The Bread and the Cup
“[Jesus] took bread, and … he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood’” (vv. 19–20).- Luke 22:14–20
Today we return to our study of the biblical themes outlined in the Heidelberg Catechism. We are in question and answer 75, where the catechism begins its in-depth look at the “Holy Supper of Jesus Christ,” that is, the Lord’s Supper. If baptism is the sacrament of initiation, then we can view the Lord’s Supper as the “sacrament of continuation.” Unlike baptism, which is to be received only once (Eph. 4:5), the Lord’s Supper is received continually throughout the Christian life. In this sacrament, we “proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Cor. 11:26).
Of course, the Lord’s Supper was instituted on the night in which Jesus was betrayed (Luke 22:14–20). Christ gave the sacrament during the Passover meal, indicating that it would commemorate a new exodus, just as the old covenant Passover was eaten in memory of the exodus from Egypt. This new exodus is the rescue from sin and death that Jesus accomplished for His people in His atonement and resurrection (Isa. 53; Matt. 1:21; Rom. 3:21–26; Heb. 9:15).
Question 75 of the Heidelberg Catechism asks us how the Lord’s Supper reminds and assures us that we share in the benefits of our Savior’s sacrifice on the cross. In answering the question, the catechism stresses the connection we are to draw between our sensory experience of the sacrament and the theological point it conveys. The breaking of the bread and the drinking of the wine, we read, should prompt us to recall that Christ was broken on the cross for us. As we see the bread torn, we are to remember that His flesh was torn by the nails in His hands and feet, and by the spear thrust into His side (John 19:31–37; 20:25). As we see the wine poured into the cup, we are to remember that Jesus’ blood poured forth from His wounds on the cross (Mark 14:24). The Lord’s Supper is a visible word to us that depicts what happened on Calvary.
When the elements are distributed to us, we are reminded that Jesus bled and was broken for us—for those who trust in Him alone. Our Savior gave His very life to redeem His sheep, yet we tend to get distracted and forget the wondrous reality of the atonement. In giving us this sacrament, which is to be received on a regular basis, God has condescended to our weakness that we might not forget what He has done in sending His Son, the One who offered Himself on the cross through the Spirit (Heb. 9:14).
When we participate in the sacraments, it can be easy to forget why we have them and what we are supposed to learn from them. Lest they become merely rote observances, let us pay close attention when the sacraments are administered and do our best to consider what the elements are supposed to show us. Let us think carefully on what is being depicted that we might grow in love for our great God.
Passages for Further Study
1 Corinthians 11:17–34