The Lord's Supper
Each day around the world multiple millions of professed Christians partake of a rite known as Holy
Communion, Lord's Table, Eucharist, Blessed Sacrament, and by other names.
Did the Lord, Jesus Christ, institute a sacrament or ordinance to be followed by His church ?
Why would I raise such a question ?
Because of my upbringing in the Roman Catholic church; parochial elementary school, high school, and a Jesuit college (from which i did not graduate). I had thirteen years of mandatory religion classes. I served on the altar in boyhood. I was a Lector and Commentator, and sometimes Altar server, in my twenties after Vatican II changed the mass to local language, mine being English.
When I was age six or seven I made my 'first confession' of sins I had committed (like I had any idea) and subsequently my first communion. These were followed later by further meaningless rites called 'big communion' and 'confirmation'. I can tell you that I and most twelve year old Catholic boys and girls have no idea what it means to be confirmed in the faith. Confirmed in the doctrines of the church after several years of study, like Bar Mitzvah, maybe but not in the faith that knows Jesus Christ as Savior. Few are the children who comprehend salvation. Perhaps this is why Jesus said you must have the faith of a little chid, and of such is the kingdom of heaven. They barely know good from evil until the world teaches it to them.
I am talking about the era from roughly 1940 to 1970. To receive Communion on Sunday it was necessary to go to Confession Saturday then remain in a "state of grace", no food or drink after midnight, and so forth. This was a time when Catholics who died after eating meat on Friday without absolution by a priest, or a "perfect act of contrition", went to hell.
Just before I turned forty years of age I had a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. He became my savior and I was reborn in the Spirit. I read the Bible ... carefully. I continue to read it and study it under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
I returned to the Catholic church and mass. My first inkling that something was amiss came as I participated in, and seriously listened, to the liturgy. The litany of saints did not much trouble me though I doubted the church had the power to declare who was or was not in heaven. Being saved I realized that by the Biblical definition I was myself a saint according to God. [Philippians 2:1].
When I heard the prayer known as the "Hail Mary" or "Ave Maria" I recognized the first stanza as representing the greeting Mary received from her cousin Elizabeth. But I also realized that the words of this rote prayer are addressed directly to Mary who is a dead person. Jesus taught us to pray to "Our Father". We can pray in His name but TO the father ... not to dead people the church claims are alive in heaven. It doesn't matter how many "appearances" of Mary have been reported or documented, we are to pray only to God the Father.
The second stanza threw me for a loop. Even though I had recited it hundreds, or thousands of times, as a child, I suddenly heard the words, "Holy Mary, Mother of God..." and the Spirit within me cringed.
God has no mother.
The Virgin Mary was the vessel God used to incarnate His only begotten Son, begotten, not made, which distinguishes Him from all the other "sons of God", which the angels are. Mary conceived by the Holy Spirit and provided the body of the man called Jesus, the Messiah. She had nothing at all to do wit the Divine Spirit in the man except to yield, saying to the angel Gabriel, "Be it done to me according to your word". To assign this blessed human woman the title "Mother of GOD" is to me a sacrilege.
Then there is the prayer known as the Confetior. Here it is verbatim from www.catholic.org/prayers/prayer.php?p=1777
1. It addresses the Father and others but excludes Jesus who was given all authority to forgive sins.
2. It confesses to "Blessed Mary ever Virgin". Mary was not "ever Virgin". She bore children to Joseph, brothers and sisters to Jesus. His siblings are mentioned in scripture.
3. It addresses "blessed Michael, the Archangel. In the Book of Revelation an angel appeared to John to show him wonders of the future. John fell to his knees to worship the angel. The angel told him, "Don't do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your fellow prophets and with all who keep the words of this scroll. Worship God!" [Revelation 22:9 NIV]. We do not pray to angels.
4. To John the Baptist, Peter & Paul, and all the saints (meaning those canonized by the church). No. No. No. People who pray TO saints are substituting the teachings of men for those of Christ.
5. "and to you, Father." Though it has a capital F, it can't mean heavenly Father because God was addressed first. It therefore means the priest leading the service.
