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The Passover with the Disciples

17 On the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where do you want us to make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?” 18He said, “Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is near; I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’ ” 19So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover meal.

20 When it was evening, he took his place with the twelve; 21and while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” 22And they became greatly distressed and began to say to him one after another, “Surely not I, Lord?” 23He answered, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 24The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.” 25Judas, who betrayed him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” He replied, “You have said so.”

The Institution of the Lord’s Supper

26 While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; 28for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

30 When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.


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17. Now on the first day of unleavened bread, the disciples came to Jesus. It is first inquired, Why does the day which preceded the sacrificing of the lamb receive the name of the day of unleavened bread? For the Law did not forbid the use of leaven till the lamb was eaten, (Exodus 12:18.) But this difficulty may be speedily removed, for the phrase refers to the following day, as is sufficiently evident from Mark and Luke. Since, therefore, the day of killing and eating the passover was at hand, the disciples ask Christ where he wishes them to eat the passover.

But hence arises a more difficult question. How did Christ observe that ceremony on the day before the whole nation celebrated the public passover? For John plainly affirms that the day on which Christ was crucified was, among the Jews, the preparation, not of the Sabbath, but of the passover, (John 19:14;) and that

they did not enter into the hall of judgment, lest they should be defiled, because next day they were to eat the passover,
(John 18:28.)

I am aware that there are some who resort to evasions, which do not, however, give them any relief; for no sophistry can set aside the fact; that, on the day they crucified Christ, they did not keep the feast, (when it would not have been lawful to have any public executions) and that they had, at that the a solemn preparation, so that they ate the passover after that Christ had been buried.

It comes now to be inquired, Why did Christ anticipate? For it must not be supposed that, in this ceremony, he took any liberty which was at variance with the prescriptions of the Law. As to the notion entertained by some, that the Jews, through their eagerness to put Christ to death, delayed the passover, it is ably refuted by Bucer, and, indeed, falls to the ground by its own absurdity. I have no doubt, therefore, that Christ observed the day appointed by the Law, and that the Jews followed a custom which had been long in use. First, it is beyond a doubt that Christ was put to death on the day before the Sabbath; for he was hastily buried before sunset in a sepulcher which was at hand, (John 19:42,) because it was necessary to abstain from work after the commencement of the evening. Now it is universally admitted that, by an ancient custom, when the passover and other festivals happened on Friday, they were delayed till the following day, because the people would have reckoned it hard to abstain from work on two successive days. The Jews maintain that this law was laid down immediately after the return of the people from the Babylonish captivity, and that it was done by a revelation from heaven, that they may not be thought to have made any change, of their own accord, in the commandments of God.

Now if it was the custom, at that time, to join two festivals in one, (as the Jews themselves admit, and as their ancient writings prove,) it is a highly probable conjecture that Christ, who celebrated the passover on the day before the Sabbath, observed the day prescribed by the Law; for we know how careful he was not to depart from a single iota of the Law. Having determined to be subject to the Law, that he might deliver us from its yoke, he did not forget this subjection at his latest hour; and therefore he would rather have chosen to omit an outward ceremony, than to transgress the ordinance which God had appointed, and thus lay himself open to the slanders of wicked men. Even the Jews themselves unquestionably will not deny that, whenever the Sabbath immediately followed the passover, it was on one day, instead of both, that they abstained from work, and that this was enjoined by the Rabbins. Hence it follows that Christ, in departing from the ordinary custom, attempted nothing contrary to the Law.

18. Go into the city to such a man. Matthew specifies a certain man; the other two Evangelists relate that the disciples were sent as to an unknown individual, because a sign was given to them of a man carrying a pitcher of water. But this difference is easily reconciled; for Matthew passing by the miracle, describes that man who was then unknown to the disciples; for it cannot be doubted that, when they came to the house, they found that it was one of their acquaintances. Christ enjoins him authoritatively to make ready a lodging for himself and his disciples, calling him master; and the man immediately complies But though he might have expressly pointed out the man by name, he chose rather to direct his disciples to him by a miracle, that, when they shortly afterwards saw him reduced to a state of weakness, their faith might remain firm, being supported by this evidence. It was no slight confirmation that, a few hours before he was put to death, he had given an undoubted proof that he was God, that they might know that he was not constrained by necessity, but yielded of his own accord. And though at the very time when the weariness occurred, this was perhaps of no advantage to them, yet the recollection of it was afterwards useful; as even in the present day, in order to rise above the offense of the cross, it is of great importance to us to know that, along with the weakness of the flesh, the glory of divinity appeared in Christ about the very time of his death.

