The Breaking of Bread
April 14th, 1960 @ 12:00 PM
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
THE BREAKING OF BREAD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
4-14-60 12:00 p.m.
Now remember, when you are called upon to leave, you do so without any discourtesy to anyone in divine presence. This is a busy lunch hour, and for you to come and stay just a while, is a blessing to us and to the others among us who worship with you. Tomorrow is the last day of this so swiftly passing pre-Easter week. The messages have been built around a theme: “The Five Emblems of Grace.” Monday, The Blood of the Passover; Tuesday, The Type of the Tabernacle; yesterday, The Serpent of Brass; tomorrow, The Sign of the Cross; and today, Thursday, The Breaking of Bread.
For I have received of the Lord that which I also delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which He was betrayed took bread:
And when He had given thanks, He brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is My body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of Me.
After the same manner also He took the cup, when He had supped, saying, This cup is the new covenant in My blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of Me.
For as often as you eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till He come.
[1 Corinthians 11:23-26]
The fifteenth day of Nisan that year happened to fall on Thursday. And at three o’clock on the fourteenth day of Nisan, the Paschal Lamb was slain [Exodus 12:6; Leviticus 23:5]. It was the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread; and at noon, at this hour, all the leaven was purged out of all the houses of the people of God. And at three o’clock, the Passover Lamb was slain [Exodus 12:6; Leviticus 23:5]. At that hour, Jesus turned His face to the cross [Matthew 27:45]. He was obedient unto death; His sacrifice was voluntary. He said, “No man taketh My life from Me; I lay it down of Myself” [John 10:18]. When Pilate, in chagrin, in insult to His imperious majesty said to Jesus, “What? Speakest Thou not unto me? Knowest Thou not I have power to crucify Thee or to release Thee?” [John 19:10]. Jesus answered, “Thou hast no power over Me at all, except it were given thee from above” [John 19:11]. His sacrifice was predetermined and foreordained from the foundation of the world [Revelation 13:8]. He set His face to the cross [Luke 9:51].
In that last moment, He had an earnest desire to eat the Passover with His disciples. The gospel writer Luke, in 22:15, writes it in an unusual way: “And the Lord said, With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with thee before I suffer” [Luke 22:15]. It had to be in a secret place. Every step of the Lord was watched: there was a price on His head. Judas had already coveted for thirty pieces of silver to betray Him [Matthew 26:14-16]. And He sent two of His disciples, and said, “As you go into the city, you shall see a sign, a man bearing a pitcher of water” [Luke 22:10]. No man carried a pitcher of water; women carried pitchers of water. No man would stoop to such menial servitude; it was a sign:
You shall see a man bearing a pitcher of water; follow him. And in the place into which he turns, say to him, The Master asks, Where is the chamber prepared for His breaking of bread and the eating of the Passover. And he will show thee a room furnished, an upper room furnished and prepared
It was the sign. It was a secret place; and there our Master sat down with His disciples on the evening of Thursday, the Jewish Friday, and broke bread with His disciples [Luke 22:14-20].
Three times in the Hexateuch, in the first six books of the Bible, is that Passover recorded. In Exodus 12, in the redemption of Israel in the blood of the Lamb from the bondage of Israel, they ate the Passover that night [Exodus 12:1-28]. In Numbers 9, in the trials of the wilderness, they partook of the Passover [Numbers 9:1-14]. And in Joshua 5, in the Promised Land, before the towering, frowning walls, and the high and forbidding giants of its inhabitants, they broke bread [Joshua 5:10-11]. And now in this tragic and dark hour, the Passover is observed again. “And while they were eating,” this is the Last Supper of the old dispensation, it is the New Memorial of the age of grace and love and truth:
While they were eating, Jesus said, Verily I say unto you, one of you shall betray Me this night…
The Lord Jesus the same night in which He was betrayed took bread…
And the disciples, each one answered, Lord, is it I? Is it I?
We all had a part. Our sins pressed upon His brow the crown of thorns, and our sins nailed Him to the tree. “The night He was betrayed, He took bread, and gave thanks” [1 Corinthians 11:23-24]; facing the cross, and He gave thanks.
He was always looking upward. When the downward look is drear and dark, look upward, God-ward. “And He gave thanks, and He said, This is My body: eat in remembrance of Me. And this is My blood: drink in remembrance of Me” [1 Corinthians 11:24-25]. What could He mean? “This is My body,” and He stood there in the flesh. “This is My blood,” and His blood even then was still coursing through His veins. What does He mean, “This is My body; this is My blood?” It is a plain and simple significance: “This bread represents My body; and this fruit of the vine, red in the cup, represents My blood”; it is a memorial of the sacrifice of our Lord. We understand.