It's ironic that of all the forms of address the church could choose for its priests; among them Pastor, Minister, Preacher, etc., they chose "Father", the one title Jesus said to call no man on earth. Some titles like bishop, cardinal, etc. have no more spiritual significance than captain, major, general, etc. But other titles such as "Reverend" trespass upon God's name and titles. Only God is to be revered.
There is a Biblical basis for confessing to a priest in his role of brother in the Lord is he is actually a believer (and I have learned that many in pulpits are uncertain), according to James. The priest though is not the source of God's forgiveness.
GOD forgives our sins when we confess to HIM; placing them as far as the east is from the west. [Ps 103:12]. Another way of saying they disappear. God keeps no record of wrongs done by those who love him. God does not judge Believers [John 3:16-18, 5:24]. God judges between the "living" and "dead". The living are those who are born in the Spirit and have come alive eternally. The dead are everyone else. Perhaps you.
As the liturgy progressed, I heard Eucharistic prayers,
like below, taken verbatim from
Presentation of the Gifts / Preparation of the Altar:
Priest: Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation. Through your goodness we have this bread to offer, which earth has given and human hands have made. It will become for us the bread of life.
All: Blessed be God for ever. Priest: Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation. Through your goodness we have this wine to offer, fruit of the vine and work of human hands. It will become our spiritual drink.
All: Blessed be God for ever.
Priest: Pray, my brothers and sisters, that our sacrifice may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.
All: May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands, for the praise and glory of his name, for our good, and the good of all his Church.
When I heard the priest say, "our sacrifice may be acceptable to God", the Spirit said to me, "The one and only valid sacrifice was made on the cross more than two thousand years ago. You can not stay here and participate in this heresy. There is no sacrifice here. It is mumbo jumbo made up by men." [Matthew 15:9] I left.
I have since experienced Communion, or The Lord's Supper, in many different churches. In most, the celebrant/preacher will announce that all who believe in Jesus Christ are welcome at His table. The form and procedures of Communion vary greatly.
In some settings people line up and the form is dispense to them, either in hand or on tongue. In others it is distributed to congregants where they are seated by passing plates and cup holder trays. People who line up may be offered both bread and wine. People who receive in the pews usually receive both. In the Byzantine rite bread squares are immersed in the wine and dispensed by a deacon or priest with a spoon. When I was young we knelt at the altar rail. The priest came along and placed communion wafers on our tongues.
Catholic churches use unleavened wafers and fermented grape juice called sacramental wine. There are of course standards by which they are produced. Other Christian fellowships may use wafers or other forms of baked dough, leavened or not, accompanied by wine or unfermented grape juice, the latter being more common.
They each have their reasons for doing it the way they do. At the end of this discourse ar the Bible verses on which my commentary and their rules are based. For now I'll simply reference them.
You see what He said. NO fruit of the vine. No grapes, fermented or not fermented. He was speaking for himself so He did not tell us to avoid the fruit of the vine. Nevertheless, He would not drink it but millions Christians, egged on by clergy, drink it and call it the "blood of Christ" or a stand in therefor. In the Catholic church they teach, and possibly even believe, that miraculously when the priest intones the magic words, the juice/wine changes into the blood of Christ. They call this transubstantiation.
How could they possibly believe such a thing ?
It is my supposition that this verse supports much of the doctrine surrounding Communion. Jesus did not mean this literally and He said so. His disciplesiples were flummoxed by it. He explained that it is Spiritual, not flesh. But somebody either did not follow His teaching or decided to use it and create a "doctrine of faith".
Regardless of the various interpretations of the flesh and blood comment, the core question remains; Did He establish a sacrament or ordinance for His church to follow?
At least thirty (30) English language translations read similarly. Some say "in memory of me" or "to remember me".
The Contemporary English Version (CEV) translates the key phrase "Eat this as a way of remembering me".
The Douay-Rheims (Catholic Bible) renders it as "Do this for a commemoration of me."
The Message (MSG) renders it "Eat it in my memory."
The Worldwide English (WE) gives it as "When you do this, then remember me."
The Wycliffe Bible (WYC) translation is "do ye this thing into my commemoration, or into mind of me."
