Monday, December 1, 2014

Three Fold Meaning of the Lord's Supper

Note Please:  When I lead a team one of the things I really like to do is to celebrate the Lord's Supper with them sometime near the end of our trip.  I came across this a few trips ago and thought it was so relevant and perfect.  I shared this with my team on the Turkey trip.  I hope you find it as good as I did. 



"Memorials of Jesus’ death on the cross

On the evening he was betrayed, while Jesus was eating a meal with his disciples, he took some bread and said, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me" (Luke 22:19). They each ate a piece of the bread. When we participate in the Lord’s Supper, we each eat a piece of bread in remembrance of Jesus.

"In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you’" (v. 20). When we drink a small amount of wine (or grape juice) at the Lord’s Supper, we remember that Jesus’ blood was shed for us, and that his blood signified the new covenant. Just as the old covenant was sealed by the sprinkling of blood, the new covenant was established by Jesus’ blood (Hebrews 9:18-28).


As Paul said, "For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, 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.

The death of Jesus is a tremendous gift to us. It is precious. When we are given a gift of great value, a gift that involved personal sacrifice for us, how should we receive it? With mourning and regret? No, that is not what the giver wants. Rather, we should receive it with great gratitude, as an expression of great love. If we have tears, they should be tears of joy.

So the Lord’s Supper, although a memorial of a death, is not a funeral, as if Jesus were still dead. Quite the contrary—we observe this memorial knowing that death held Jesus only three days—knowing that death will not hold us forever, either. We rejoice that Jesus has conquered death, and has set free all who were enslaved by a fear of death (Hebrews 2:14-15). We can remember Jesus’ death with the happy knowledge that he has triumphed over sin and death! As Jesus said, our mourning will turn into joy (John 16:20). Coming to the Lord’s table and having communion should be a celebration, not a funeral.


Our present relationship with Jesus Christ

The crucifixion of Jesus has a continuing significance to all who have taken up a cross to follow him. We continue to participate in his death and in the new covenant because we participate in his life. Paul wrote, "Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?" (1 Corinthians 10:16). In the Lord’s Supper, we show that we share in Jesus Christ. We commune with him. We are united in him.

The New Testament speaks of our sharing with Jesus in several ways. We share in his crucifixion (Galatians 2:20; Colossians 2:20), death (Romans 6:4), resurrection (Ephesians 2:6; Colossians 2:13; 3:1) and life (Galatians 2:20). Our lives are in him, and he is in us. The Lord’s Supper symbolizes this spiritual reality.

John 6 conveys a similar picture. After Jesus proclaimed himself to be the "bread of life," he said, "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day" (v. 54). Our spiritual food is in Jesus Christ. The Lord’s Supper pictures this ongoing truth. "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him" (v. 56). We signify that we live in Christ, and he lives in us.

So the Lord’s Supper helps us look upward, to Christ, and be mindful that true life can only be in him and with him.


Reminds us of Jesus’ return

Jesus said he would not drink the fruit of the vine again until he came in the fullness of the kingdom (Matthew 26:29; Luke 22:18; Mark 14:25). Whenever we participate, we are reminded of Jesus’ promise. There will be a great messianic "banquet," a "wedding supper" of celebration. The bread and wine are miniature rehearsals of what will be the greatest victory celebration in all history. Paul wrote that "For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes" (1 Corinthians 11:26). 

We always look forward, as well as backward and upward and inward and around. The Lord’s Supper is rich in meaning. That is why it has been a prominent part of the Christian tradition throughout the centuries. Sometimes it has been allowed to become a lifeless ritual, done more out of habit than with meaning. When a ritual loses meaning, some people overreact by stopping the ritual entirely. The better response is to restore the meaning. That’s why it is helpful for us to review what we are symbolizing. "