My time is near. Though he celebrated the passover correctly according to the injunction of the Law, yet he appears to assign this reason for the express purpose of avoiding the blame of self-will. He says, therefore, that there are reasons why he must make haste, and not comply with a received custom, because he is called to a greater sacrifice. And yet, as we have said, he introduces no change in the ceremony, but repeats once and again, that the time of his death is near, in order to inform them that he hastens cheerfully to do what the Father had appointed. And as to his connecting the figure of the sacrifice with the reality, in this way he exhorted believers to compare with the ancient figures what he accomplished in reality. This comparison is highly fitted to illustrate the power and efficacy of his death; for the passover was enjoined on the Jews, not merely to remind them of an ancient deliverance, but also that they might expect future and more excellent deliverance from Christ. Such is the import of what Paul says, that

Christ our passover is sacrificed for us, (1 Corinthians 5:7.)

19. And the disciples did as Jesus had appointed them. The readiness with which the disciples comply ought to be observed as a proof of their holy submission; for a doubt might naturally arise, when in search of an unknown man, whether they would obtain from the master of the house what they asked by their Master’s command, while they were aware that everywhere he was not only despised but even hated. Yet they make no anxious inquiry about the result, but peaceably obey the injunction. And if we are desirous to have our faith approved, we ought to abide by this rule, to be satisfied with the command alone and go forward wherever God commands, and, expecting the success which he promises, not to indulge in excessive anxiety.

20. When the evening was come, he sat down at table. Not to eat the passover, which they were bound to do standing, as travelers, when they are in haste, are wont to take food hastily,

with shoes on their feet, and a staff in their hand,
(Exodus 12:11;)

but I consider the meaning to be, that after having observed the solemn rite, he sat down at table to supper. Accordingly, the Evangelists say, when the evening was come: for, at the commencement of the evening, they killed the lamb, and ate the flesh of it roasted.

Matthew 26:21. One of you will betray me. To render the treachery of Judas more detestable, he points out the aggravated baseness of it by this circumstance, that he was meditating the act of betraying him while he sat with him at the holy table. For if a stranger had done this, it would have been more easily endured; but that one of his intimate friends should form such a design, and — what is more — that, after having entered into an infamous bargain, he should be present at the sacred banquet, was incredibly monstrous. And therefore Luke employs a connecting particle which marks a contrast: but yet, (πλὴν) lo, the hand of him that betrayeth me. And though Luke adds this saying of Christ after the supper was finished, we cannot obtain from it any certainty as to the order of time, which, we know, was often disregarded by the Evangelists. Yet I do not deny that it is probable that Judas was present, when Christ distributed to his disciples the symbols of his flesh and blood.

22. They began every one of them to say to him. I do not think that the disciples were alarmed, as persons struck with terror are wont to give themselves uneasiness without any reason; but, abhorring the crime, they are desirous to clear themselves from the suspicion of it. It is, indeed, a mark of reverence, that when indirectly blamed, they do not reply angrily to their Master, but each person constitutes himself his own judge, (as the object which we ought chiefly to aim at is, to be acquitted by his own mouth;) but, relying on a good conscience, they wish to declare frankly how far they are from meditating such a crime.

23. But he answering said. Christ, by his reply, neither removes their doubt, nor points out the person of Judas, but only confirms what he said a little before, that one of his friends sitting at the table is the traitor. And though they thought it hard to be left in suspense and perplexity for a time, that they might employ themselves in contemplating the atrocity of the crime, it was afterwards followed by another advantage, when they perceived that the prediction of the psalm was fulfilled,

He that ate pleasant food with me 184184     “Celuy qui mangeoit en ami avec moy;” — “he that ate with me as a friend.
hath lifted up his heel against me, (Psalm 41:10.)

Besides, in the person of Judas, our Lord intended to admonish his followers in all ages, not to be discouraged or faint on account of intimate friends proving to be traitors; because the same thing that was experienced by Him who is the Head of the whole Church, must happen to us who are members of it.

24. The Son of man indeed goeth. Here Christ meets an offense, which might otherwise have greatly shaken pious minds. For what could be more unreasonable than that the Son of God should be infamously betrayed by a disciple, and abandoned to the rage of enemies, in order to be dragged to an ignominious death? But Christ declares that all this takes place only by the will of God; and he proves this decree by the testimony of Scripture, because God formerly revealed, by the mouth of his Prophet, what he had determined.

We now perceive what is intended by the words of Christ. It was, that the disciples, knowing that what was done was regulated by the providence of God, might not imagine that his life or death was determined by chance. But the usefulness of this doctrine extends much farther; for never are we fully confirmed in the result of the death of Christ, till we are convinced that he was not accidentally dragged by men to the cross, but that the sacrifice had been appointed by an eternal decree of God for expiating the sins of the world. For whence do we obtain reconciliation, but because Christ has appeased the Father by his obedience? Wherefore let us always place before our minds the providence of God, which Judas himself, and all wicked men — though it is contrary to their wish, and though they have another end in view — are compelled to obey. Let us always hold this to be a fixed principle, that Christ suffered, because it pleased God to have such an expiation.

And yet Christ does not affirm that Judas was freed from blame, on the ground that he did nothing but what God had appointed. For though God, by his righteous judgment, appointed for the price of our redemption the death of his Son, yet nevertheless, Judas, in betraying Christ, brought upon himself righteous condemnation, because he was full of treachery and avarice. In short, God’s determination that the world should be redeemed, does not at all interfere with Judas being a wicked traitor. Hence we perceive, that though men can do nothing but what God has appointed, still this does not free them from condemnation, when they are led by a wicked desire to sin. For though God directs them, by an unseen bridle, to an end which is unknown to them, nothing is farther from their intention than to obey his decrees. Those two principles, no doubt, appear to human reason Lo be inconsistent with each other, that God regulates the affairs of men by his Providence in such a manner, that nothing is done but by his will and command, and yet he damns the reprobate, by whom he has carried into execution what he intended. But we see how Christ, in this passage, reconciles both, by pronouncing a curse on Judas, though what he contrived against God had been appointed by God; not that Judas’s act of betraying ought strictly to be called the work of God, but because God turned the treachery of Judas so as to accomplish His own purpose.

I am aware of the manner in which some commentators endeavor to avoid this rock. They acknowledge that what had been written was accomplished through the agency of Judas, because God testified by predictions what He fore-knew. By way of softening the doctrine, which appears to them to be somewhat harsh, they substitute the foreknowledge of God in place of the decree, as if God merely beheld from a distance future events, and did not arrange them according to his pleasure. But very differently does the Spirit settle this question; for not only does he assign as the reason why Christ was delivered up, that it was so written, but also that it was so determined. For where Matthew and Mark quote Scripture, Luke leads us direct to the heavenly decree, saying, according to what was determined; as also in the Acts of the Apostles, he shows that Christ was delivered not only by the foreknowledge, but likewise by the fixed purpose of God, (Acts 2:25) and a little afterwards, that Herod and Pilate, with other wicked men,

did those things which had been fore-ordained by the hand and purpose of God, (Acts 4:27, 28.)

Hence it is evident that it is but an ignorant subterfuge which is employed by those who betake themselves to bare foreknowledge.

It had been good for that man. By this expression we are taught what a dreadful vengeance awaits the wicked, for whom it would have been better that they had never been born. And yet this life, though transitory, and full of innumerable distresses, is an invaluable gift of God. Again, we also infer from it, how detestable is their wickedness, which not only extinguishes the precious gifts of God, and turns them to their destruction, but makes it to have been better for them that they had never tasted the goodness of God. But this phrase is worthy of observation, it would have been good for that man if he had never been born; for though the condition of Judas was wretched, yet to have created hint was good in God, who, appointing the reprobate to the day of destruction, illustrates also in this way his own glory, as Solomon tells us:

The Lord hath made all things for himself; yea,
even the wicked for the day of evil, (Proverbs 16:4.)

The secret government of God, which provides even the schemes and works of men, is thus vindicated, as I lately noticed, from all blame and suspicion.

25. And Judas who betrayed him. Though we often see persons trembling, who are conscious of doing wrong, yet along with dread and secret torments there is mingled such stupidity, that they boldly make a fiat denial; but in the end they gain nothing by their impudence but to expose their hidden wickedness. Thus Judas, while he is restrained by an evil conscience, cannot remain silent; so dreadfully is he tormented, and, at the same time, overwhelmed with fear and anxiety, by that internal executioner. Christ, by indirectly glancing, in his reply, at the foolish rashness of Judas, entreats him to consider the crime which he wished to conceal; but his mind, already seized with diabolical rage, could not admit such a sentiment. Let us learn from this example, that the wicked, by bold apologies, do nothing more than draw down upon themselves a more sudden judgment.

Matthew 26:26. And while they were eating, Jesus took bread. I do not understand these words to mean that with the paschal supper was mixed this new and more excellent supper, but rather that an end was then put to the former banquet. This is still more clearly expressed by Luke, when he says that, Christ gave the cup after that he had supped; for it would have been absurd that one and the same mystery should be broken off by an interval of time. And therefore I have no doubt that, in immediate succession, after having distributed the bread, he added the cup; and what Luke relates particularly respecting the cup, I regard as including also the bread. While they were eating, therefore, Christ took bread, to invite them to partake of a new supper. 190190     “D’un noveau souper, c’est, à scavoir de la Cene;” — “of a new supper, that is, of the Lord’s Supper.” The thanksgiving was a sort of preparation and transition to consider the mystery. Thus when the supper was ended, they tasted the sacred bread and wine; because Christ had previously aroused them from their indifference, that they might be all alive to so lofty a mystery. And, indeed, the nature of the case demands that this clear testimony of the spiritual life should be distinguished from the ancient shadow.

Jesus took bread. It is uncertain if the custom which is now observed among the Jews was at that time in use: for the master of the house breaks off a portion of a common loaf, hides it under the table-cloth, and afterwards distributes a part of it to, each member of the family. But as this is a human tradition not founded on any commandment of God, we need not toil with excessive eagerness to investigate its origin; and it is possible that it may have been afterwards contrived, by a trick of Satan, for the purpose of obscuring the mystery of the Lord’s Supper. And even if this ceremony was at that time in use among the Jews, Christ followed the ordinary custom in such a manner as to draw away the minds of his followers to another object, by changing the use of the bread for a different purpose. This, at least, ought to be considered as beyond all controversy, that Christ, at this time, abolished the figures of the Law, and instituted a new Sacrament.

When he had given thanks. Matthew and Mark employ the word εὐλογήσας 191191     In the Greek text, Calvin appears to have followed the ordinary reading, εὐλογήσας, instead of εὐχαριστήσας, for which there appears to be a preponderance of authorities. — Ed. (having blessed;) but as Luke employs, instead of it, the word εὐχαριστήσας (having given thanks,) there can be no doubt as to the meaning; and as they afterwards use the word thanksgiving in reference to the cup, they expound with sufficient clearness the former term. So much the more ridiculous is the ignorance of the Papists, who express the blessing by the sign of the cross, as if Christ had practiced some kind of exorcising. But we must recollect what I lately noticed, that this thanksgiving is connected with a spiritual mystery. While it is true that believers are commanded to give thanks to God, because he supports them in this fading life, Christ did not merely refer to ordinary eating, but directed his view to the holy action, in order to thank God for the eternal salvation of the human race. For if the food which descends into the belly ought to persuade and arouse us to praise the fatherly kindness of God, how much more powerfully does it excite and even inflame, us to this act of piety, when he feeds our souls spiritually?

Take, eat. That I may not be too tedious, I shall only explain briefly what is the nature of our Lord’s institution, and what it contains; and, next, what is its end and us so far as it may be learned from the Evangelists. And, first of all, it strikes us, that Christ instituted a supper, which the disciples partake in company with each other. Hence it follows, that it is a diabolical invention, that a man, separating himself from the rest of the company, eats his supper apart. For what two things could be more inconsistent than that the bread should be distributed among them all, and that a single individual should swallow it alone? Although then the Papists boast, that in their masses they have the substance of the Lord’s Supper, yet it is evident from the nature of the case, that whenever they celebrate private masses, they are so many trophies erected by the devil for burying the Lord’s Supper.

The same words teach us what sort of sacrifice it is that Christ recommends to us in the Supper. He bids his disciples take; and therefore it is himself alone that offers. What the Papists contrive, as to Christ’s offering himself in the Supper, proceeded from an opposite author. And certainly it is a strange inversion, (ἀναστροφὴ,) when a mortal man, who is commanded to take the body of Christ, claims the office of offering it; and thus a priest, who has been appointed by himself, sacrifices to God his own Son. I do not at present inquire with how many acts of sacrilege their pretended offering abounds. It is sufficient for my purpose, that it is so far from approaching to Christ’s institution, that it is directly opposed to it.

This is my body. As to the opinion entertained by some, that by those words the bread was consecrated, so as to become the symbol of the flesh of Christ, I do not find fault with it, provided that the word consecrated be understood aright, and in a proper sense. So then, the bread, which had been appointed for the nourishment of the body, is chosen and sanctified by Christ to a different use, so as to begin to be spiritual food. And this is the conversion 192192     “La conversion ou changement;” — “the conversion, or change.” which is spoken of by the ancient doctors 193193     “Les anciens docteurs.” of the Church. But we must at the same time hold, that bread is not consecrated by whispering and breathing, but by the clear doctrine of faith. And certainly it is a piece of magic and sorcery, when the consecration is addressed to the dead element; for the bread is made not to itself, but to us, a symbol of the body of Christ. In short, consecration is nothing else than a solemn testimony, by which the Lord appoints to us for a spiritual use an earthly and corruptible sign; which cannot take place, unless his command and promise are distinctly heard for the edification of faith; from which again it is evident, that the low whispering and breathing of the Papists are a wicked profanation of the mystery. Now if Christ consecrates the bread, when he declares to us that it is his body, we must not suppose that there is any change of the substance, but must only believe that it is applied to a new purpose. And if the world had not been long ago so bewitched by the subtlety of the devil, that, when the monster of transubstantiation had once been introduced, it will not now admit any light of true interpretation on these words, it would be superfluous to spend any more time in investigating their meaning.

Christ declares that the bread is his body. These words relate to a sacrament; and it must be acknowledged, that a sacrament consists of a visible sign, with which is connected the thing signified, which is the reality of it. It must be well known, on the other hand, that the name of the thing signified is transferred to the sign; and therefore, no person who is tolerably well acquainted with Scripture will deny that a sacramental mode of expression ought to be taken metonymically. 194194     “Par une figure qui s’appele metonymie; c’est à dire, transmutation de nom;” — “by a figure which is called metonymy; that is, the putting of one name for another.” I pass by general figures, which occur frequently in Scripture, and only say this: whenever an outward sign is said to be that which it represents, it is universally agreed to be an instance of metonymy. If baptism be called the laver of regeneration, (Titus in. 5;) if the rock, from which water flowed to the Fathers in the wilderness, be called Christ, (1 Corinthians 10:4;) if a dove be called the Holy Spirit, (John 1:32;) no man will question but the signs receive the name of the things which they represent. How comes it, then, that persons who profess to entertain a veneration for the words of the Lord will not permit us to apply to the Lord’s Supper what is common to all the sacraments?

They are delighted with the plain and literal sense. Why then shall not the same rule apply to all the sacraments? Certainly, if they do not admit that the Rock was actually Christ, the calumny with which they load us is mere affectation. If we explain that the bread is called his body, because it is the symbol of his body, they allege that the whole doctrine of Scripture is overturned. For this principle of language has not been recently forged by us, but has been handed down by Augustine on the authority of the ancients, and embraced by all, that the names of spiritual things are improperly ascribed to signs, and that all the passages of Scripture, in which the sacraments are mentioned, ought to be explained in this manner. When we bring forward a principle which has been universally admitted, what purpose does it serve to raise a loud clamor, as if it were something new and strange? But let obstinate people cry out as they please, all men of sound judgment and modesty will admit, that in these words of Christ there is a sacramental form of expression. Hence it follows, that the bread is called his body, because it is a symbol of the body of Christ.

Now there are two classes of men that rise up against us. The Papists, deceived by their transubstantiation, maintain that what we see is not bread, because it is only the appearance that remains without the reality. But their absurd fancy is refuted by Paul, who asserts that

the bread which we break is the communion of the body of Christ,
(1 Corinthians 10:16.)

Besides, their notion is at variance with the very nature of a sacrament, which will not possess all that is essential to it, if there be not a true outward symbol. For whence shall we learn that our souls feed on the flesh of Christ, if what is placed before our eyes be not bread, but an empty form? Besides, what will they say about the other symbol? For Christ does not say, This is my blood, but, this cup is the new testament in my blood. According to their view, therefore, not only the wine, but also the materials of which the cup is composed, must be transubstantiated into blood. Again, the words related by Matthew — I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine — plainly show that what he delivered to the disciples to drink was wine; so that in every way the ignorance of the Papists is fully exposed.

