In a few brief verses Mark gives us a description of the institution of the Lord’s Supper. The words found here, and in the other Gospels, have been abused, misused and misunderstood by various denominations over the centuries. The Lord’s Supper has been corrupted by false teaching and superstitious additions until its true significance is lost. The believer must set aside all denominational teaching on this subject and study what the Scriptures actually say.
“And in the evening he cometh with the twelve. And as they sat and did eat, Jesus said, Verily I say unto you, One of you which eateth with me shall betray me. And they began to be sorrowful, and to say unto him one by one, Is it I? and another said, Is it I? And he answered and said unto them, It is one of the twelve, that dippeth with me in the dish. The Son of man indeed goeth, as it is written of him: but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! good were it for that man if he had never been born” (Mark 14:17-21).
The Lord Jesus Christ provoked His disciples into questioning their worthiness to participate in the Supper. Just as the disciples examined their own hearts, so should the believer today prior to partaking of the bread and the cup. “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep” (1 Corinthians 11:28-30). Those who partake with an irreverent or careless spirit are guilty of rejecting Christ and immediately come under God’s judgement and wrath, “Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 11:27).
The spiritual benefit of the Lord’s Supper rests entirely on the manner it is received. The bread and the wine have no power to do our souls any good unless we come before Christ worthily and in faith. Being unfit to participate in the communion service should not cause a person to neglect it. If self-examination is entered into, and sin confessed, there is nothing to hinder us from taking the bread and the cup. God simply commands believers not to come to the table ritualistically or without thought. If we are unfit to participate in the Lord’s Supper, then we are unfit to die!
“And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said, Take, eat: this is my body. And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it” (Mark 14:22-23).
The bread is used to remind us that Christ was “wounded for our transgressions” (Isaiah 53:5), and that His blood “cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). We see here both the sinner’s propitiation and atonement, for Christ is our Substitute and Surety.
When the believer comes to the table he is acknowledging the sinfulness of sin and that only Christ’s sacrificial death and atoning blood can free him from judgement and condemnation. The believer must first see his own hopelessness and helplessness before he can understand the great price Christ had to pay for his redemption. The bread and the wine are simply reminders of the great debt we could not pay, but that the Lord took our sin on Himself so that we could become the children of God. “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21) … “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed” (1 Peter 2:24). Apart from anything else, these thoughts ought to produce gratitude in our hearts for the price the Saviour paid to redeem us. At the Lord’s Supper we remind ourselves of these facts. “This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19).
“And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many. Verily I say unto you, I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God” (Mark 14:24-25).
Eating and drinking are acts of living persons, therefore only true Christians ought to partake of the bread and wine. As a living person eats and drinks to gain strength and refreshment, so the believer can find his faith quickened and his soul refreshed at the Lord’s Table.
There is no mention of the bread and wine magically morphing into Christ’s flesh and blood at the Last Supper. The Roman Catholic, who is void of true faith, is content to believe in fantasy. Because he has no faith in Christ, he thinks that the act of participating in the Mass on Sunday permits him to live as he pleases the rest of the week. Those who base their faith on superstition will live in delusion.
Partaking of the bread and wine cannot save the soul or justify us before God. Those who come to it unconverted and without true repentance, will go away in a worse spiritual condition than they came. Those who receive Christ by faith will find that faith strengthened when they fellowship around the Lord’s Table. “For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28). We cannot see the nail-pierced hands and feet of Christ, but the celebration of the Lord’s Supper reminds us of the price He paid. Those who faithfully obey and follow Christ look forward to the day when they will feast at the Lord’s Table in Heaven. “Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:9).
There are many who have turned their backs on the Lord’s Table, and by doing so commit a greater sin than the one they think keeps them from coming to it. No saved person ought to neglect what the Lord has established as the norm for the church until He returns, “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till he come” (1 Corinthians 11:26). If we do not eat and drink with Him at His table here on earth, how can we expect to eat and drink with Him at His table in Heaven?