The Lord's Supper is all about remembering. We can appreciate the value of remembering. We are moved by memories. Sometimes it just takes a fragrance, a song, or a few words, and it transports us back in time. The memories that surface are often vivid and haunting. A scene that we happen upon can trigger memories both pleasant and tragic. When we call to mind those memories it can suddenly put a smile on our face, or it can sadden us.
In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses gives his farewell address, and he tells Israel to remember.
If we are going to have any success in the future, we ought to be compelled to look back and remember important events. In the example of Israel, we find that they had committed a variety of sins. Just to name a few, they were guilty of idolatry. They were guilty of oppressing the poor. They were guilty of sexual immorality. Why did Israel sin? What was the cause of their great iniquity before God? Notice what David wrote in Psalm 78.42.
They sinned because they did not remember the goodness of God. They did not remember how He took care of them, the abundance of His mercy, the freedom that He granted them when He brought them out of Egypt. They sinned because they forgot about what God did.
Like Israel we often sin because we have forgotten the influence of God in our lives. We fail spiritually because we have forgotten what God has done for us. We have forgotten about His love, mercy, and kindness. We have forgotten that He allowed His Son Jesus to suffer and die so that we could live. That is why it is so important that we heed the words of the apostle Paul…
Why would Paul need to tell Timothy to remember Christ? He was a Christian. He was a preacher of the gospel. He was one who suffered for the cause of Christ. Why do we today need to be admonished to remember Christ? As human beings we are prone to forget.
We need to be reminded of Jesus Christ. That is why it is so important to understand the Lord's Supper. When we partake the Lord's Supper, and do so correctly, we are remembering Jesus. More specifically, we are remembering the death of Christ.
When we think about the Lord's Supper, the first question that comes to mind is in reference to its origin. When was the Lord's Supper instituted? A careful study of the Bible tells me that it was instituted during the Passover feast. In Matthew 26, Jesus gathers His disciples together for the specific purpose of observing the Passover, and it is during this time that He institutes the Lord's Supper.
It was significant that Jesus chose this time to do so, and it was significant that Jesus was crucified during the Passover week.
The Passover was also a memorial. If I go back to the Old Testament, I read about how God had sent a number of plagues upon the nation of Israel. Instead of compelling Pharaoh to let Israel go, all it did was strengthen Pharaoh’s resolve. Of course God knew this would be the case and even said as much to Moses (Ex. 7.4).
The final plague came where God put to death the firstborn. On that fateful day, God did as He had promised, and all the firstborn of Egypt had died. However, God spared the lives of the firstborn of the children of Israel on the condition that they follow God's specific instructions. The Israelites had been warned and told that if they take the blood of a lamb and paint it over their doorways, death would pass over them, and their firstborn would be spared.
After death had passed over, God established a day where the Israelites were to partake of the Passover feast for the purpose of remembering. Several would gather together and share this Passover lamb to remember what God had done for them in Egypt in that He passed over their homes and did not take the lives of their firstborn children. The Israelites needed to remember that.
There was nothing special about the lamb that was slain for the Passover. There was no magic in it. There was no inherent value in the food that they ate. It was all about remembering. If they had followed all that God had commanded concerned the observance of the Passover, but did not remember why they were eating it, then the Passover would have been meaningless.
What would be the point if they didn't remember? They would not have appreciated that it was God who delivered them. They would not have realized their total dependence upon God. They would not have drawn closer to Him. While it would have given their bodies nutrients, it would have done nothing for them spiritually.
It was during the Passover feast that Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper. Why? Because there was a strong correlation between the Passover and Lord's Supper. In John 1.29, John the Baptist said saw Jesus and said…
Jesus is the Lamb of God. He is the One whose blood causes spiritual death to pass over. How interesting that the Lord's Supper was instituted and later Jesus died on the cross while the Jews were eating a feast in remembrance of another lamb at another time that was killed so that death would pass over them.
As Jesus and His disciples sat down to observe the Passover feast, Jesus uses the items used in the Passover to institute the Lord's Supper.
He takes the bread and says that it represented His body. He then takes the cup and says this it represented His blood. They were to partake of it in remembrance of Him.
Can you imagine what the disciples were thinking? They had gathered together with Jesus to observe the Passover feast, and Jesus tells them that He was going to leave them. He was going to die. He tells them to eat the bread and drink the contents of the cup as a way of remembering Him.
