Krummacher: The Institution of the Lord's Supper

Series: The Suffering Savior: Meditations on the Last Days of Christ by F. W. Krummacher (1796-1868)

[learn_more caption=”Introduction and Preface”] CMC Editor’s Note: In the following preface are the words of F.W. Krummacher introducing his readers to his work. It is our intention to post all fifty three of his meditations. Krummacher is regarded as one of Germany’s greatest preachers and was often compared to Great Britain’s C.H. Spurgeon. The reader will learn much of Christ through this series of devotional meditations on the final scenes in the life of Christ on earth. The printed work (first published 1854) has been described as the greatest single volume of the entire nineteenth century on the last days of Christ’s earthly ministry. The meditations are structured around the Old Testament tabernacle. It’s our prayer that you will be richly blessed his writings.

Author’s Preface

In the following meditations I trust I have succeeded in displaying to my readers at least a portion of those riches which are contained in the inexhaustible treasury of our Savior’s sufferings. Unmutilated scriptural truth, such as I believe I promulgate, still finds a favorable reception in the world, which I have been permitted to experience in the most gratifying manner. I mention it, solely to the praise of God, and for the satisfaction of those who are like-minded, that my writings, or at least a part of them, are, as I hear, already translated into English, French, Dutch, Swedish, and as I am assured, though I cannot vouch for the fact, into the Danish language also. My “Elijah the Tishbite” has even appeared in a Chinese attire. But that which is of greater importance, is the news I am constantly receiving of the manifold blessing which the Lord of his great and unmerited favor has bestowed upon my labors. That in his condescension and loving-kindness, He would also deign to bless this my most recent work is so much the more my heartfelt wish and ardent prayer, since it has for its subject the chief supporting pillar of the whole church—the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The division of the work into the “Outer Court,” the “Holy Place,” and the “Most Holy Place,” is intended merely to point out the different stages of the Redeemer’s sufferings, from their commencement to their close, but by no means to attach a less or greater importance to them. Had the latter been the case, I would naturally have assigned the institution of the Lord’s Supper its appropriate place in the “Most Holy Place,” instead of the “Outer Court.” But in the plan of this volume, it falls among the class of events, which immediately precede the propitiatory work of the Mediator.

~ F. W. Krummacher [/learn_more]




Meditation – V

The Institution of the Lord’s Supper


“Broken for you.”

The Passover has been kept, according to Israelitish usage, the paschal lamb has been consumed by the guests with feelings of deep emotion, and the festive cup has been several times sent round as was customary. The moment had now arrived when after singing the great of “Hallel,” or psalm of praise, the meal should be concluded, and the signal given to the guests to rise up and depart. Instead of this, what occurs? The Master, to whom all eyes were directed, rises from his seat—not, as is soon perceived, to leave the room, but—to commence a new and still more solemn act than that of eating the passover. In the capacity of the head of the family, he again takes the bread, breaks it, and after giving thanks, distributes it to his disciples; and you know the words with which he accompanied this act. He then likewise reaches them the cup, commands them all to drink of it, and what he said at the time you also know. Heaven alone can satisfactorily explain to us why the Evangelists have not transmitted to us the words of institution used by the Savior, in perfect coincidence with each other as to their form and manner.

“But,” you say, “have they not done so?” No, my friends. In Matthew and Mark, the Lord, in breaking the bread, says, “Take, eat, this is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” According to Paul (1 Cor. 11:24), He used the expression, “broken for you,” instead of “given for you.” In Matthew, he says, on presenting the cup, “Drink you all of it; for this is my blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” In Mark, both the words, “Drink you all of it,” as well as “for the remission of sins,” are wanting. In Luke, we find the Lord saying, “This cup is the New Testament in my blood, which is shed for you.” Paul expresses it in like manner, but describes the Lord as adding, “This do you, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

Here are, therefore, manifest differences, although anything but opposition and contradiction. Now how are these variations in the four narratives to be explained? A variety of suppositions, as you may imagine, have been suggested during eighteen centuries. But I must protest, on the outset, against the idea, unaccountably entertained by many pious people, that one or other of the Evangelists had made a mistake, and was unable minutely to remember the precise words used by the Lord Jesus. The apostles, in compiling their sacred records, were preserved from every error. For their Lord and Master had expressly promised them that the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, should lead them into all truth, and bring all things to their remembrance that he had spoken to them. And can we, for a moment, suppose that this Spirit should have been deficient in his office in such an important matter as the institution of this sacrament, and not rather have attended to it with the greatest exactness? Let whoever will believe it, I never can.

