What we are we doing when we receive the Lord’s supper

Last week we looked at what the Lord’s supper means. Here’s a bit of review as we get started today.

  • The bread is a figurative way of speaking of Jesus’ broken body on the cross. It also points back to the Passover deliverance from slavery. The bread, then, teaches and reminds us that Jesus’ death delivers us from slavery to Sin, Satan and Death.
  • The cup is a figurative way of speaking of Jesus’ blood poured out on the cross. It also points back to the covenant ceremony at Sinai when Israel entered into a new relationship with God, when God forgave their sins and they committed to obey God. The cup, then, teaches and reminds us that Jesus’ death brings us into a new relationship with God. God forgives our sins and we commit to obey God.

So this is the symbolism of the meal.

But the Lord’s supper invites our participation. Think about it, Jesus didn’t say to the disciples look here are tokens of my death on the cross. Put this on a table in front and look at it.

  • Jesus said of the bread, “Take, eat.”
  • And he said of the cup, “Take, drink of it all of you.”

But what are we doing when we accept Jesus’ invitation and participate in the meal? Let’s look briefly at this, this morning, to help prepare us to share in communion together.

1. We remember Jesus

In speaking of his meal, Jesus said twice, “Do this in remembrance of me” – 1 Corinthians 11:24/25. This remembering command is similar to the one from the Passover meal. Exodus 12:14 says, “This day (Passover) shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord.” Just as Israel was told to remember their salvation, so Jesus tells us to remember him – his death for us and the salvation we have through him.

Now, this is not a funeral like remembrance, you know, Jesus is gone and we miss him, and it’s grim and somber. No, Jesus is alive having been raised from the dead and is present with us as we celebrate! He is the true host of his meal.

So, this is a joyful remembrance as we think of his sacrificial love for us, our salvation through him and as we enjoy his presence with us.

2. We renew our baptismal testimony and commitments

In taking the bread we are reaffirming the testimony we made when we were baptized, we have been delivered from our sin, Satan and death, through the death of Jesus on the cross. And as well, in taking the cup we are reaffirming the testimony we gave when we were baptized, we have entered into a new relationship with God.

Also, we are reaffirming the commitments we made to God in baptism. In taking the bread, we are recommitting to leave behind sin and the world; that is we are re-expressing our repentance. And in taking the cup, we are recommitting to “obey everything” that Jesus has commanded us – Matthew 28:20; that is we are re-expressing our commitment to live a new life in Christ.

You see here that the Lord’s supper assumes that you have been baptized (which is why the church has always held that baptism was necessary to receive the bread and cup.) But also take note of this: baptism happens only once, but every time we continue to partake of the Lord’s supper, we renew our original baptismal testimony and commitment. It’s like our baptism once again.

3. We proclaim Jesus’ death

1 Corinthians 11:26 says, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”

As we go through the meal, and the meaning is made clear, it is a presentation of the gospel. We communicate that:

  • Jesus has died for us
  • He didn’t have to die, but freely gave himself in love for us
  • His death brings us salvation – deliverance and new relationship with God
  • If we want this salvation, we have to respond by receiving his body and blood, the benefits of his death on the cross
  • He is still alive, having been raised from the dead and is with us
  • He will return one day with blessing for those who wait for him

As we partake, we proclaim the gospel of Jesus.

4. We publicly show our covenant connection to Jesus

1 Corinthians 10:16 says, “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a partnering with the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a partnering with the body of Christ?”

In the ancient world, to eat with someone was a big deal. And to eat with a god in an idol sacrifice was a big deal. It spoke to a bond with the person or the god. This is the context of our verse in 1 Corinthians 10:16.

What I have translated “partnering with” is a difficult word to translate here. The word is Koinonia. It means sharing in, or fellowshipping with. It’s where we get the word “communion.” Here it has the sense of showing your connection or covenant bond with someone.

Paul is saying, instead of publicly identifying with and connecting with demons through idol meals, we are to show forth our public connection or covenant bond with Jesus through the Lord’s Supper. When we partake, we declare for all to see that Jesus is our Lord and Savior. It is a declaration of allegiance.

5. We publicly show our covenant connection to each other

1 Corinthians 10:17 says, “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.”

Because we are all connected to Jesus, through him we are all connected to each other! And partaking of the bread symbolizes this, that we are one body of Christ.

This is why it is important to make sure our relationships with each other are in good order. Not that there can’t be disagreements or conflict, but that we are doing everything we can, from our end, to live in peace with everyone. Paul talks about this in Romans 12:18 – “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”

And Jesus gives us this general principle of worship in Matthew 5:23-24 – “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.”

6. We offer up a sacrifice of praise to God

One word that is used to speak of the Lord’s Supper is “Eucharist” which means thanksgiving. The Lord’s Supper was often called this in the early church. And that’s because there is thanksgiving to God involved in the Lord’s Supper.

When Jesus took the bread and the cup, he gave thanks for them – Luke 22:19. This thanksgiving is rooted in a simple table blessing of food, but it is more – because Jesus says this bread and cup are not simply food. They represent his death for us. So Jesus teaches us here to give thanks for what this food and drink represent. We give thanks for his death on the cross for us.

Also, just after the Lord’s supper we are told – “when they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives” – Matthew 26:30. During Passover it was traditional to sing from Psalms 113-118. These are praises, or hymns to God for, among other things, deliverance from Egypt, God’s steadfast love, and in Psalm 118:26 the Messiah. So after the meal they were praising God for salvation.

Scripture talks in several places about our praises as a sacrifice that we offer up to God. For instance Psalm 50:14 says, “Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving.” As we partake and give thanks, we offer up to God a sacrifice of praise. (See Hebrews 13:15, which I take as a Lord’s supper reference.)

7. We look forward to the Messianic banquet

This refers to a time of feasting and celebration at the end of the age when God’s victory is established through Jesus and the kingdom of God has come in its fullness. Here are a couple of Scriptures that talk about this:

Isaiah 25:6-8 says, “On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all people a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.”

Revelation 19:9 talks about this meal as “the marriage supper of the Lamb.”

Jesus makes the connection between the Lord’s supper and the Messianic banquet in Matthew 26:29. He said, “I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” So every time we partake, we anticipate the day when we will feast with Jesus in the kingdom of God.

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