A businessman took me into the study in his palatial home, and there in the library was a picture of an old fashioned girl. Her hair done up as they did it long time ago, and her dress an old fashioned dress, high at the collar, and as he stood by my side, with a gesture of his hand, he pointed to that picture, and said, “Pastor, this is my mother.” He said, “I never knew her. I never saw her. She died when I was born. And the hope of my heart, someday,” he said, “in heaven, is to see her angel face.” And as he spake, the tears unbidden fell from his face. I could have replied, “Why sir, that is your mother? Why, man, that’s a piece of cardboard, that’s ink and paper.” Oh no, I understood what he meant. “Pastor, this is my mother; the picture brings back to my heart her angel face, her devoted life.” I understand.
“This is My body”; this represents the sacrifice of my Lord on the tree [1 Peter 2:24]. “This is My blood,” poured out on the thirsty ground for me. That feast, that memorial feast is the simplest of all memorials. It is as beautiful as love, it is as simple as the thought of a child; and wherever there is bread—and there is bread wherever there is life—the memorial of the Lord’s Supper can be set forth till He come.
You have here in the breaking of bread the estimate of Jesus of His own life and ministry. You have here in this memorial that point, that place, that thing in His so many works and in His so many deeds and in His so many words, that our Lord would have us especially to remember: not His incomparable words of wisdom, gracious and tender; not His amazing miracles which blessed mankind; nor His miraculous deeds that astonished the earth; but the day of the cross. We are saved not by His beautiful life, though the Lamb was to be without spot or blemish; we are saved not by His words of wisdom, though the Spirit of the Lord was upon Him; we are saved not by His miraculous deeds, though no man ever wrought like that Man; but we are saved by the sacrifice of His life, “By His stripes we are healed” [Isaiah 53:5].
And you have in this memorial also what Jesus would have us remember as the purpose and significance of His death. We’re not to remember the death of our Lord as that of a hero, faltering before some great and noble cause; nor are we to remember that death as one of a martyr for a worthy philanthropic enterprise; nor are we to look upon it as a crowning proof of love; nor are we to think of it as just a sublime expression of patient forgiveness. But the blood and the sacrifice of our Lord are to be remembered as a substitute for us—huper humōn—in your behalf, for you. “This is My blood, shed for you; this is My body, broken for you” [Matthew 26:26-28; 1 Corinthians 11:23-25].
That’s why in the types and figures and adumbrations of the Old Testament Scriptures God taught us the language of heaven, and God enshrined His deep thoughts in the outward shadows of the Levitical, temporal tabernacle service [Hebrews 9:23-24, 10:1], that God might show us and speak to us what He meant; the language of heaven. And when I read “atonement” here in the New Testament, it means the same thing as “atonement” in the Old Scriptures. And when I read the word “sacrifice” in the New Covenant, in the New Testament, it means the same thing as the word “sacrifice” meant in the old type, and in the old ceremony, and in the old tabernacle. And what did the sacrifice and the atonement mean back there in the picture that God gave? The sinner brought to the brazen altar of brass a lamb, tied it to the horns of the altar, confessed over the head of the innocent animal the sins of his life, and the animal was slain instead of the sinner [Leviticus 4:27-29]. It means the same thing here in the New Testament: it was a sacrifice for us, He died in our behalf, in our stead, in our place [1 Corinthians 15:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 10:5-14]. “This is My body broken for you; this is My blood shed for you,” for the remission, the washing away of our sins [Matthew 26:26-28; 1 Corinthians 11:23-25].
Was it for crimes that I have done
He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity! Grace unknown!
And love beyond degree!
But drops of grief can ne’er repay
The debt of love I owe:
Here, Lord, I give myself away
‘Tis all that I can do.
[“Alas! and Did My Savior Bleed?”; Isaac Watts]
“For as often as you eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death achri hou elthē, till He come, till He come” [1 Corinthians 11:26]. It not only is a memorial, “This do in remembrance of Me” [1 Corinthians 11:24-25], but it is a prophecy, it is an expectancy, it is a looking up and a looking forward to the great, final consummation of the age; achri hou elthē. For three hundred years that little primitive church was persecuted bitterly, and as a Christian would meet in a crowded street on a dark night, they had a password. Sometimes it would be Maranatha, “He cometh” [1 Corinthians 16:22]. And sometimes it would be, achri hou elthē, “till He come, till He come” [1 Corinthians 11:26]. And when a Christian bid goodbye to a fellow traveler and a fellow friend, achri hou elthē, “till He come, till He come.” The tenderest words of our Jesus were of His promise: “I will see you again”:
Let not your heart be troubled: you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself
And again, “What if I will that he achri hou elthē, tarry till I come? follow thou Me” [John 21:22].
