The Jesus of the Memorial Supper
April 4th, 1982 @ 10:50 AM
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
THE JESUS OF THE MEMORIAL SUPPER
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
4-4-82 10:50 a.m.
God bless all of you who are in the sanctuary today, and the great throngs who are listening on radio and on television. The message today is one in the series on the great doctrines of the Bible. It is the second and the last on the institution, the ordinance of the Memorial Supper. The message is entitled The Jesus of the Memorial Supper. And our reading is Paul’s account of the institution of that sacred ordinance in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26. First Corinthians 11, beginning at verse 23:
For I have received of the Lord that which also I 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, broken for you: this do in remembrance of Me.
In the same way, after the same manner He took the cup, when He first had drunk of it, saying, This cup is the new compact – the diathēkē – 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 – katangellō – you publicly proclaim, you openly display the Lord’s death until He come.
[1 Corinthians 11:23-24]
Paul first mentions here a nighttime portrait of our Lord, "The same night in which He was betrayed He took bread, and blessed it, the same night" [1 Corinthians 11:23-24]. That’s a remarkable thing that the apostle seeks to do. Against the dark background of the midnight, he draws the curtain aside and lets us see our Master as He is at night. A man can be one thing in the blazing light of public gaze, in the stark reality of the sunlight; but he can be an altogether different thing under the cover of night, in the darkness of the watches of the night. So, the apostle seemingly draws aside the night curtain, that we might see our Lord Jesus at night.
And Jesus is like God the Father, how marvelously does He appear at night. In Psalm 8, and in Psalm 19, "The very heavens present," publish, declare, katangellō, "the glory of God" [Psalm 8:1, 19:1]. We see His lacework, His handiwork in the stars of the firmament. At night, an atheist is half a believer in God. It was in the nighttime that the Lord appeared to Israel in a pillar of fire [Exodus 13:21]. It was in the nighttime that the Lord came to Solomon [2 Chronicles 7:12], and said that verse that all of us have memorized from childhood, Second Chronicles 7:14: "If My people called by My name will humble themselves and pray," And it was in the nighttime that the Lord appeared to the statesman-prophet Daniel. And in chapter 2 [Daniel 2:19], and in chapter 7 [Daniel 7:1-2] of that prophetic book, unveiled the future course of humanity unto the consummation of the age [Daniel 2:26-45, 7:2-27].
Jesus is like that. When the curtain of night is drawn back, and we see our Lord as He is at night He is the same wonderful Savior. The Bible says that He prayed all night long [Luke 6:12]. The Scriptures say that He came to His frightened disciples in the stormy sea, walking on the water at night [Matthew 14:22-33]. And in the week of His passion, in the daytime He taught in the temple, and at night He abode on the Mount of Olives, communing with His Father [Luke 21:37].
This is the last night in His mortal flesh. How does He spend it? And what is He like? He spends it with His apostles, and He is assuring them in comforting words: "Let not your heart be troubled; I will not leave you comfortless" [John 14:18, 27]. And He spends the night in giving thanksgiving to God: eucharisteō, the Eucharist, the thanksgiving to God [1 Corinthians 11:23-26]. And singing psalms [Matthew 26:30], and saying words of encouragement, endearment [John 14:1-6], praying the high priestly prayer [John 17:1-26], and finally, assuring them of His coming return [Matthew 26:29; John 14:3]: a portrait of Jesus at night.
Will you look again as Paul writes of our Lord, the Jesus of this memorial? "The same night in which He was betrayed," what a most unusual indication, "the night in which He was betrayed" [1 Corinthians 11:23]. Why did he not write, "the night of the Passover"? [Matthew 26:17-28]. He is eating that Memorial Supper when the institution of the Lord’s Supper was given to us; why doesn’t he say "the night of the Passover"? Or why doesn’t he say, "the night in which He washed the apostles’ feet"? [John 13:3-5]. Or why doesn’t he say, "the night when He prayed in Gethsemane"? [Mark 14:32-42]. Why doesn’t he say, "the night He was arrested and turned over to the Romans"? [Matthew 26:47-57]. Why doesn’t he write, "the night that He was tried before the Sanhedrin and before Pontius Pilate"? [John 18:12-38]. Why doesn’t he write, "the night before He was crucified"? [Matthew 27:32-50]. Why does he write, "the night in which He was betrayed"? Could it be that the apostle is not so much writing down a date, a time, as he is presenting a portrait of our tender and loving Lord against the dark background of a traitorous betrayal? In the presence of incarnate sin – and John says Satan entered in to Judas – in the presence of incarnate sin, the loving Lord prepares and spreads this table of grace and blessing "in the night in which He was betrayed."
