Blood Given for You

blood given for you (2)

12) Matt 26:26–28: This passage focuses upon God’s perspective on the death of Jesus.[1]

It also explains the origin of one of the universally recognized sacraments of the church.[2]

While hosting the traditional Passover feast, Christ introduced a startling new element to the ancient ritual.[3]

Jewish people around the world follow a specific pattern of celebrating the meal.[4] Typically, the host interprets the meaning behind the various portions of the meal, such as the unleavened bread, the bitter herbs, and the lamb.[5] During the feast, celebrants consume four cups of wine.[6]

Jesus transformed the meaning behind the food and drink into a portrayal of his redemptive death, rather than emphasizing the historical exodus from Egypt (Exod 13:1–10; 1 Cor 11:26).[7] He embodied the sacrifice to which the Passover pointed (1 Cor 5:7).[8]

The Mishnah provides this overview of the ritual:

When the first cup has been poured out, the blessing of the festival must be said…Herbs and vegetables are then to be brought: the lettuce is to be immersed, and part eaten thereof, until the eating of the unleavened bread; then unleavened cakes are to be placed before him, as also lettuce and two kinds of cooked food…

During the existence of the Holy Temple, the paschal sacrifice was then also placed before him.

A second cup of wine is then poured out; and the son shall then enquire of his father [the cause of this ceremony], and when the son’s mental faculties are insufficient, the father is bound to instruct him in the following manner: “Wherefore is this night distinguished from all other nights?

“That on all other nights we may eat either leavened or unleavened bread, but on this night it must be all unleavened; on all other nights we may eat any kind of herbs, but on this night we must eat bitter herbs; on other nights we may eat meat, either roasted, boiled, or cooked in different ways, but on this night we must eat roasted meat only; on all other nights we immerse what we eat once, but on this night twice.”

And according to the powers of comprehension of the child, thus his father is bound to teach him: he shall first inform him of the dishonor [of our ancestors]…and conclude with Deut 26:5–9.

Rabbi Gamaliel says:

Whosoever does not mention [explain] three things on the Passover, has not fulfilled his duty. These are the paschal sacrifice, the unleavened cakes, and bitter herbs.

The paschal sacrifice is offered because the Lord passed over the houses of our ancestors in Egypt; the unleavened bread [is eaten] because our ancestors were redeemed from Egypt [before they had time to leaven their dough]; and bitter herbs are eaten, because the Egyptians embittered the lives of our ancestors in Egypt (m. Pesah 10:2–5).

Jesus identified himself with the Passover lamb (Cf. Exod 12:21–28; John 1:26–30).[9] Yet, Christ also used the unleavened bread to symbolize his body.[10]

Note the abundance of sacrificial terminology in his words, such as “flesh,” “blood,” “poured out,” and “remission of sins.”[11]

According to Matthew, “While they were eating, Jesus took bread and he blessed [it] and broke [it] and gave [it] to his disciples. And he said, ‘Take, eat, this is my body.’”

This differs radically from the traditional formula,[12] which states, “Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us with His laws and commanded us to eat matzah.”[13]

The host served unleavened bread after the main part of the meal to symbolize the coming of the messiah,[14] for it represented cleanliness and new life (1 Cor 5:7–8). By these words, Jesus implied that his impending death would benefit his disciples.[15]

The institution of bread to represent Christ’s body indicates that God no longer requires the sacrifice of a lamb to cover our sins (Heb 9:11–14).[16]

Exactly what Jesus meant by the word “is” (eimi) in “This is my body” has provoked a great deal of controversy in the Protestant church.[17]

The verb can have a wide range of meaning. “Is” can mean anything from complete physical reality to a symbolic representation.[18]

Although Martin Luther and the other Reformers agreed upon fourteen of fifteen points at the Marburg Colloquy of 1529, their views on the Lord’s Supper tore them apart.

The debate centered upon whether Jesus meant his words, “This is my body” and “This is my blood” to be taken literally or figuratively.

Luther denounced the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation, which led people to believe that a priest’s words of institution mystically changed the bread and wine into Christ’s actual body and blood. Yet, Luther charged that those who “contort the little word ‘is’ into ‘signifies’ [do so] frivolously and unsupported by Scripture.”[19]

This theological debate would never have occurred to the disciples.[20]

After all, a literal interpretation of the Passover liturgy which reads, “This is the bread of affliction which our ancestors ate when they came from the land of Egypt” (Deut 16:3) was not possible. They could not have ingested the same pieces of unleavened bread.[21]

Furthermore, Jesus ate with them at this meal, so they did not consume his actual body.