But perhaps you say, “How will you be able to make the deviations which really exist agree?” My readers, I do not for a moment doubt that the Lord uttered all the words which are recorded, and that the four witnesses only enlarge each other’s description of what occurred; and it is my conviction, that on distributing the bread and presenting the cup he several times uttered the words of institution, and repeated them, first in one form and then in another.

Certainly, it is not a matter of indifference to be able to place our foot on firm ground in this matter, and with perfect confidence to say, “These are the original words of institution used by our Lord, in their authentic and proper connection. This is their essential and real meaning; this the sacred formula which is to continue in use forever, according to the will of our Lord himself, and to be always uttered at the celebration of his supper.” But in order to provide for the real requirements of his Church on earth, the Lord was subsequently pleased to give his apostle Paul, by express revelation, an unambiguous disclosure respecting the formula of the institution of his sacred ordinance. Hear what the Apostle says,—1 Cor 11:23-25: “For I have received of the Lord, that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus, on the same night in which he was betrayed, took bread,” etc. The substance of the words of the institution is consequently expressed as to the bread, in the formula, “This is my body which is broken for you; this do in remembrance of me;” as to the cup, in the words, “This cup is the new testament in my blood; this do you, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

So much with regard to the formula of the institution. Let us now cast a look at the actions with which our Lord accompanied the words:—We read, first, that “the Lord took bread.” Observe, he took bread, and not the flesh of the paschal lamb. This he did that he might not countenance, in any way, such crude and gross ideas of the sacrament as those expressed by the Jews at Capernaum (John 6.), and that he might, beforehand meet the error, as if there were still room in the New Testament for the sacrifices of the Old. The bread which he took was the unleavened passover cake, which, however, was not subsequently used; for the first Christians, with the apostles at their head, at their communion, which they were accustomed almost daily to celebrate at the close of their love-feasts, made use of the customary bread; that is, of such as was used at table, and therefore leavened.

“The Lord took bread”—this most indispensable of all the means of nourishment and sustenance, the product of the most valuable of earth’s fruits, which presents, at the same time, such an extremely striking image of him without whom we have no spiritual life. But you ask, “Is the bread only an emblem, a figure?” I inquire, in reply, whether you wish to dispute the position, that we must regard the elements of the sacred ordinance, in the first instance, as signs, symbols, and figures? If so, you must overlook the Lord’s words in John, 6:51, “I am the living bread, which came down from heaven, and give life unto the world;” as well as many other of his expressions of a similar kind. The divine “corn of wheat,” which, that it might not remain alone, but bring forth much fruit, fell into the ground, and, by the heat of Gethsemane, and the fire of the cross, was prepared to become the spiritual food of poor sinners, is reflected, like the sun in the dew-drop, in the sacramental bread, and by the latter is exhibited to our view.

After the Lord had taken the bread, he lifted up his eyes toward heaven, and “gave thanks”—that is, he poured out his heart in praise and thanksgiving to his heavenly Father. For what did he render thanks? O my friends, for what else than for the decision of divine mercy, to save such poor sinners as we, which he saw in spirit, as already accomplished in his blood, and for the deliverance of the children of Adam from the curse of the law, the power of Satan, and the gulf of perdition. It was they who lay continually upon his heart; to whose restoration all his cares and anxieties were directed, and whose exaltation and beatification was the object of his highest interest and sweetest hope. He gave thanks. O, with what adoring delight will the holy angels have caught this costly incense in their golden censers, and, have borne it up to God! He gave thanks. We ought also to give thanks. But it is well for us, that in this, as in everything else, he intercedes for us, and covers our guilt with his obedience, and our deficiencies with his fullness.

