The Last Supper
One of the most universally recognized paintings is Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper. Amazingly, this masterpiece is more than 500 years old. Though artistic styles change, this artistic wonder still intrigues the mind’s eye. Da Vinci’s talent is undisputed, but his brilliance certainly was enhanced by the depiction of a great moment in human history — when Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper.
With memorable symbolism of his own choosing, the Lord once more predicted his imminent death, clearly indicating the divine purpose for which he would die. Thus, he gave the church a perpetual means through which she might commune with him by remembering the focal point of the Lord’s redemptive plan — the vicarious sacrifice of the Lamb of God for the sins of mankind.
Poignant words concisely spoken are echoed in worship assemblies every Lord’s Day. In remembrance of him, Christians recall the words of Jesus, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many unto remission of sins” (Matt. 26:28). Let’s consider this wonderful declaration.
This Is My Blood
Were the disciples drinking the blood of Jesus? Obviously not. Jesus identified the substance as “this fruit of the vine” (v. 29). He also indicated that the fruit of the vine is that which they would drink “in my Father’s kingdom.” They did not, nor do we, drink Christ’s blood. Nor was the emphasis of Christ on the cup. Rather, the fruit of the vine represented his blood. This is an example of the use of figurative language in the Bible. Failure to discern figures of speech has led to many religious errors.
These words reflect the humanity of Christ. He was a man, having flesh and blood (Heb. 2:14). The Lord did not merely appear to look like a man, but he became flesh (Jn. 1:14). He is the only individual of two natures — at one and the same time, he is both God and man (Col. 2:9). The miraculous incarnation of deity made it possible for Christ to die, bearing the sins of the world (Heb. 2:14).
My Blood of the Covenant
The word “covenant” has deep biblical roots. Among several things, it indicates the involvement of God with man. It reminds us of the planning of heaven in bringing God’s will to pass, and it signifies his power and faithfulness in relation to the affairs of men. With the death of Christ, his covenant was sealed and is irrevocable. We have no right to alter the content of his will, and such efforts meet the sternest rebuke of Scripture (2 Jn. 9).
Which Is Poured Out
This meaningful phrase reminds us of the voluntary nature of Christ’s death. He poured out his blood, or as he said in John’s Gospel, “No one taketh it away from me. I lay it down of myself” (10:18).
These words also indicate the Lord’s foreknowledge of his violent death. His blood would be “poured out.” He would not die of sickness nor in his sleep. He would suffer and be crucified, shedding his blood (cf. Matt. 20:18-19).
Jesus knew no sin (2 Cor. 5:21; cf. Heb. 4:15), but men looked at his suffering and thought he deserved it. Many did not know that Jehovah laid on him the iniquity of us all (Is. 53:6). Although the blood of Jesus can yield forgiveness for every sin committed by every human being since the beginning of time to the end of the world (Jn. 3:16), he becomes the author of eternal salvation only to those who obey him (Heb. 5:9). Many will receive the grace of God through obedient faith, but compared with those who follow the broad way to destruction, Christ said, “few there be that find it” (Matt. 7:13-14).
Unto the Remission of Sins
Sins separate people from God (Is. 59:1-2; cf. Eph. 2:1). Without forgiveness, one can not go to heaven (Jn. 8:21,24). But Christ’s death is “unto the remission of sins” for the many who believe and obey him. The preposition “unto” is eis. The term indicates the purpose for which Jesus died. He poured out his blood in order for the many to obtain the remission of sins.
With the exact same words, Peter declares that the baptism of a penitent individual is eis aphesin hamartion — unto the remission of sins. Christ died so people might obtain the forgiveness of sins. But all men will not be saved; only the obedient (Heb. 5:9). Penitent believers are baptized to obtain pardon.
Paul declared how baptism corresponds to the death of Christ, when he said that we are buried into the death of Christ in baptism (Rom. 6:3-4). When we obey what Jesus requires, we benefit from his atoning sacrifice.
Every Lord’s Day, let us examine ourselves in light of God’s unspeakable gift.