When Christ previously informed his compatriots that they needed to consume his flesh and drink his blood, bread and wine were not even present (John 6:48–58).[22]

Therefore, the Lord’s Supper provides spiritual benefit and memorializes Christ’s sacrifice but does not constitute another offering of himself (Heb 7:23–28; Heb 9:24–28). Thus, a rich symbolism remains the best option.[23]

Matthew reported, “And when he had taken a cup and given thanks, he gave [it] to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you.”

Prior to this, they ate the bitter herbs and sang Psalms 113–118, in accordance with m. Pesaḥ 10:1–7.[24]

Of the four cups of wine which they consumed, this one appears to be the third cup, known as the cup of blessing or the cup of redemption (1 Cor 10:16; Exod 6:6).[25]

Observant Jewish people traditionally recite these words, “Blessed are you, Lord our God, king of the world, who creates the fruit of the vine.”[26]

Instead, Jesus asserted, “For this is my blood of the covenant, poured out on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.”

Symbolizing Jesus’s blood, to partake of that wine signifies our participation in his atoning sacrifice (Heb 12:22–24).[27]

In Egypt, the blood of lambs saved the lives of many (Exod 12: 22–23). Now Christ’s blood secures the salvation of his people.[28]

The phrase “Blood of the covenant” occurs in several Old Testament passages, such as Exod 24:8 and Zech 9:11.[29]

However, the new covenant foretold by Jer 31:27–34 fits best with the concept of a restored relationship with God resulting from the forgiveness of sins (Ezek 36:25–27; Matt 5:17–20).

Thus, Christ’s atoning sacrifice forms the theological basis for the new people of God.[30]

Image via Wikimedia Commons

 

Read Matt 26:26–28. How did Jesus alter the traditional Passover meal? What does receiving Communion do for us? How does the sprinkled blood of Jesus “speak a better word than the blood of Abel?”

 

 

 

 

Go to Pleading for Justice

 

[Related posts include Misappropriated Blood (Gen 4:9‒10); Adopted as Sons (Eph 1:5–6); Redemption through Christ’s Blood (Eph 1:7–8); and Obtaining Eternal Redemption (Heb 9:11–14)]

[Click here to go to Chapter 1: A Tale of Two Brothers (Genesis 4:1‒16)]

 

[1]France, The Gospel of Matthew, 994.

[2]Hagner, Matthew 14–28, 771.

[3]France, The Gospel of Matthew, 991.

[4]The Jewish Federations of North America, “The Passover Haggadah: A Guide to the Seder,” http://www.jewishfederation.org/images/uploads/holiday_images/39497.pdf.

[5]Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 630.

[6]Wilkins, Matthew, 836.

[7]Hagner, Matthew 14–28, 771.

[8]Wilkins, Matthew, 836.

[9]Hagner, Matthew 14–28, 772.

[10]France, The Gospel of Matthew, 991–2.

[11]Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 631.

[12]France, The Gospel of Matthew, 991.

[13]The Jewish Federations of North America, “The Passover Haggadah: A Guide to the Seder,” 13, http://www.jewishfederation.org/images/uploads/holiday_images/39497.pdf.

[14] Hagner, Matthew 14–28, 772.

[15]France, The Gospel of Matthew, 992.

[16]Wilkins, Matthew, 836.

[17]Hagner, Matthew 14–28, 772.

[18]France, The Gospel of Matthew, 992.

[19]James M. Kittleson, Luther the Reformer: The Story of the Man and His Career (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2003), 179.

[20]Wilkins, Matthew, 836–7.

[21]Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 631.

[22]France, The Gospel of Matthew, 992.

[23]Hagner, Matthew 14–28, 772.

[24]Hagner, Matthew 14–28, 773.

[25]Wilkins, Matthew, 837.

[26]The Jewish Federations of North America, “The Passover Haggadah: A Guide to the Seder,” 15, http://www.jewishfederation.org/images/uploads/holiday_images/39497.pdf.

[27]Hagner, Matthew 14–28, 773.

[28]France, The Gospel of Matthew, 993.

[29]Hagner, Matthew 14–28, 773.

[30]France, The Gospel of Matthew, 994–5.