Listen dear people, as God liveth, just as there is no person as a Jesus who is not born of the virgin Mary, just as there is no person as a Jesus who did not work miracles, just as there is no person as a Jesus who did not rise from the dead, so there is no person as a Jesus who is not coming again [John 14:1-3]. “Achri hou elthē, till He come, till He come” [1 Corinthians 11:26]. In the incomparable institution of that memorial hour, Jesus said, “This I say unto you: I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom” [Matthew 26:29]. When you turn to the nineteenth [chapter] of the Revelation, verses 7 to 9, you read there of the marriage supper of the Lamb [Revelation 19:7-9]. “I will henceforth not drink of this fruit of the vine, until I drink it new with you in the Father’s kingdom” [Matthew 26:29], when we sit down with our Lord at the Father’s table, at the marriage supper of the Lamb.
Now when we sit down to break bread, the tears unbidden come from our eyes. We eat with bitter herbs. Seats, places, are empty at the table; but there all things new. I leave this place to go to a funeral service; one of God’s saints has fallen asleep in Jesus. But there are no graves on the hillsides of glory, no wreaths on the mansions in the sky, no sobbing funeral processions through the streets of glory. “I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom” [Matthew 26:29]; a new heaven, and a new earth, and a new body, and a new home, and no more sorrow, or crying, or tears, or death [Revelations 21:1-5]; achri hou elthē, till He come, till He come [1 Corinthians 11:26].
May I speak of this, and then we’re through? I never saw Mother Truett; she was a humble, plain, mountain woman from North Carolina. Her son, Dr. George W. Truett, pastor of our beloved church in this city for forty-seven years, became the most far-flung, well-known, famous preacher our denomination, our faith and communion has ever produced. Wherever in the earth there was a band of Christian people, the name of George Truett was a household sign and syllable and name for a great prince among preachers. She had another son; his name was Jim Truett. He lived inconspicuous, in the little Texas town of Whitewright. And when anyone would see Mother Truett and speak of her famous son, George, president of the Baptist World Alliance, world preacher, the dear, humble, sweet mother would say, “Yes, I know. But have you heard my son Jim?”
I went to see the old man in his age, and he said, “Every morning I get up, I go to the window facing the east. I raise the blind, and as I look on the rising sun, I say in my heart, ‘Perhaps He will come today.’”
It may be in the evening,
When the work of the day is done,
And you sit in the twilight,
And watch the sinking sun;
While you hear the village children
Passing along the street,
Among those thronging footsteps
May come our Savior’s feet;
Therefore He tells us, Watch!
Watch, by the light of the evening star,
When the room is growing dark
As the clouds afar;
Let the lamps be on the outside
Of the door in your home,
For it may be through the gloaming
He will come.
It may be when the midnight
Is heavy on the land,
And the black waves lie darkly
Along the sand;
When the lights are out in the house,
And you sleep in the dark room
It may be at midnight,
He will come.
It may be in the morning,
When the sun is bright and strong,
And the dew is diamond glittering
On the neat trimmed lawn;
Remember, He may be next
To come in through the door,
As you work your heart must watch,
In your room,
For it may be in the morning
He will come.
So I am watching quietly
Whenever the sun rises brightly
I rise and say,
Surely it is the shining of His face,
And look unto the gates at His high place
Beyond the sea,
For I know He is surely coming
To summon me.
And when a shadow falls across the window
Of my room,
Where I am working at my appointed task,
I lift my head to watch the door and ask
If He is come;
And the angel answers sweetly
In my home;
“Only a few more shadows,
And He will come.”
[“Coming”; Barbara Miller McAndrew]
“For as often as you eat this bread, and drink this cup, achri hou elthē, ye do show forth His death till He come” [1 Corinthians 11:26], perhaps today. May we pray?
Our Lord, as we sit down at the table of the Lord, breaking bread, sharing the cup, in holy reverence may we see in that sacred moment the sacrifice of our Lord for us. He died for our sins according to the Scriptures [1 Corinthians 15:3]. Then, beyond our falling tears, may we lift up our faces to see the brightness of His promise and the glory of His coming, perhaps today, in His saving name, amen.