There seems to be a longstanding tradition to say, during Holy Communion, that Jesus’ body was broken for us. In Richard Baxter’s writings, we see that “The Words of distribution – “Take yee, Eat yee, This is the Body of Christ which is Broken for you, Do this in remembrance of Him,” … – followed the [1549 Book of Common Prayer and 1637 Scottish Book of Common Prayer].” (emphasis mine).
Vernard Eller, in his book titled Could the Church Have It all Wrong? (1997) says that, “In the Lord’s Supper the bread represents the body of Jesus broken for us.” (emphasis mine). Well known bible teacher, John Piper, also uses similar language: “The Lord’s Supper is precious beyond words as a gift from Jesus to his church not only as a reminder of his death for us, but also as an occasion when he draws near to nourish our intimacy with him and strengthen us by his shed blood and his broken body.” (emphasis mine)
This article will attempt to answer the question whether it is right to say that Jesus’ body was broken for us, in a manner which is most faithful to Scripture. First off, let us look at what the Gospels have to say about the matter. It is of utmost importance since these are from Jesus Himself who instituted the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper.
- The Gospels
While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.”
While they were eating, He took some bread, and after a blessing He broke it, and gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is My body.”
And when He had taken some bread and 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.”
From the above passages, what we can derive is that that which is broken is the bread. We see no mention of Christ’s body being broken. A.T. Robertson shares this point when after referring to John 19:30 he said, “The bread was broken, but not the body of Jesus.” However, could it be argued that the broken bread is representative of Jesus’s broken body? We will evaluate the strength of this interpretation later in the article. Moving on, let us examine Pauline passages which make mention of the Holy Communion.