But there are others who reject the figure, and, like madmen, unsay what they had just said. According to them, bread is truly and properly body; for they disapprove of transubstantiation, as wholly devoid of reason and plausibility. But when the question is put to them, if Christ be bread and wine, they reply that the bread is called body, because under it and along with it the body is received in the Lord’s Supper. But from this reply it may be readily concluded, that the word body is improperly applied to the bread, which is a sign of it. And since those men have constantly in their mouth, that Christ spoke thus in reference to a sacramental union, it is strange that they do not consider what they say. For what is the nature of a sacramental union between a thing and its sign? Is it not because the Lord, by the secret power of his Spirit, fulfills what he promises? So then those later instructions about the letter are not less absurd than the Papists.

Hitherto I have pointed out the simple exposition of the words of our Lord. But now I must add, that it is not an empty or unmeaning sign which is held out to us, but those who receive this promise by faith are actually made partakers of his flesh and blood. For in vain would the Lord command his people to eat bread, declaring that it is his body, if the effect were not truly added to the figure. Nor must it be supposed that we dispute this point, whether it is in reality, or only by signification, that Christ presents himself to be enjoyed by us in the Lord’s Supper; for, though we perceive nothing in it but bread, yet he does not disappoint or mock us, when he undertakes to nourish our souls by his flesh. The true eating of the flesh of Christ, therefore, is not only pointed out by the sign, but is likewise exhibited in reality.

But there are three mistakes against which it is here necessary to be on our guard; first, not to confound the spiritual blessing with the sign; secondly, not to seek Christ on earth, or under earthly elements; thirdly, not to imagine any other kind of eating than that which draws into us the life of Christ by the secret power of the Spirit, and which we obtain by faith alone. First, as I have said, let us always keep in view the distinction between the sign and the thing signified, if we do not wish to overturn every thing; for otherwise we shall derive no advantage from the sacrament, if it do not, according to the measure of our small capacity, lead us from the contemplation of the earthly element to the heavenly mystery. And therefore, whoever will not distinguish the body of Christ from the bread, and the blood from the wine, will never understand what is meant by the Lord’s Supper, or for what purpose believers use these symbols.

Secondly, we must attend to the proper method of seeking Christ; that is, our minds must not be fixed on the earth, but must ascend upwards to the heavenly glory in which he dwells. For the body of Christ did not, by clothing itself with an incorruptible life, lay aside its own nature; and hence it follows that it is finite. 195195     “Dont s’ensuit qu’il n’est past infini, mais consiste en quelque certain lieu;” — “whence it follows that it is not infinite, but remains in some particular spot.” But he has now ascended above the heavens, that no gross imagination may keep us occupied with earthly things. And certainly, if this mystery is heavenly, nothing could be more unreasonable than to draw down Christ to the earth, when, on the contrary, he calls us upwards to himself.

The last point which, I said, claimed our attention, is the kind of eating. We must not dream that his substance passes, in a natural manner, into our souls; but we cat his flesh, when, by means of it, we receive life. For we must attend to the analogy or resemblance between bread and flesh, which teaches us, that our souls feed on Christ’s own flesh in precisely the same manner as bread imparts vigor to our bodies. The flesh of Christ, therefore, is spiritual nourishment, because it gives life to us. Now it gives life, because the Holy Spirit pours into us the life which dwells in it. And though the act of eating the flesh of Christ is different from believing on him, yet we ought to know that it is impossible to feed on Christ in any other way than by faith, because the eating itself is a consequence of faith.

Matthew 26:27. Drink you all of it. As it was the design of Christ to keep our faith wholly fixed on himself, that we may not seek any thing apart from him, he employed two symbols to show that our life is shut up in him. This body needs to be nourished and supported by meat and drink. Christ, in order to show that he alone is able to discharge perfectly all that is necessary for salvation, says that he supplies the place of meat and drink; by which he gives an astonishing display of his condescension, in thus letting himself down to the feeble capacity of our flesh for the purpose of invigorating our faith. So much the more detestable is the insolence and sacrilege of the Pope, who has not scrupled to break asunder this sacred tie. We learn that the Son of God employed two symbols together, to testify the fullness of life which he bestows on his followers. What right had a mortal man to separate those things which God had joined together?