Against that dark background of His betrayal, Paul would paint the loving picture of our Lord in clear and distinct tones. Maybe it’s the same kind of a thing as a Rembrandt portrait. I have seen those Rembrandts in great galleries and museums all over this world, and they all are painted alike. In vivid contrast of light and color, Rembrandt would paint a dark background black and then the face of the one in bold relief. And the features of the face stand out with an intense light against that dark black background. It is the same kind of a portrait, it seems to me, that Paul is painting here of our dear Lord. "The night in which He was betrayed" [1 Corinthians 11:23], that treacherous, traitorous, heinous, black night, and this is our Lord and the institution of the grace and love that saves us from our sins.
The reaction of the apostles concerning the betrayal of Judas was bitter and hostile. For example, Judas is named twenty times and more in the story; and every time, without exception, it is followed by that epithet: "Judas, the one who betrayed Him." He’s never mentioned but [as] "the one who betrayed Him." Judas was one of them. He had followed the footsteps of the Master with them all through the years of His public ministry. Judas seemingly was the one most trusted: he was the treasurer of the group. John writes it, "He had the bag" [John 13:29]. He was loved, he was hoped for, prayed for, taught in the ways of our dear Lord. And the revulsion of the apostles to what Judas did is quite understandable, don’t you think? Had it been a Pharisee conspiring with a Herodian to deliver Jesus to death, had it been a Sadducee conspiring with a Caiaphas to deliver Him to death, had it been a publican conspiring with a Roman soldier to divide the silver and to deliver Him to death, it might have been understandable. But not one of the twelve.
And you look at the response of our blessed Lord. Tell me, in the presence of the betrayer, wouldn’t you think that the Lord had given Himself to a vituperative floodtide of loathing or of stinging rebuke or maybe of cursing, as He had just cursed the fig tree and it withered away? [Mark 11:12-14, 20-21]. Wouldn’t you have thought there would have been some tone or gesture of denunciation in the voice and words of our Lord? Wouldn’t you? He had watched Judas all through the years. In the sixth chapter of the Book of John, when the people tried to make Jesus a king [John 6:15], it was Judas that the Lord pointed out as the devil who was to betray Him, in the beginning [John 6:70-71]. When Mary of Bethany broke the alabaster box, it was Judas who said, in his covetousness, because he was a thief, John says [that Judas said], "Why wasn’t it sold? It would buy a year’s wages" [John 12:3-6]. Jesus saw all that, knew all that; and finally comes to a climax, like a chemist watching the process to its consummation, or like a physician watching the course of a disease to its highest fever. Wouldn’t you have thought that Jesus would have said some word of implication and denunciation in the presence of so vile and heinous a deed? A portrait of Jesus against the darkest background; what did He do? At the same time that the traitor was dipping the sop with Him in the dish, Jesus instituted that memorial of the remission of our sins [John 13-26-30].
At the same time that the traitor was watching the time to go to meet his fellow conspirators and to deliver Him, Jesus was breaking bread by his side [Matthew 26:23]. I can’t understand the Lord. When the Lord pointed him out and gave him the sop [John 13:21-26], He spoke so kindly and graciously to the traitor that all of the other apostles except Peter and John, who knew what Jesus was doing, all of the apostles thought that the Lord was saying to Judas, "Remember the poor; give something to the poor." At that same time, the utmost the Lord said to Judas was, "What you do, do quickly" [John 13:27], like you’d speak to an executioner with the ax raised; "Make it soon." And when He was betrayed, all that the Lord said to Judas was, "My brother, My friend, do you betray your Lord with a kiss?" [Luke 22:47-48], and that’s all, that’s all; the portrait of our Lord against so dark a background, "the same night in which He was betrayed" [1 Corinthians 11:23].
