Observing the Lord’s Supper • We could use for our title, “Partaking of the Lord’s Supper,” or “Celebrating the Lord’s Supper,” or perhaps some other term. • But our emphasis in these lessons will not be upon the partaker, but upon the performance of the act by those serving.
The Lord’s Supper is a ritual, in that it is a sequence of events that the Lord gave commandment for His disciples to perform. • The supper that He ate with His disciples was not the Lord’s Supper; it was the Passover Supper.
He took elements from that supper and instituted or commanded or appointed a different supper. • He did not appoint that His disciples should meet to partake of the meat, bitter herbs, and the unleavened bread, and fruit of the vine that made up the Passover celebration. • The Lord’s Supper is therefore not a meal in which common food is eaten. It is purely a memorial feast.
The institution of the feast. • Every account written about the Lord’s Supper would have been written long after the Lord’s Supper had been begun to be observed. • Most likely all of the synoptic gospels were written within a comparatively few years of each other in the late 50's or early 60's of the first century.
Therefore the Lord’s Supper would have been observed among disciples for three or more decades by that time. • Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 11 may have actually been the first written account of the institution of the Lord’s Supper. • For some time before the gospel accounts were written, apostles, prophets, and preachers of the gospel had been instructing churches in this matter.
Matthew’s account (Matt. 26). • Jesus took bread, and blessed (eulogeo), and brake it (Matt. 26:26). • He took a cup , and gave thanks (eucharistesas), and gave to them, “saying, ‘Drink ye all of it’.”
Mark’s account (Mark 14) • The statement about the bread is the same as in Matthew. • Regarding the cup: “And He took a cup, and when he had given thanks (eucharistesas), he gave to them: and they all drank of it” (Mar, 14:23).
In Luke’s account we find, “And he took bread, and when he had given thanks (eucharistesas) . . .” (Luke 22:19). • Matthew and Mark say Jesus blessed the bread, but they do not say He gave thanks for it. • Luke says He gave thanks for the bread, but does not say that He blessed it. • Therefore the idea of blessing it and giving thanks for it are equivalent expressions.
Paul states the same thing in 1 Corinthians 11: • “The Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when he had given thanks (eucharistesas), he brake it . . . (11:23-24). • “In like manner also, the cup, after supper” (11:25). “In like manner” means that Jesus gave thanks for the cup also.
Note that Paul says “For I received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you” (11:23). • He did not get his information from Matthew, Mark, or Luke. • This passage in 1 Corinthians was by no means the first time he had spoken to the Corinthians about the Lord’s Supper.
Because he had already delivered these things to the Corinthians (11:23). • The whole point of this second half of 1 Corinthians 11 is that they assembled together supposedly to observe the Lord’s Supper, except that they had turned it into something it was never supposed to be. • 1 Corinthians 10:16-21 also shows that the Lord’s Supper was a ceremony known and practiced among the Corinthians.
When we keep the Supper: • It is an appointed ritual; therefore there is a certain way it is to be kept, and, to honor Jesus, we must keep it the way He commanded (Luke 6:46). • But it is not merely a ritual, and our chief concern must not be the way it is kept, but what it means. • We must also give equal weight to Jesus’ words: “Do this in memory of me.”
We do not observe the Lord’s Supper as regular table meal. • It was not given to be parallel with the Passover Feast. • Any effort to treat it as a table meal crashes headlong into the problem Corinth was having.
It is a memorial, with the bread representing something, and with the cup representing something. • What does the chicken represent? • There are two and only two elements in the supper.
Blessing the bread. • In the gospels of Matthew, Mark, the bread is blessed. • But in neither Matthew, Mark, or Luke, nor in 1 Corinthians 11 is the cup said to be blessed. • However, Paul writes, “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a communion of the blood of Christ?” (10:16).
It seems certain that the words bless and give thanks are used interchangeably in the various passages on the subject. • It is very appropriate for us to follow the example of Jesus and Paul in explaining the purpose of the Lord’s Supper before our partaking of it.
But the main thing involved is to give thanks for it. • Therefore the prayer for the bread and for the fruit of the vine should give thanks for it. • It is also appropriate that we give thanks for the more important event that gives the Supper its validity and meaning, and that is the Lord’s sacrifice on the cross.
In order that attention be focused on the Supper, this is not the time to ask God’s blessing on the sick, and to pray for the leaders of our country, and for the men we support. • Appropriate to thank the Lord for the Lord’s Day, the special day when we assemble for this supper.
It would be appropriate in our prayer to ask for forgiveness, because in keeping with the instructions of Paul in 1 Corinthians 11, it should be a high priority that we examine ourselves and seek to partake of the supper in a worthy manner and in the “beauty of holiness,” or “holy array” (Ps. 29:2; 96:9;110:3).
But the main thing is to be sure to give thanks for the bread and for the fruit of the vine.
We need to prepare ourselves to remember what to say in our prayers on such occasions, because we may get nervous and wind up saying what we did not mean to say, or failing to say what we should have.
Remember that when we pray to “Our Father,” we should not in that same prayer say “Thy body,” for it simply was not the body of the Father that was given for us. • On the other hand, I believe God is not standing ready with His divine fly swatter ready to smack us if we miss something. • In other words, He is understanding of our human frailties.
Sometimes we are less forgiving of one another’s mistakes than God is. • At the same time we should strive to do things the way God would have us to, even if we sometimes stumble in our words. • Some things, if not done right, are not done at all.