But it would even appear that the express reason why our Lord commanded all to drink of the cup was in order to prevent this sacrilege from entering into the Church. As to the bread, we read that he simply said, Take, eat. Why does he expressly command them all to drink, and why does Mark explicitly say that they all drank of it, if it were not to guard believers against this wicked novelty? And yet this severe prohibition has not deterred the Pope from venturing to change and violate a law established by the Lord; for he has withheld all the people from using the cup. And to prove that his rage has reason on its side, he alleges that one of the kinds is sufficient, because the flesh includes the blood by concomitancy. 196196     “Per concomitaniam, comme disent ses supposts; c’est à dire, pource que l’un ne peut estre sans l’autre;” — “By concomitancy, as its partisans talk; that is, because the one cannot exist without the other.” On the same pretext they would be at liberty to set aside the whole of the sacrament, because Christ might equally well make us partakers of himself without any external aid. But those childish cavils yield no support to their impiety; for nothing can be more absurd than that believers should, of their own accord, part with the aids which the Lord has given, or allow themselves to be deprived of them; and, therefore, nothing can be more intolerable than this wicked mangling of the mystery.

29. But I tell you. This sentence is put by Matthew and Mark immediately after the Holy Supper, when Christ had given the symbol of his blood in the cup; from which some infer that Luke relates here the same thing which we shall find him repeating shortly afterwards. But this difficulty is easily obviated, because it is of little importance in itself at what precise moment Christ said this. All that the Evangelists intend to state by it is, that the disciples were warned both of their Master’s approaching death, and of the new and heavenly life: for the more nearly the hour of his death approached, there was the greater necessity for them to be confirmed, that they might not altogether fall away. Again, as he intended to place his death before their eyes in the Holy Supper, as in a mirror, it was not without reason that he again declared that he was now leaving the world. But as this intelligence was full of sadness, a consolation is immediately added, that they have no occasion for shrinking from the thought of his death, which will be followed by a better life. As if he had said: “It is true, indeed, that I am now hastening to my death, but it is in order that I may pass from it to a blessed immortality, not to live alone without you in the kingdom of God, but to have you associated with me in the same life.” Thus we see how Christ leads his disciples by the hand to the cross, and thence raises them to. the hope of the resurrection. And as it was necessary that they should be directed to the cross of Christ, that by that ladder they might ascend to heaven; so now, since Christ has died and been received into heaven, we ought to be led from the contemplation of the cross to heaven, that death and the restoration of life may be found to agree.

Till that day when I shall drink it new with you. It is plain from these words that he promises to them a glory which they will share with himself. The objection made by some —that meat and drink are not applicable to the kingdom of God—is frivolous; for Christ means nothing more than that his disciples will soon be deprived of his presence, and that he will not henceforth eat with them, until they enjoy together the heavenly life. As he points out their being associated in that life, which needs not the aids of meat and drink, he says that there will then be a new kind of drinking; by which term we are taught that he is speaking allegorically. Accordingly, Luke simply says, until the kingdom of God come. In short, Christ recommends to us the fruit and effect of the redemption which he procured by his death.

The opinion entertained by some—that these words were fulfilled, when Christ ate with his disciples after his resurrection is foreign to his meaning; for, since that was an intermediate condition between the course of a mortal life and the end of a heavenly life, the kingdom of God had not, at that time, been fully revealed; and therefore Christ said to Mary,

Touch me not, for I have not yet ascended to my Father,
(John 20:17.)

Besides, the disciples had not yet entered into the kingdom of God, so as to drink new wine with Christ, being partakers of the same glory. And when we read that Christ drank after his resurrection, though he declared that he would not do so until he had assembled his disciples in the kingdom of God, the apparent contradiction is easily removed. For it is not exactly of meat and drink that he speaks, but of the intercourse of the present life. Now we know that Christ did not at that time drink for the purpose of invigorating his body by food, or of holding intercourse with his disciples, but only to prove his resurrection—of which they were still doubtful—and thus to raise their minds on high. Let us therefore rest satisfied with the natural meaning, that our Lord promises to his disciples that, having hitherto lived with them on earth as a mortal man, he will hereafter make them his associates in a blessed and immortal life.




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