The Interlinear Scripture Analyzer translates the Greek in two lines, literal & idiomatic:
"this be-ye-doing of-me recollection"
"this be-doing into the my up-reminding"
There are things to note about this verse.
 Jesus said it of the bread; NOT also of the wine. The notion that he meant the wine also probably proceeds from misunderstanding the original statements He made about eating His flesh and drinking His blood. Could millions of people who call themselves Christians be wrong about this ? In the time of Jesus, ALL of the Jewish authorities were wrong and they had the Hebrew Bible plus thousands of years to understand it. The fruit of the vine is the "blood of the New Covenant" shed BY him FOR us. Not a sacrament of the church.
 This sacrament of Communion is foundtional to church liturgy and practice around the world. It is SO important that Matthew, Mark, and John don't deem it worthy of mention. Read the gospels for yourself. Luke was not at the Last Passover Supper. Mark was not present. Matthew and John were both there; both saw what took place; both heard what Jesus said.
The fact that Luke was not there does not necessarily mean he got it wrong. Historians think he did not know Jesus personally; that his accout was collected from eyewitnesses and can be regarded as accurate. His account of the birth and early life of Jesus could have come from Mary though hse was quite old at the time. Mary's son James, the half brother of Jesus, could have been the source of much of his accout. My Quest Study Bible says he wrote his gospel between 59 and 63 AD; thiry years or so after Jesus. Other scholars estimate 15 to 20 years later. If Mary was 16 when He was born, she would have been 78-80 when Luke wrote; or 95-100 using later dates.
When they finished the meal they sang a hymn then went out to the Mount of Olives. Thereafter He was arrested and crucified.
The Gospel of Luke was placed in the canon by the Council of Nicea, sponsored by Constantine to develop a standard Christian Bible for all Christendom. He had made Christianity the state religion so everyone in his empire, whether they believed it or not, became a "Christian". (The "church" is full of them today ... people who wear the label but do not hold to the core belief).
What if the Council had voted to leave Luke's account out, and/or include one of the "lost gospels" which were excluded? could have chosen from the Gospel of Matthias, the Gospel of Perfection, the Gospel of the Seventy, the Dialogue of the Savior, the Gospel of the Twelve, the Gospel of the Hebrews, the Gospel of the Nazarenes, the Gospel of Bartholomew, the Secret Gospel of Mark, and the Gospel of Eve. Other gospels may have also existed, but even their names have been lost. [www.gospel-mysteries.net/lost-gospels.html]. There is an even longer list of excluded writings at [http://carm.org/lost-books].
The point is, if Luke had not made it into the Book, no one would ever have thought Jesus said about the bread, "Do this in memory of me" or some such phrase.
Think about this a little more deeply.
1. He held up the bread and said, "This is my body."
2. He broke the bread.
3. He gave it to the disciples present at the Passover meal.
4. He said, "Take and eat; this is my body."
5. in Luke only: "which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me."
He broke what He said was His body and gave it to them. When do it in memory of Him, are we to eat bread, or give our bodies to Him, figuratively, as in denying our flesh to follow after Him in the Spirit ? It is commonly accepted that we are to share bread in His memory. The church began doing this very early on. Paul had a lot to say about it ... especially how the breaking of the bread was being abused for feasting. It's true that Communion is a celebration in memory of what Jesus has done for us.
My conclusion? I don't have one. I don't know if Jesus intended the sharing of bread among His followers to come over the next two thousand years to be a mandate or not. I was taught in the Catholic church that every professing Catholic must receive Communion annually, generally Easter season, called "Easter Duty", or be excommunicated from the church. This is of course a matter of conscience since no church authority can be certain who did and did not comply. For myself, I am quite contented to have been automatically excommunicated. I am a Believer in Jesus Christ ... not a labeled member of any church or sect claiming to be Christian.
YOU will decide for yourself.
Last Supper Images
The "Last Supper" Jesus shared with His disciples is the subject of many paintings. Here are a few executed between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries.
At the top of this page is displayed the most familiar Last Supper painting ... the one by DaVinci. It is a cropped image from the full wall painting in a convent. It has been digitally color enhanced for this page.