I am overwhelmed as I read and study; the abounding grace of God that covers our sin. Was it not so in the garden of Eden when our first parents fell [Genesis 3:1-6], and the Lord covered the transgression in His grace, in His mercy, and in His love? [Genesis 3:21]. Was it not so in the parable of the prophet Hosea? Under the commandment of God, when his wife left and became a harlot, a prostitute – sold herself, and finally into slavery – God said to Hosea, "Lovingly, tenderly, buy her back to thee. And take her back to your bosom." God says, "That is I and My people." That’s God, covering sin with grace [Hosea 3:1-3]. Is that not our Lord when Simon Peter cursed and swore, saying, "I never saw Him. I do not know Him" [Mark 14:66-72], and the Lord just turned and melted the apostle down, just looking? [Luke 22:61-62]. And when next He saw him to speak to him, all Jesus said was, "Simon, son of Jonah, lovest thou Me?" [John 21:15-17] Was it not so with the apostle who writes this:
Saul of Tarsus, breathing out threatening and slaughter
against the people of God, on the way to Damascus,
to hale them into prison and to death, the Lord meets him in the way.
And what does [the Lord] say? "You damnable traitor to the truth and revelation of God, for whom the fires of judgment and hell are reserved?" Does He say that? When He stops the bitter, vengeful Saul of Tarsus in the way, He says, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?" And when Saul replies, "Who art Thou, Lord?" does the Lord say, "I am the great omnipotent, all-powerful, Almighty, who is ready to cast thee down into damnation"? He says, "I am Jesus of Nazareth," the human Jesus, born of a virgin [Matthew 1:20-25], worked in the father’s carpenter shop [Matthew 13:55], and went about doing good [Acts 10:38], "I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest" [Acts 22:8]. Oh, the grace, and the mercy, and the lovingkindness of our wonderful Lord: a portrait of Jesus at night [1 Corinthians 11:23].
Will you notice once again how the Lord evaluates what is important in His life and ministry, in His mission in the earth? The unusual memorial that He institutes: "This is My body, broken: eat in remembrance of Me [1 Corinthians 11:24]. This is My blood poured out: drink in remembrance of Me" [1 Corinthians 11:25]. The memorial is of His death. Well, that’s so different from us. When we memorialize, we place all of our rejoicing or activities or remembrance on birthdays. Do we not have Washington’s birthday, a national monument, a national remembrance? Do we not have Lincoln’s birthday, a national remembrance, a holiday? This congressman here, there is a vast effort on the part of the black community of America to make Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday a national memorial, a national holiday. That’s the way we do. I am invited, world without end, to parties and dinners celebrating a birthday, but I have never yet been invited to any kind of a celebration, a party, a dinner, celebrating the anniversary of somebody’s death. And yet that’s the Lord. It is a memorial He instituted of His death.
When you read the Holy Scriptures, there are many memorials in the Bible. In the Book of Exodus, for example, in chapter 12, the Passover, God says, is a memorial of the deliverance of the people of Israel out of bondage [Exodus 12:5-14]. In that same Book of Exodus, God says to write a book and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua for a memorial, to destroy the enemies of the Lord [Exodus 17:14]. In that same Book of Exodus, there is a memorial described: the onyx stones on the shoulders of the high priest, and on them the names of the twelve tribes of Israel, for a memorial before God to remember His people [Exodus 28:9-12]. In the Book of Joshua when they crossed the Jordan River, they took twelve stones and set them on the other side in Gilgal, for a memorial when Israel passed over into the Promised Land in the miracle of the parting of the Jordan River [Joshua 4:1-9, 20]. When Mary of Bethany broke the alabaster box [Matthew 26:6-7], Jesus said, "Wherever the gospel is preached, this will be told as a memorial for her" [Matthew 26:13]. In the tenth chapter of the Book of Acts, the angel says that "the alms of Cornelius, the Roman centurion, have risen to God as a memorial in His presence" [Acts 10:31]. All kinds of memorials, but not one like this: the memorial of a death, the death of our Lord – how Jesus evaluated His life and ministry and the purpose that He came for into the earth [Matthew 26:26-28; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26].