Notice that He took the bread. What kind of bread? He used the bread that was prepared for the Passover feast. Whatever bread was used for the Lord's Supper was the same bread that was used in the Passover feast.
What kind of bread was used in the Passover? If I go back and read about the Passover, I learn that it was unleavened bread (Ex. 13.6). Unleavened bread is bread that has no yeast. Any bread that has no yeast is acceptable to be used in the Lord's Supper. Some for of crackers are what is most commonly used today because crackers are basically bread without yeast.
Notice also that He took of the cup. What was in the cup? It it was "fruit of the vine." More specifically, it was grape juice.
Jesus gave thanks for the bread and the cup. We ought to be careful of reading too much into this. There is nothing unusual about what Jesus did. He did not do something miraculous or special to the bread when He blessed it. To bless the bread and cup simple means that He gave thanks for the them.
When we say “bless this bread” it is an expression acknowledging the fact that the food is a blessing of God. Some see it as the Lord doing something ceremonious to the bread or to the cup. If you think that Jesus did something special to the bread before He offered it to His disciples, you have missed the point.
He did the same thing when He fed the five thousand (Luke 9.16). There was nothing ceremonial about it. There was nothing ritualistic about it. It was merely an expression of gratitude.
Notice first of all that this verse indicates that it was a regular and frequent practice. This was not some ordinary common meal. This was a gathering of the church for the purpose of worship.
In Acts 20.7, they did not come together on the first day of the week to share a common meal. This was a memorial. They did so to remember. It is a memorial supper, and it is intended to call to mind Jesus Christ and His death. The frequency was on the first day of the week.
It is interesting that we do not read as we do in the memorials of the Old Testament, that there was a month and a day. With the Passover, it was specified that it was to be observed on the tenth day of the first month indicating that it was annual practice. But with the Lord's Supper there is no such indication. The only thing it says is that it was on the first day of the week.
We may ask, the first day of what week and in what month? It doesn't specify. The reason that it does not specify is because it is not limited to a specific month. It is to be done the first day of every week. Through this apostolic example, we understand the frequency in which the Lord's Supper is to be observed.
Some may ask, “Are you basing the frequency of the Lord's supper on this one example? Because there are so few indications in scripture, some disregard Acts 20.7 as insufficient information. But isn't it interesting that there is also one example as to when to take up the collection found in 1 Corinthians 16. The same ones who are not willing to bind the Lord's Supper every first day of the week are the same ones who do not miss passing around the collection plate every first day of the week.
Christians come together to worship God every first day of the week. Part of that worship is to remember the Lord's death.
Look again at this passage in Acts 20…
Notice that it was the disciples who came together to break bread. This is not a supper that was enjoyed and observed by the world. It was observed by those who have enjoyed the blessings of God made possible through the death of Christ. To partake of the Lord's Supper is to be in fellowship with Christ.
Do those who are not Christians have fellowship with Christ? They can have fellowship if they obey the gospel, but then if they did, they would no longer be of the world. When we partake of the Lord's Supper we are declaring that fellowship and are appreciation of what God did for us. It is a memorial as we who are Christians remember why we are saved.
The Lord's Supper was never meant to be a ceremoniously complicated event. Quite the contrary. The Lord's Supper was extremely simple as Christians would gather together on the first day of every week to eat unleavened bread and drink the fruit of the vine as a way to remind them of the great sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
Consider the example of the church in Corinth as an illustration of the simplicity of the Lord's Supper. The church in Corinth had come together and had observed the Lord's Supper incorrectly.
These Christians were coming together and having a full blown meal and were calling it the Lord's Supper. Paul chastises them and says that what they were doing was not the Lord's Supper. If they were going to have a common meal, they were to do it at home. By having a common meal as part of their worship, they were despising the church.
He then corrects what they were doing and shows them the proper way to observe the Lord's Supper.
What do you see when you look at these verses? I see simplicity.
Over the years churches and denominations have taken the simple instructions and have complicated and confused this very simple observation. What is practiced in most churches today does not even remotely resemble what was practiced in the first century. Just as Paul wrote to the Corinthians, so we can say today…
There is nothing mystical about the Lord's Supper. There is no transcendent experience. There is no great power contained in the bread or the fruit of the vine. The Bible describes the Lord's Supper in very simple terms of unleavened bread and fruit of the vine as a memorial of the death of Christ, and that is all it is to be. We need to always remember that.
The suffering of Christ on the cross of Calvary is the reason why Christians have the hope of eternal life. Through the Lord's Supper we remember.
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