Acts of the Assembly: The Lord’s Supper
For I received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which he was betrayed took bread; and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you: this do in remembrance of me.” In like manner also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood: this do, as often as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink the cup, ye proclaim the Lord’s death till he come (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).
Early Christians came together on the first day of the week to break bread, remembering the death of the Lord Jesus on their behalf (Acts 20:7). This remembrance, called the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist, or Communion, provides an excellent opportunity for Christians participate jointly in Jesus’ body and blood and thus His death and resurrection (1 Corinthians 10:16-17).
Jesus inaugurated the Lord’s Supper on the night of His betrayal, the evening before His death (Matthew 26:26-29, Mark 14:22-25, Luke 22:14-23). The Lord’s Supper is a ritual meal featuring unleavened bread and fruit of the vine. From the beginning it was not designed to satisfy hunger: Jesus set it apart from the overall Passover meal, and Paul disassociates the Lord’s Supper from a common meal (Luke 22:14-23, 1 Corinthians 11:17-34). Since Jesus inaugurated the Lord’s Supper during the Passover observance, both the bread and the fruit of the vine were to be unleavened (Exodus 12:15, 18); this also represents the purity of the sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:6-8).
When Jesus broke the bread and distributed the cup, He told His disciples that the bread was His body, given for them, and that the fruit of the vine was His blood, shed for many for the remission of sin (Luke 22:14-23, 1 Corinthians 11:23-25). Jesus presents the bread and fruit of the vine as emblematic of His body and blood: after all, He is offering it before them, and consumption of actual blood is contrary to the Law (cf. Leviticus 17:10-16, Acts 15:29). Jesus expects His disciples to see His body and blood in the bread and fruit of the vine as a visceral reminder of the sacrifice He was about to make so that people could be forgiven of their sins.
The Lord’s Supper represents Jesus’ death in light of His resurrection. Jesus told the disciples to partake of the Lord’s Supper “in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19, 1 Corinthians 11:24-25). Whereas the original Lord’s Supper took place on a Thursday evening, early Christians assembled on the first day of the week in order to partake of it (cf. Acts 20:11, Justin Martyr, First Apology 67). The first day of the week is the day upon which Jesus was raised from the dead (cf. Matthew 28:1-10, Mark 16:1-8, Luke 24:1-12, John 20:1-23): the early Christians consciously observed the Lord’s Supper, remembering Jesus’ death, upon the day He arose from the dead, which empowered His death as the means by which all could be forgiven of sin (1 Corinthians 15:12-20).
Jesus intended for the Lord’s Supper to be a shared ritual meal. He supplied it first to His disciples together in the upper room. Paul describes the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 as a joint participation, or communion, in the body and blood of Jesus, declaring that Christians, although many, are one, because they partake of the “one bread.” When partaking of the Lord’s Supper, Christians are not only remembering the death of Jesus their Lord but also are demonstrating their joint participation together in Jesus.
While people create monuments of stone to memorialize great events, God decreed for Jesus’ death and resurrection to be remembered in bread and fruit of the vine. While stone monuments decay and are forgotten, Christians still come together on the first day of the week in remembrance of the Lord Jesus and His death upon the cross, partaking of the bread and fruit of the vine in His memory, jointly participating in His body and blood. Let us share in the communion of the Lord’s Supper, proclaiming Jesus’ death until He comes, and thus glorify God!
Ethan R. Longhenry