Do you notice, Jesus did not say, "Make Me a mighty mausoleum to mark My last resting place"? He never mentioned it. He did not say, "Erect here a tall marble column where I delivered the Sermon on the Mount" [Matthew 5:1-7:29]. Nor did He say, "Make Me a memorial of a marble granite cenotaph, where I fed the five thousand" [Matthew 14:15-21]. What He did say was, "This bread and this cup memorialize My death for you, for the remission of sins" [Matthew 26:26-28; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26], a portrait of our Lord in the supper.
And bless God, that memorial is in thousands and countless thousands and millions and countless millions of human hearts, yesterday and today and according to the promise till Jesus shall come again. He never led a conquering army. He never subdued a mighty empire. He never did anything in the judgment of the contemporary world in which He lived that had any vestige or any facet or any overture of greatness or fame or achievement. There’s not a contemporary historian that mentions the Lord Jesus, not one. They are consumed with the Caesars in Rome, or with the Herods in Palestine, or with the Greek games, or the Roman conquests, but they never thought about Jesus, and yet today He is enshrined in our hearts forever. There are humanists and there are atheists that are doing everything in their power to take the name of Jesus out of the public schools, away from public prayer, and even to disassociate the Christ form Christmas. But you will never do it. To destroy the name of Jesus from our memories, you’d have to destroy the finest literature and the greatest music and the finest art; you’d have to destroy our very laws and the foundation of our Western civilization. He is memorialized in our hearts, in love and worship and gratitude forever and ever.
Just one other thing in the institution of this Lord’s Supper. Do you notice the word, "For as often as you eat this bread, as often as you drink this cup, ye do katangellō the Lord’s death until He comes"? Katangellō, you publicize, you openly demonstrate, you declare, you preach, you proclaim the gospel message of our Lord. Even in this last memorial institution and ordinance, the Lord has in His heart and mind our salvation, that we might be saved, that the gospel might be preached. There are many ways of preaching the gospel. I’m doing it here in the pulpit; in these years gone by, I used to stand on the street corner and in a courthouse square and preach the gospel. We preach the gospel by personal testimony: "My brother, I have found the Lord. Come, and welcome too." We proclaim the gospel by singing. We proclaim it by religious literature: a tract, an invitation, a brochure. We proclaim the gospel by our holy living. We proclaim the gospel by our giving tithes and offerings. We proclaim the gospel on radio and on television. He says, "This is a way of proclaiming, preaching, publicly declaring, openly demonstrating, dramatizing the gospel" [1 Corinthians 11:23-26], and I can easily see that. This ordinance of the breaking of bread and the drinking of the cup has a universal language. It speaks to the human heart.
One time, preaching in the Baptist church in Moscow, they invited me to share in presiding over the Lord’s table. I couldn’t understand a word of the service, but I was moved in heart as I shared with those dear, dear people, oppressed as they are, the broken bread and the fruit of the vine; a universal language. I have shared that same ordinance, and moved in my heart, in Germany, in Italy, in Australia, around this earth. Though I couldn’t understand a word, in many of the places, that the preacher was saying, it speaks a universal language, and it involves a universal experience: eating and drinking. We couldn’t live without it, nor as Christians could we survive without the manna from heaven [John 6:41, 48-51], and the blood that washes our sins away [Revelation 1:5]. Plain, simple, to eat and to drink, and our Lord says that is His gospel, katangellō, the evangel, that is preached; always plain and simple [Acts 16:30-31].
