The Lord's Supper
The Lord's Supper is a reminder of what Jesus has done in the past, a symbol of our present relationship with him, and a promise of what he will do in the future. Whenever we celebrate the sacrament, we take bread and wine to commemorate our Redeemer and announce his death until he comes. The Lord's Supper is part of the death and resurrection of our Lord, who gave his body and shed his blood, so that we may be forgiven. (1, Corinthians 11,23-26, 10,16, Matthew 26,26-28)
The Lord's Supper reminds us of Jesus' death on the cross
The evening when he was betrayed while Jesus was eating a meal with his disciples, he took bread and said: "This is my body that will be given to you; that does to my memory » (Luke 22,19). Each of them ate a piece of bread. When we attend the Lord's Supper, each of us eats a piece of bread in memory of Jesus.
"Likewise, the chalice after the meal said to us: This chalice is the new covenant in my blood that will be shed for you" (V.20). When we take a sip of wine at the sacrament, we remember that Jesus' blood was spilled for us, and that this blood signified the new covenant. Just as the old covenant was sealed by the blasting of blood, the new covenant was established by the blood of Jesus (Hebrews 9,18: 28).
As Paul said: "Whenever you eat of this bread and drink of this blood, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes." (1 Corinthians 11,26). The Lord's Supper looks back to the death of Jesus Christ on the cross.
Is Jesus' death a good thing or a bad thing? There are certainly some very sad aspects to his death, but the bigger picture is that his death is the best news there is. She shows us how much God loves us - so much so that he sent his son to die for us so that our sins can be forgiven and we can live with him forever.
The death of Jesus is a tremendously great gift for us. It is precious. If we are given a gift of great value, a gift that included a great sacrifice for us, how should we receive it? With sadness and regret? No, that's not what the giver wants. Rather, we should accept it with great gratitude, as an expression of great love. When we shed tears, it should be tears of joy.
So the Lord's Supper, even though it is a memory of a death, is not a burial as if Jesus were still death. On the contrary - we celebrate this memory knowing that Jesus' death only lasted three days - knowing that death will not hold us forever either. We are happy that Jesus defeated death and released all who were enslaved by fear of death (Hebrews 2,14: 15). We can remember Jesus' death with the joyful knowledge that he triumphed over sin and death! Jesus said that our grief will turn into joy (John 16,20). Coming to the Lord's table and having fellowship should be a celebration, not a funeral.
The ancient Israelites looked back on the events of the Passover as a defining moment in their history, the time when their identity as a nation began. It was at the time when, through the mighty hand of God, they escaped death and slavery, and were liberated to serve the Lord. In the Christian Church, we look back at the events surrounding the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus as a defining moment in our history. Thereby we escape the death and the slavery of sin, and thereby we are liberated to serve the Lord. The Lord's Supper is a memory of that defining moment in our history.
The sacrament symbolizes our present relationship with Jesus Christ
The crucifixion of Jesus has an ongoing meaning for all who have taken up a cross to follow him. We continue to share in his death and new covenant because we share in his life. Paul wrote: "The blessed cup that we bless is it not the community of the blood of Christ? Isn't the bread we break the community of the body of Christ? » (1 Corinthians 10,16). Through the Lord's Supper we show that we share in Jesus Christ. We have fellowship with him. We are united with him.
The New Testament speaks of our participation in Jesus in different ways. We share in his crucifixion (Galatians 2,20; Colossians 2,20), his death (Romans 6,4), his resurrection (Ephesians 2,6; Colossians 2,13; 3,1) and his life (Galatians 2,20). Our life is in him and he is in us. The Lord's Supper symbolizes this spiritual reality.
Chapter 6 of the Gospel of John gives us a similar picture. After Jesus proclaimed himself the "bread of life", he said: "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day." (John 6,54). It is crucial that we find our spiritual food in Jesus Christ. The Lord's Supper shows this ongoing truth. «Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood stays in me and I in him» (V.56). We show that we live in Christ and He in us.
So the Lord's Supper helps us to look up, to Christ, and we become aware that true life can only be in and with Him.
But if we are aware that Jesus lives in us, then we stop and think about what kind of home we offer him. Before he came into our lives, we were a dwelling place for sin. Jesus knew that before he even knocked on the door of our lives. He wants to come in so he can start cleaning up. But when Jesus knocks, many try to do a quick cleanup before opening the door. However, as human beings, we are unable to cleanse our sins - the best we can do is to hide them in the closet.
So we hide our sins in the closet and invite Jesus into the living room. Finally in the kitchen, then in the hall, and then in the bedroom. It is a gradual process. Finally, Jesus comes to the closet, where our worst sins are hidden, and he cleans these too. Year by year, as we grow in spiritual maturity, we are giving more and more of our lives to our Redeemer.
It is a process and the Lord's Supper plays a role in this process. Paul wrote: "But man test himself, and so he eats this bread and drinks from this cup" (1 Corinthians 11,28). Every time we participate, we should check ourselves, aware of the great importance that lies in this ceremony.
When we test ourselves, we often find sin. This is normal - there is no reason to avoid the Lord's Supper. It's just a reminder that we need Jesus in our lives. Only he can take away our sins.
Paul criticized Christians in Corinth for the way they celebrated the Lord's Supper. The wealthy people came first, they ate their fill and even got drunk. The poor members came to the end and remained hungry. The rich didn't share with the poor (Vv. 20-22). They didn't really share the life of Christ because they didn't do what He would do. They did not understand what it means to be members of the body of Christ and that the members had responsibility for one another.
So while we are testing ourselves, we need to look around to see if we are treating each other in the way that Jesus Christ commanded. If you are united with Christ and I am united with Christ, then we are indeed connected with each other. So the Lord's Supper symbolizes our participation in Christ, symbolizing our participation in Christ (other translations call it communion or sharing or community).
As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 10,17: "Because there is bread: We are many one body because we all share in one bread." By participating in the Lord's Supper together, we represent the fact that we are one body in Christ, interconnected, responsible for one another.
At Jesus' last supper with his disciples, Jesus represented the life of God's kingdom by washing the feet of the disciples (John 13,1: 15). When Peter protested, Jesus said that it was necessary for him to wash his feet. Christian life encompasses both - serving and being served.
The Lord's Supper reminds us of Jesus' return
Three Gospel authors tell us that Jesus would no longer drink from the fruit of the vine until he came in the fullness of the Kingdom of God (Matthew 26,29:22,18; Luke 14,25; Mark). Every time we participate, we are reminded of Jesus' promise. There will be a big messianic "banquet", a solemn "wedding meal". Bread and wine are “samples” of what will be the biggest victory celebration in history. Paul wrote: "As often as you eat of this bread and drink from this chalice, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes." (1 Corinthians 11,26).
We always look forward, as well as back and up, in and around us. The Lord's Supper is rich in meaning. That is why over the centuries it has been a prominent part of the Christian tradition. Of course, sometimes one has let it degenerate into a lifeless ritual that was more than habit, rather than celebrated with profound meaning. When a ritual becomes meaningless, some people overreact by stopping the ritual altogether. The better answer is to restore meaning. That's why it helps to re-imagine what we symbolically do.