Above is the full painting by Leonardo DaVinci as it has aged and been modified by a vandal in 16th century.
Fra Angelico, born Guido di Pietro 1395-1455, was an Early Italian Renaissance painter.
He was known to contemporaries as Fra Giovanni da Fiesole (Brother John of Fiesole) and Fra Giovanni Angelico (Angelic Brother John). Note how he depicts Jesus walking around distributing wafers in the style of modern churches.
Domenico Ghirlandaio, 1449-1494 was an Italian Renaissance painter from Florence.
Among his many apprentices was Michelangelo.
This rendering shows that none of the painters knew what the actual setting looked like.
Jacopo Bassano, 1510-1592, known also as Jacopo dal Ponte, was an Italian painter who was born and died in Bassano del Grappa near Venice, from which he adopted the name.
Very different interpretation. Active rather than sedate.
Vicente Juan Masip (also Vicente Macip) 1475-1545 was a Spanish painter of the Renaissance period. He was one of the main members of those considered the premier painter of the Valencian school of painters. His son, Juan de Juanes, imitated his style. The son painted this version. Note the halos and that Jesus is holding a wafer while the real bread is on the table.
Simon (Pimen) Fyodorovich Ushakov, Russian: 1626-1686 was a leading Russian graphic artist of the late 17th-century. Done in the iconic style.
Valentin de Boulogne, 1591-1632), sometimes referred to as Le Valentin, was a French painter.
Very intimate. Table looks small for the occasion. It looks like the foreground figure in dark red
is holding a bag. Judas and his thirty pieces of silver ?
Pascal-Adolphe-Jean Dagnan-Bouveret, 1852-1929), was one of the leading French artists of the academic school. This the only version not from the earlier centuries. Many scholars believe a U-shaped table was used for the supper rather than a long banquet table. Obviously, a long table made it easier to compose the scene showing all those present.
Relevant Bible Passages
Luke 22:19 Contemporary English Version (CEV)
19 Jesus took some bread in his hands and gave thanks for it. He broke the bread and handed it to his apostles. Then he said, ?This is my body, which is given for you. Eat this as a way of remembering me!?
Luke 22:19 Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition (DRA)
19 And taking bread, he gave thanks, and brake; and gave to them, saying: This is my body, which is given for you. Do this for a commemoration of me.
Luke 22:19 The Message (MSG)
19 Taking bread, he blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body, given for you. Eat it in my memory."
Luke 22:19 Worldwide English (New Testament) (WE)
19 He took some bread. He thanked God for it and broke it. He gave it to the disciples and said, `This is my body, which is given for you. When you do this, then remember me.'
Luke 22:19 Wycliffe Bible (WYC)
19 And when he had taken bread, he did thankings, and brake, and gave to them, and said, This is my body, that shall be given for you; do ye this thing in mind of me. [And the bread taken, he did graces, or thankings, and brake, and gave to them, saying, This is my body, which shall be given for you; do ye this thing into my commemoration, or into mind of me.]
ISA [Interlinear Scripture Analyzer]
this be-ye-doing of-me recollection
this be-doing into the my up-reminding
Matthew 26 NASB
17 Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do You want us to prepare for You to eat the Passover?” 18 And He said, “Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, “My time is near; I am to keep the Passover at your house with My disciples.”’” 19 The disciples did as Jesus had directed them; and they prepared the Passover.
26 While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” 27 And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; 28 for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins. 29 But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.” 30 After singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
22 While they were eating, He took some bread, and after a blessing He broke it, and gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is My body.” 23 And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. 24 And He said to them, “This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. 25 Truly I say to you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” 26 After singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
Luke 22 NASB
19 And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 20 And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.
John 6 [NASB]
46 Not that anyone has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father. 47 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.” 52 Then the Jews began to argue with one another, saying, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. 54 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. 56 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me. 58 This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.” 59 These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum.
60 Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this said, “This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?” 61 But Jesus, conscious that His disciples grumbled at this, said to them, “Does this cause you to stumble? 62 What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.
Written by Wayne Hepburn, August 2012. I herewith place this document in the Public Domain