Faith and Theology: Dr. John MacArthur Q&A


Why did Jesus institute the Lord’s Supper?

In Matthew 26.26, “Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body,’” thus transforming His last Passover into the first observance of the Lord’s Supper. He is the central antitype in both ceremonies, being represented symbolically by both the paschal lamb of the Passover and the elements in the communion service. His statement, “this is My body,” could not possibly have been taken in any literal sense by the disciples present that evening. Such metaphorical language was a typical Hebraism. No eucharistic miracle of transubstantiation was implied, nor could the disciples have missed the symbolic intent of His statement, for His actual body—yet unbroken—was before their very eyes.

When He took the cup of wine, He said that this is “My blood of the new covenant” (v. 28). Covenants were ratified with the blood of a sacrifice (Gen. 8.20; 15.9, 10). Jesus’ words here echo Moses’ pronouncement in Exodus 24.8. The blood of the New Covenant is not an animal’s blood, but Christ’s own blood, shed for the remission of sins. See Jeremiah 31.31–34; Hebrews 8.1–10.18, especially 8.6. Thus He established the observance as an ordinance for worship (1 Cor. 11.23–26). Passover had looked forward to the sacrifice of Christ; He transformed it into an altogether different ceremony, which looks back in remembrance at His atoning death.