One of our great pastors, dying in London, England, when his brethren gathered round and said, "Do you have one last word for the world?" he replied, "I do. Oh, preacher," he said, "make it plain how a man can be saved." It is a fallen and depraved nature that makes the theologian make our salvation a matter of philosophical metaphysical speculation. God made it plain: always it is to eat and to drink [John 6:33-58]. It is to look and live [Numbers 21:8-9, John 3:14-15]. It is to believe and be saved [Acts 16:30-31]. It is to wash and be clean [2 Kings 5:10; Revelation 7:14]. Always it is a plain, humble, simple way. So plain that a wayfaring man need not err therein [Isaiah 35:8], so plain that a stranger passing by need not miss the way, the loving invitation of our Lord: "Come and dine, come and be saved, come and find eternal life" [John 6:35].
O Lord, how grateful I am that it was so plain that as a ten year old boy I found the way. I was no theologian then, at ten. If you were to ask me deep metaphysical questions, I could not have begun to answer. But as a child I could believe and accept in my heart, and I did! And except we all become as children, and thus come into the kingdom, we are in no wise able to enter in [Luke 18:17]. I don’t appear before God in my brilliance, or in my excellence, or in my own worth, or in my own knowledge or understanding. I appear before God, "Lord, be good to me, help me, be merciful to me [Luke 18:13-14]. May Thy saving grace cover my sin, and live in my heart and soul forever" [Ephesians 2:8]. It’s a plain way: eat and drink, look and live [John 3:14-15], believe and be saved [Acts 16:30-31], wash and be clean [Revelation 7:14].
May we stand together?
Our Lord, how wonderfully, marvelously good Thou art to us. Oh, that I had the voice of an angel, properly, appropriately, equally to describe the grace and love and mercy of this blessed Jesus. But our Lord, take these stammering sentences and these feeble words, and may the Spirit bear them to the hearts of these who listen. And may there be a strange response in our souls to answer with our lives: "This did Jesus do for me; now this shall I do for Him" [Hebrews 2:3].
And while our people pray and we wait and we stand before God, a family you, a couple you, a one somebody you, "This day, pastor, I have decided for the Lord, and I’m coming." In the balcony, down one of the stairways, on the lower floor, down one of these aisles, "I’m answering with my life, pastor, and here I stand." Coming to put your life with us in the church, coming to accept Jesus as Savior, coming to follow Him in baptism; however the Spirit shall press the appeal to your heart, make the decision now. And on the first note of our first stanza, come, may angels attend you in the way as you come.
And thank Thee Lord, for the sweet harvest in Thy saving name, amen.
While we sing, while we sing.
OF THE MEMORIAL SUPPER
I. A nighttime portrait of Jesus
into the character of Jesus drawn against background of darkness
A man can be one thing in the public gaze, and altogether different under the
cover of night
Jesus is like the Father God
marvelously does God the Father appear at night(Psalm
8:3, 19:2, Exodus 13:21, 14:20, 2 Chronicles 7:12, 14, Daniel 2, 7)
Jesus at night(Luke 6:12, 21:37, Matthew
Here His last night in mortal flesh – spent encouraging, comforting, and giving
II. The unusual sentence of Paul
does he write "the night He was betrayed"?
a portrait of our tender, loving Lord against the dark background of a
In the presence of incarnate sin, the Lord prepares the table of grace and
The response of Jesus to Judas’ treachery
of apostles bitter and hostile – his name is always followed by epithet "the one
who betrayed Him"
had watched Judas through the years(John 6:15,
64, 70, 12:6)
the same time the traitor was dipping the sop with Him in the dish, Jesus
instituted the memorial supper(Luke 22:48)
Quenching sin with grace(Mark 14:66-72, John
21:15-17, Acts 9:1-5)
III. How the Lord evaluates what is
important in His life and ministry
unusual memorial of His death
in Scripture(Exodus 12, Matthew 26:13, Acts
Portrait of our Lord in the supper
IV. Even in the memorial of His death, the
proclamation of the gospel
are many methods of preaching the gospel
Ordinance of breaking bread and drinking the cup a universal language
1. A common experience
2. A plain, humble,