However he did not merely give thanks, but, according to Matthew’s expression, he also blessed. It is true the word used by this Evangelist signifies both thanking and praising, like the word used by Luke and Paul, nor would any greater stress require to be laid upon it, as including the idea of blessing, if Paul, in employing the same word in 1 Cor. 11:16, had not called the cup, “the blessed,” or “the cup of blessing.” The Savior, however, pronounced his benediction, not only upon the cup, but also upon the bread. And wherefore! Was it in order to separate the elements from a common and profane use to one that was higher, spiritual, and holy? Doubtless, he had this also in view. But where Jesus, the High Priest, blesses, we ought to think of something more substantial than a mere designation and setting apart of the kind above-mentioned. We ought to expect that influence is then exerted, and reality produced. And O, what superabundant richness and fullness of blessing have rested on the bread and wine of the communion from the benediction, which our Lord pronounced upon them!

Since that festal evening, how many thousands have received heavenly refreshment, invigoration, and encouragement by their means! How many a wounded heart, in the course of eighteen centuries, has been healed, how many fainting spirits revived, and the passage through the dark and mortal valley illumined, alleviated, and sweetened! and how innumerable are those who, until the end of time, will joyfully experience all this! Such is the blessing of the Prince of Peace, which extends even to the bliss of the eternal hills.

After our Lord had given thanks and blessed, he “broke” the bread. Nor is this without a deeper meaning, as he himself declares immediately afterward, in the words, “This is my body, which is broken for you.” Hence the whole of the apostolic statements of the institution of this sacred ordinance do not fail to record this breaking of the bread. Jesus broke it as symbolic of that which should soon occur to his own body, by which he should become our atoning sacrifice and the bread of life. In the breaking of the bread he depicted his own death to the eyes of the disciples; and the sublime and admirable tranquillity with which he did so, again testifies of the infinite love to sinners which pervaded his heart.

Our Lord presented the bread, thus broken, to his disciples, and it is here that we see him in his proper office and favorite vocation. Giving, presenting, and communicating, is his delight. As then, so now, his hand is stretched out in his feast of love, although at present concealed in the hand of his human messenger and minister. We, his servants, retire, as regards ourselves, entirely into the background, while administering the communion. We are then nothing but his instruments. He himself is always the dispenser and giver. Hence his words alone are heard at the sacred feast; and none else, however beautiful and believing they may sound, are permitted to be used.

At the consecration of the cup, the same formula was repeated as at the consecration of the bread. After renewed thanksgiving and blessing, our Lord presented it to his disciples, and invited them all to drink of it. He calls the wine his blood, even as he designated the bread his body; and, both elements united, indicate and represent the whole Christ, inasmuch as he gave his life, which is “in the blood,” unto death, as an atoning sacrifice for us.

That the Lord did not select water but wine, for the symbol of his shed blood, was done from the wisest motive; and only enlarges and diversifies the meaning of the selected symbol. Christ is the real vine, and we possess divine life, only in so far as we, like the branches, grow through him, and are pervaded by his influence. Besides, the wine reminds us of the wine-press of torture and agony, in which the Son of God was capacitated to become our Savior and Mediator, and signifies the fullness of heavenly encouragement, joy, and delight, which Christ imparts, as an addition and superabundance to his believing people; while the bread represents more what is necessary and indispensable for the deliverance and blessedness, which they possess in his redemption and mediation.

What an incomparable legacy, therefore, has the Lord left us in his sacred Supper! What a fullness of heavenly blessings and mercies has he showered down upon us in this unpretending institution! Let us therefore highly estimate this precious bestowment. Let us often avail ourselves of it by repeated and devout approaches to the sacred table for the sanctification and glorification of our inner man. Only, let us be careful to appear in true communion attire—in child-like simplicity and godly poverty of spirit; and on our return from the holy place, we shall feel ourselves constrained to render heartfelt and joyful thanks unto him, who has bought us with his blood, and be more than ever resolved to live and die to his praise.

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