The Lord’s Supper appears in three of the Gospels, and in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. Many Christians are surprised to learn that the Lord’s Supper does not appear in the Gospel of John (at least, not in the same way). Instead, John focuses on the washing of the disciples’ feet and the institution of the priesthood. John also includes the Bread of Life discourse in his Gospel, which we will discuss in a separate article.
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.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I 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.” (Mt 26:26-29)
While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” (Mk 14:22-24)
When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” Then he took a loaf of 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 he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table. For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to that one by whom he is betrayed!” Then they began to ask one another which one of them it could be who would do this. (Lk 22:14-23)
For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves. (1 Cor 11:23-29)
Interestingly, there is a type or precursor to the Lord’s Supper in the Old Testament. In the Book of Genesis, Abraham (Abram) meets the king and priest Melchizedek of Salem (Jerusalem) after winning a battle. Melchizedek brings bread and wine to bless Abraham and Abraham gives Melchizedek a tithe.
And King Melchizedek of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was priest of God Most High. He blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, maker of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!” And Abram gave him one-tenth of everything. (Gn 14:18-20)
A wise teacher once told me, “If you see anything in the Scriptures repeated, pay attention, it’s important!” In the case of the Lord’s Supper, it appears in three Gospels, one of Paul’s letters and is prefigured in Genesis. That means, it’s important!
Though the Lord’s Supper does not appear in John’s Gospel, the Bread of Life discourse reinforces its importance.
Casciaro, Jose Maria., ed. The Navarre Bible: New Testament. Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2008.
Translation from the NRSV.