Updated: May 15
By Luke Lancaster
During the Last Supper of Jesus, He took bread and said,
"And he took bread, and when he had 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.' And likewise the cup after supper, saying, "This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.'"
Now let’s consider these words a bit more indepth. These words have tons of sacrificial overtones, indicating that this Last Supper meal is one and the same with His crucifixion, Holy Thursday and Good Friday are married.
1. “This is my Body” – which will be given to you. Notice how Christ is connecting the bread with His Body that will be offered as a sacrifice for you. This occurs the next day on Good Friday.
2. He says to “do this”, which really means, according to its usage in the Old Testament, to “offer this.” For the Geek word for “do” (poieo) means to “offer sacrifice.” See Leviticus 9:7, which says to “approach the altar and do your sin offering,” and Exodus 29:39, which says that, “the first lamb you will do in the morning, and the second lamb you will do in the evening”. Church historian JND Kelly says in His work “Early Christian Doctrines” that these words of institution, ‘Do this’ (touto poieite), must have been charged with sacrificial overtones to the second-century ears; Justin at any rate understood them to mean, ‘Offer this.’
3. Jesus says to do this action in “Remembrance” or “Memorial” of Him. This term has a sacrificial background to it, for it is used in the context of sacrifice in the Old Testament. For instance, Numbers 10:10 speaks of the Israelites blowing their trumpets over their sacrifices, and how that would be a remembrance to the Lord. Hebrews 10:3 connects the Jewish sacrifices to the word "remembrance" when it says, “but in them (Jewish sacrifices) there is a remembrance of sins yearly.” The Last Supper and the Crucifixion of Christ are one and the same event.
Anglican scholar J.N.D. Kelly has some interesting words about this,
“It was natural for early Christians to think of the Eucharist as a sacrifice. The fulfillment of prophecy demanded a solemn Christian offering, and the rite itself was wrapped in the sacrificial atmosphere with which our Lord invested the Last Supper.. . . The bread and wine, moreover, are offered ‘for a memorial (eis anamnasin) of the passion,’ a phrase which in view of his identification of them with the Lord’s body and blood implies much more than an act of purely spiritual recollection” (Early Christian Doctrines, pgs. 196–7).
"[T]he command for repetition [of the Lord's Supper] may be translated: 'This do, that God may remember me.' How is this to be understood? Here an old Passover prayer is illuminating. On Passover evening a prayer is inserted into the third benediction of the grace after the meal, a prayer which asks God to remember the Messiah. . . . In this very common prayer, which is also used on other festival days, God is petitioned at every Passover concerning 'the remembrance of the Messiah'" (p. 252).
4. The cup is “poured” out, which has a sacrificial overtone. The Jews would “pour” out the blood of the animal before the altar during sacrifice.
5. Jesus speaks of the “New Covenant in my blood.” This is very interesting, for Exodus 24:8 says that the Old Covenant was ratified by the blood of Oxen or “blood of the covenant.” Jesus here is then ratifying a New Covenant through the Last Supper. How could this be, though, if the New Covenant is all about Jesus's death and Resurrection? It would have to mean that this is all one event.
6. Jesus speaks of both His Body on one side, and then His Blood on the other. This has a sacrificial overtone as well according to Lutheran scholar Joachim Jeremias. He states in his book, The Eucharistic Word of Jesus, that,
"[W]hen Jesus speaks of 'his flesh' and 'his blood' . . . [h]e is applying to himself terms from the language of sacrifice . . . Each of the two nouns presupposes a slaying that has separated flesh and blood. In other words: Jesus speaks of himself as a sacrifice" (p. 222).
So, the very notion of body separated from blood is presupposing a sacrifice.
Much of this article's source was Protestant scholar Darwell Stone's work on this subject.