This month we continue to read from Thomas Watson’s The Lord’s Supper.
And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. Mathew 26:26-28.
In these words we have the institution of the Lord’s Supper. The Greeks call the sacrament a mystery. There is in it a mystery of wonder, and a mystery of mercy. “The celebration of the Lord’s Supper,” says Chrysostom, “is the commemoration of the greatest blessing that ever the world enjoyed.” A sacrament is a visible sermon. And herein the sacrament excels the word preached. The word is a trumpet to proclaim Christ; the sacrament is a glass to represent him.
Question. But why was the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper appointed? Is not the Word sufficient to bring us to heaven? – Answer: The Word is for the ingrafting; the sacrament for the confirming of faith. The Word brings us to Christ; the sacrament builds us up in him. The Word is the font, where we are baptized with the Holy Ghost; the sacrament is the table where we are fed and cherished. The Lord condescends to our weakness. Were we made up all of spirit, there were no need of bread and wine; but we are compounded creatures, therefore God, to help our faith, does not only give us an audible word, but a visible sign. I may here allude to that of our Saviour, “Except ye see signs, ye will not believe,” John 4:48. Christ sets his body and blood before us in the elements: here are signs, else we will not believe.
Things taken in by the eye do more work upon us, than things taken in by the ear. A solemn spectacle of mortality does more affect us than an oration. So when we see Christ broken in the bread, and as it were crucified before us, this does more affect our hearts than the bare preaching of the cross.
So I come to the text: “As they were eating, Jesus took bread,” etc. (Matt. 26:26-28), where I shall open these five particulars, in reference to the sacrament. I. The Author. II. The time. III. The manner. IV. The guests. V. The benefits.
- The Author of the sacrament, Jesus Christ. “Jesus took bread.” To institute sacraments belongs of right to Christ, and is a flower of his crown. He only who can give grace, can appoint the sacraments, which are the seals of grace. Christ being the founder of the sacrament, gives a glory and a lustre to it. A king making a feast, adds the more state and magnificence to it. “Jesus took bread;” He whose “name is above every name,” God blessed for ever, (Phil. 2:9).
- The time when Christ did institute the sacrament; wherein we may take notice of two circumstances. 1. It was when he had supped; “After supper,” Luke 22:20. Which had this mystery in it, to show that the sacrament is chiefly intended as a spiritual banquet; it is not to indulge the senses, but to feast the graces. It was “after supper.” 2. The other circumstance of time is that Christ did appoint the sacrament a little before his sufferings. “The Lord Jesus, the same night in which he was betrayed, took bread,” 1 Cor. 11:23. He knew troubles were now coming upon his disciples: it would be no small perplexity to them, to see their Lord and Master crucified; and shortly after they must pledge him in a bitter cup; therefore, to arm them against such a time, and to animate their spirits, that very night in which he was betrayed, he gives them his body and blood in the sacrament.
This may give us a good hint, that in all trouble of mind, especially approaches of danger, it is needful to have recourse to the Lord’s Supper. The sacrament is both an antidote against fear, and a restorative to faith. The night in which Christ was betrayed, he took bread.