Note: In the morning services on Sunday, February 19, the Travis Avenue Baptist Church will be sharing together in the Lord’s Supper. I thought it would be helpful to remind us of its powerful significance.
I recall my days as a boy playing with my buddies in the neighborhood. Typically about dark I could hear my mom or dad calling out, “Mike, time to come in. Supper’s ready.” As I ran in the door I knew the first stop was to be the bathroom sink where I washed off the layers of dirt and germs that had accumulated through the day. Before I sat down to the meal with my family I would be thoroughly examined to see if I had really scrubbed up, or if I had merely waved my hand under the faucet. Only when the scrutinizing eye of my mom or dad was satisfied did I get to sit down to eat.
From time to time Christ-followers are called together for a “supper” with their forever family, the Church. It is called by various names … the Lord’s Supper, Communion, the Eucharist. You can’t read the New Testament without knowing that Christ takes this matter very seriously. The Lord instituted the ordinance on the eve of His crucifixion when He forged new meaning into the Jewish Passover meal. When He broke the bread with His disciples Jesus said, “This is my body” (I Corinthians 11:24). When Jesus passed the cup among them He said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood” (v.25).
Far from being a one-time observance for the disciples, the Lord’s Supper was to be embedded into the life of every New Testament congregation. Some churches share the Lord’s Supper each Sunday. Others do it less frequently. The New Testament seems to leave that issue open for debate. It does, however, prescribe how followers of Jesus are to gather together to meet Him for this spiritual meal.
Look upward. The Lord’s Supper is a means by which we commune with the Lord (thus the name “communion”). The observance is called “the Lord’s table” (I Corinthians 10:21). He is the Host. It’s all about Him. Jesus said to His disciples, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you…” (Luke 22:15). Before participating in the Lord’s Supper we should prepare ourselves to experience the presence of the Risen Christ.
Look inward. Do you know that it is actually possible to sin while taking the Lord’s Supper? 1 Corinthians 11:27 says, “Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.” The Corinthian church meetings were filled with selfishness and gluttony. There was an absence of love for one another in the fellowship, which is evidence of an absence of genuine love for the Lord. So in this attitude they came to the Lord’s Table in an unworthy manner. How do we avoid this? “A man ought to examine himself…” (I Corinthians 11:28). In preparation for the Lord’s Supper we should each bring our lives before the Lord to ask, “Lord is there any sinful attitude or action in me that will cause me to enter your presence in an unworthy manner?” When God puts His finger on something in your life confess it and repent before the Lord. If it involves another person, go and make it right with them before sharing in the Lord’s Supper.
Look outward. The Lord’s Supper is called “communion” because we have fellowship with the Lord, but it is also because we have fellowship with one another around the observance. The Corinthians completely missed this. As they came together for what was sometimes called the Agape Feast, it was supposed to be a fellowship meal where they shared food with one another. Some in the church, however, ignored this and jumped to the front of the potluck line and filled their plates and cups so full there was not enough for those who came after them. This was the height of selfishness, and it carried over into the observance of the Lord’s Supper. Paul warns, “For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself” (1 Corinthians 11:29). Why? In sinning against the Body of Christ (the church) they were sinning against Christ Himself. Let the passing of the bread and cup among ourselves remind us of our responsibility to selflessly love each other.
Look forward. “Whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26). As we share together in the Lord’s Supper we are proclaiming the Lord’s death. In the bread we remember the body of Christ that, on the Cross, absorbed the wrath of God against our sin. In the juice we remember the blood of Jesus Christ that cleanses us from all sin. Our mission as a church is to proclaim the Gospel, symbolized dramatically in the observance of the Lord’s Supper. And we do so “until he comes.” We look forward to the day when Christ will come and usher us into the great heavenly feast described in Revelation as the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.
So as you prepare for the Lord’s Day, prepare to come before the Lord and your fellow Christ-followers with your life clean before the Lord. As we all do this we can expect the Lord to meet us at the Table.