Our continuing series through Thomas Watson’s The Mystery of the Lord’s Supper
In the manner of the institution; there are four things observable. 1. The taking of the bread. 2. The breaking it. 3. The blessing it. 4. The administering the cup.
1. The taking of the bread. “Jesus took bread.”
Question. What is meant by this phrase, “He took bread.” Answer. Christ’s taking and separating the bread from common uses, did hold forth a double mystery. It signified that God in his eternal decree, set Christ apart for the work of our redemption. He was separate from sinners, Heb. vii. 2. Christ’s setting the elements apart from common bread and wine, showed, that he is not for common persons to feed on. They are to be divinely purified who touch these holy things of God; they must be outwardly separated from the world, and inwardly sanctified by the Spirit.
Question. Why did Christ take bread, rather than any other element? Answer 1. Because it did prefigure him. Christ was typified by the show bread (1 Kings 7:48), by the bread which Melchizedek offered unto Abraham (Gen. 14:18), and by the cake which the angel brought to Elijah (1 Kings 19:6). Therefore he took bread to answer the type. Answer 2. Christ took bread because of the analogy; bread did nearly resemble him, “I am the Bread of life” (John 6:48). There is a threefold resemblance. 1. Bread is useful. Other comforts are more for delight than use. Music delights the ear, colors the eye, but bread is the staff of life. So is Christ useful. There is no subsisting without him, “He that eateth me, even he shall live by me” (John 6:57). 2. Bread is satisfying. If a man be hungry, bring him flowers or pictures, they do not satisfy, but bread does. So Jesus Christ, the Bread of the soul, satisfies; he satisfies the eye with beauty, the heart with sweetness, the conscience with peace. 3. Bread is strengthening, “Bread which strengthens a man’s heart” (Psalm 104:15). So Christ, the Bread of the soul, transmits strength. He strengthens us against temptations, and for doing and suffering work. He is like the cake the angel brought to the prophet, “He arose, and did eat, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights, unto Horeb the mount of God” (1 Kings 19:8).
2. The second thing in the institution is the breaking of the bread. “He broke it.” This did shadow out Christ’s death and passion, with all the torments of his body and soul; “It pleased the Lord to bruise him” (Isa.53:10). When the spices are bruised, then they send forth a sweet savour. So when Christ was bruised on the cross, he did send out a most fragrant smell. Christ’s body crucifying was the breaking open a box of precious ointment, which did fill heaven and earth with its perfume.
Question: But why was Christ’s body broken? What was the cause of his suffering? Answer. Surely not for any desert of his own. “The Messiah shall be cut off, but not for himself” (Dan. 9:26). In the original it is, “He shall be cut off, and there is nothing in him.” There is no cause in him why he should suffer. The high priest, when he went into the tabernacle, offered first, “for himself” (Heb. 9:7). Though he had his mitre or golden plate, and did wear holy garments, yet he was not pure and innocent; he must offer sacrifice for himself, as well as for the people. But Jesus Christ, that great High Priest, though he offered a bloody sacrifice, offered it not for himself.
Why then was his blessed body broken? It was for our sins; “He was wounded for our transgressions” (lsa. 53:5). The Hebrew word for wounded has a double emphasis; either it may signify that he was pierced through as with a dart, or that he was profaned. He was used as some common vile thing, and Christ might thank us for it; “He was wounded for our transgressions.” So that, if the question were put to us, as was once to Christ, “Prophesy, who is it that smote thee?” (Luke 22:64), we might soon answer, “It was our sins that smote him.” Our pride made Christ wear a crown of thorns. As Zipporah said to Moses, “A bloody husband art thou to me” (Exod. 4:25), so may Christ say to his church, “A bloody spouse thou hast been to me; thou hast cost me my heart-blood.”
Question. But how could Christ suffer, being God? The Godhead is impassible. Answer. Christ suffered only in the human nature, not the Divine. Damascen expresses it by this simile: If one pour water on iron that is red hot, the fire suffers by the water, and is extinguished, but the iron does not suffer. So the human nature of Christ might suffer death, but the Divine nature is not capable of any passion. When Christ was in the human nature suffering, he was in the Divine nature triumphing. As we wonder at the rising of the Sun of righteousness in his incarnation, so we may wonder at the going down of this Sun in his passion.
Question. But if Christ suffered only in his human nature, how could his suffering satisfy for sin? Answer. By reason of the hypostatical union, the human nature being united to the Divine; the human nature did suffer, the Divine did satisfy. Christ’s Godhead did give both majesty and efficacy to his sufferings. Christ was Sacrifice, Priest, and Altar. He was Sacrifice, as he was man; Priest, as he was God and man; Altar, as he was God. It is the property of the altar to sanctify the thing offered on it (Matt. 23:19). So the altar of Christ’s Divine nature sanctified the sacrifice of his death, and made it meritorious.