Each week we choose to share in a living memorial set in order by Jesus. Its intense meaning has lived and been expressed in the lives of believers for nineteen centuries. In it we honor Him who died in our place to set us free. Its physical elements of bread and wine are renewed constantly. There is something special about this coming together, as we do on the first day of each week, to celebrate our fellowship in the body of Christ. By our participation, we not only honor Jesus our Savior, but we confirm anew the basis of our hope in Him.
Consider this beautiful passage in Luke 24:
13Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16but they were kept from recognizing him.
17He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”
18They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19″What things?” he asked.
20″About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.”
25He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
28As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther. 29But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
33They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.
(Following thoughts from “The Lord’s Supper” by Jon Zens)
In the Lord’s Supper we remember the past.
The covenant that brings us the forgiveness of sins was ratified, by the shedding of Christ’s blood. The Lord instituted the Supper on the eve of His impending death in the context of a Passover meal. “Remembrance” itself is a covenantal word. The Israelites were often commanded to “remember” God’s acts of covenant faithfulness. In the Supper, Jesus has given us an ordinance by which we continually remember that our blessings were purchased through a costly price.
In the Lord’s Supper, we enjoy the present.
Jesus has brought us into fellowship with others in the new covenant. When we come together “as a church,” we can eat as a body in the presence of the Lord Jesus. The emphasis here is on a joyous meal, a covenant celebration. In the Old Testament covenantal meals celebrated the mighty acts of God on the behalf of His chosen people.
In the Lord’s Supper, we look forward to the future:
“you do show the Lord’s death until he comes.” This ordinance is to be repeated (“as often as you do it”) until Christ returns. Each time we proclaim His death in the Supper, we are also reminded that He is returning. In His death, burial and resurrection Christ was removed from us physically. The Holy Spirit now gives us Christ’s presence. When He returns, our faith will become sight.
Given these three dimensions – past, present, future – it is no wonder that in the early church the Lord’s Supper was “the central action in Christian worship.”
The past dimension gives the Supper its objective character – we come together to remember the definitive work of Christ.
The present dimension emphasizes the Supper’s social character – in order to remember His body, we must be one body.
The future dimension recognizes the tension of Christian experience – we enjoy now only the first fruits, and long for the full harvest to come.
Jesus gave us his peace of oneness with the Father in a covenant of grace which he sealed with his life. Jesus ordained this covenant meal in which we share. Being reconciled to God, we participate in the communion, a covenant meal sealing and celebrating our inclusion in this happy relationship with God and one another.
If we are at variance with God or with one another, the covenant is mocked. God has made a covenant with us, an agreement of peace, a covenant based on his goodness, not on our worthiness. As we eat the bread depicting oneness in Christ and drink the cup portraying the forgiving grace of God, let us praise God joyfully for reconciling us all in himself in Christ.