The Lord's Supper.
This very simple, but very special, meal means so many things to so very many people from a variety of cultures all around the world. Amazingly, the New Testament says very little about it. Remove the Last Supper of Jesus with his closest followers right before his death*1 from the discussion, and there is even less said than most of us would imagine.*2 Unfortunately, what is found in the New Testament is often more debated than appreciated or cherished.
In our little series on What is Core*3 we are tying the celebration, remembering, and anticipation found in Communion to the two primary anchor passages for us as followers of Jesus:
- Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, he was buried, and he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
- We are to love God with all that we have and all that we are and we are to love our neighbors as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:34-40).
Not surprisingly, when we examine the key passages that focus on The Supper, we find these two areas of emphasis built into our sharing of this simple common meal of faith.
- We participate in Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection through The Supper remembering, sharing, and declaring what Jesus has done for us.
- Our communion in The Supper is not just with the Lord who promised to be present with us. We also share in this time at the table with each other, our brothers and sisters for whom Christ died, and we are woven together as Jesus' Body, his bodily presence in the world.
Remembering Jesus' death is clearly a focus of The Supper. We believe this simple spiritual feast was begun by the Lord on the night he was betrayed as he awaited the agony of the cross. The simple food of this meal, bread and wine (fruit of the vine), become more than bread and wine for Jesus' followers — they are the body and blood of the Lord given for the forgiveness of our sins!
The early followers in those first days appear to have celebrated The Supper at least every Sunday, the first day of the week and the day of his resurrection. Yet as often as they celebrated it and wherever they shared it, they remembered Jesus' death in anticipation of his coming again! So rather than something sad and morose, these earliest believers shared in this time together "with glad and generous hearts," recognizing that their sins were forgiven, their community formed, their victory over sin and death assured, and their Savior was returning for them!
Viewed with all these connections, The Supper is clearly anchored in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus!
In addition, there is a strong call in The Supper for each of us to examine ourselves and our relationship with the Lord. Jesus challenged his closest followers at the Last Supper about their faithfulness. Yet this is not an individualistic feast where we focus only upon ourselves. We examine ourselves in the presence of other followers of Jesus, brothers and sisters who love the Lord and yet struggle to be faithful just like we do — and just like the original apostles did!
The very name communion suggests community. The body we recognize and discern as present among us is not just the body of Jesus present in the bread and wine — the body pierced by nails, thorns, and a spear at Golgotha. Those who share together in this one bread are made into the one, living and present body of Jesus in the world. There is supposed to be a sense of concern and connection as the followers of Jesus wait on each other, discerning and recognizing each other as valuable parts of Jesus' Body, brothers and sisters for whom he died. We come to share this meal together as recipients of grace, the adopted children of God and co-heirs of heaven's glory with Jesus, our older brother who paid the price for our adoption. We do it as family, at a family meal, not as isolated units trying to be separated and detached while trying to block out each other's presence.
Because of religious traditions and denominational bickering, many of us settle into our own familiar practice of sharing The Supper because it is comfortable to us and what we know. Yet this simple feast is our touchstone experience of What is Core! So shouldn't we all move out of our own guarded familiarity of The Supper and accept Jesus' invitation to experience this rich gift as something more than an afterthought in most of our church worship schedules?
I encourage you to go back and read the relevant passages below — you can click on the Scripture references and they link to those passages for you to read. Take time with your small group, your family, and other believers to study through the passages and look for ways to genuinely honor Jesus and the community he gave his life to purchase. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you into a deeper and broader experience of our Lord. Most of all, hear his words of invitation:
"I have earnestly desired to eat [this meal] with you all" (Luke 22:15).
Let's accept our Savior's invitation and meet him at The Table!
*1 Here are the references to the Last Supper in the Gospels:
- Matthew 26:17-35
- Mark 14:12-31
- Luke 22:7-38
*2 Here are the references to the Lord's Supper and "breaking bread" that probably includes The Supper:
- Acts 2:41-47
- Acts 20:7-12
- 1 Corinthians 10:14-22
- 1 Corinthians 11:17-34
- Jude 1:12 (this one is uncertain)
*3 See the previous three posts on What is Core: