leaven their bread, so they ate the first Passover meal with unleavened bread. This was some time before sunset on Thursday. At the disciples’ inquiry, Jesus directed them to a particular man’s home in “the city,” referring to Jerusalem. The man apparently knew who “the Teacher” was, and would gladly welcome the Messiah into his home. Jesus’ words, “My appointed time is near,” indicated His awareness of the triumphant completion of His work was suffering, which would begin that night.
The lamb was selected, the leaven was burned, and then the lamb was sacrificed and roasted. The whole process was an elaborate ceremony that lasted several days. The order of the meal was a carefully prescribed tradition that had begun nearly fifteen hundred years before. A prayer of thanksgiving was offered over the first of four cups of wine. A preliminary course of bitter herbs was eaten. A ceremonial question was asked and answered about the meaning of the meal. Throughout the meal, at prescribed times, certain parts of the great Jewish Hallel (see Pss. 113–118) were sung.
26:20-24. The words “evening came” refer to the setting of the sun and the beginning of the Passover celebration. In the middle of the meal, Jesus made a statement that shocked the disciples. Jesus’ announcement of a betrayer in their midst was met with denial, tinged with self-doubt. They all knew they were weak, but it was hard for them to conceive that they could betray their Lord. Their denials took the form of a question that expected a negative answer: “Surely not I, Lord?” Matthew noted that they were “very sad,” a word that amplified their grief to the extreme. The disciples were beside themselves with sorrow. Jesus’ response to their denials was an allusion to Psalm 41:9. This psalm of David praised Yahweh for protecting him from the most treacherous of his enemies.
In 26:24, Jesus made it clear that, on the one hand, “the Son of Man will go just as it is written about Him.” But, on the other hand, “woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man!” The Messiah-King’s death as the sacrificial Son of Abraham must take place. But this did not relieve the betrayer of his guilt. God’s sovereignty does not remove human responsibility. Even though the outcome would be the salvation of all who would believe, it would be better for the betrayer “if he had not been born”—so severe would be his judgment.
26:25-26. Judas joined the chorus of denials, hoping that Jesus’ answer to his “Surely not I, Rabbi?” would be “No, of course not.” This would indicate that Jesus did not know of Judas’ plans. But Jesus’ response took Judas’ question and turned it into a confession: “Yes, it is you.” Judas’ use of the respectful “Rabbi” was a smokescreen that hid his disrespect for Jesus. Judas was just like the hypocrites who built Jesus up with false compliments even as they were trying to take Him down. Jesus’ comment, “Take and eat; this is my body,” must have caused a stir among the disciples. Matthew did not record Jesus’ further elaboration on the significance of the bread, but the symbolism of sacrificial provision was unmistakable.
26:27-29. At one point in the meal, Jesus took the cup of wine, again gave thanks, and gave it to His disciples, commanding them, “Drink from it, all of you.” On this occasion, Jesus shocked the disciples by breaking the order of the centuries-long liturgy and offering the cup of His own blood. Thus, Jesus rendered the earlier Passover ceremonial meals obsolete and introduced a brand-new ceremony, the communion. But His further explanation must have surprised them: “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (27:28). The disciples had witnessed the pouring of an animal’s blood on the temple altar as the required Mosaic sacrifice for the sins of Israel (see Lev. 4:7,18,25,30,34). But Jesus introduced something new to their understanding. It would no longer be an animal’s blood that would cover sins, but His blood—the blood of the Messiah-King. The blood of animals sealed the Old Covenant between Yahweh and His people (see Ex. 24:8; Zech. 9:11). The blood of the Messiah would seal the New Covenant (see Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:25-27; Heb. 7–10).
Jesus concluded the institution of the ordinance with a solemn affirmation (“I tell you”), vowing not to celebrate this symbolic meal until the eschatological feast “with you in my Father’s kingdom” (26:29). This verse anticipates Christ’s future reign on the throne of David. We are commanded to celebrate this meal regularly on earth to remember what Jesus has done for us. This reality emphasizes the symbolism of unity when we celebrate communion together as members of His body.
1 CORINTHIANS 11:17-28
11:17-19. Paul chided the Corinthian believers for their inappropriate, divisive behavior when they came together as a church (see v. 20). The word “church” refers to their assembly as a unified, corporate body. In the New Testament, “church” never refers to a building or place of meeting. The “approved ... among you” refers to those who were not the cause of divisions within the body. Their behavior was exemplary during a time of strife.
11:20-22. To the church’s shame, the scene Paul described seemed typical of a pagan setting. Instead of coming together in unity, members were focused on their own selfish desires.
11:23-26. “I received from the Lord” most likely means Paul was given a special revelation from Jesus about this matter. For other instances where Paul received such revelation, (see Acts 18:9; 22:18; 23:11; 27:23-25; 2 Cor. 12:7.) Christ’s selflessness in giving His life for others stood in stark contrast to the Corinthians’ selfishness during the Lord’s Supper. The phrase “as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup” emphasizes that the solemn remembrance of Christ’s death is a corporate declaration of “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (2:2) until He comes again.
11:27-28. Since the Lord’s Supper is a commemoration of Christ’s suffering and death on our behalf, to participate in an unworthy manner is to sin against the body and blood of the Lord. A person must examine himself with respect to Christ’s sacrifice for believers and the relationship each believer has within the corporate body. Believers are to recognize that Jesus selflessly sacrificed His body for others and that this sacrifice was designed to make Christians a selfless corporate body.