Once you begin worshipping with the churches of Christ, one of the first things that you will notice is that an important part of our Sunday assembly is the taking of the Lord’s Supper. This is a very ancient and sacred memorial ceremony that has been a part of the New Testament pattern of worship since the church began. This memorial forces us to spend some time each week focused on the most central aspect of our faith – the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Paul gives us a great explanation of the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians 11, so let us center our thoughts around that passage for a few moments.
1 Corinthians 11:23-26 (NKJV) 23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, "Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me." 25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me." 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes.
He begins in verse 23 by drawing our minds back to the night that Jesus was betrayed by Judas. On this night, just hours before he would be arrested and crucified, Jesus gave instructions for a ceremony to remember the events that were about to happen. The unleavened bread was broken and eaten to represent the body of Christ that was broken by the nails of the cross, his flesh that was shredded by the vicious lashings that he received, and his brow that was torn by the crown of thorns that was mockingly thrust upon his head. Then Jesus had his disciples drink from the fruit of the vine. He explained that this was to symbolize his blood that would poor forth from his broken flesh. In Matthew’s account, Jesus ties this blood to both the new covenant and forgiveness of sins (Matthew 26:28 (NKJV) “For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins”). This ceremonial meal is for those who share in the new covenant, thus have been cleansed by the blood of Christ. In this way, we reenact weekly the sacrifice that has made our salvation possible. In other words, we “proclaim the Lord’s death.”
Paul then goes on to say in verses 27 and 28, “Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” Here we learn that the manner in which we take the communion is very important. We ought to examine ourselves to ensure that our focus is proper. So how should we take the communion?
With thankfulness - Jesus gave thanks before each element of the supper. We ought to use that time to express our gratitude for the amazing sacrifice that Christ made for us.
With each other –Although it is a time of self-examination, there is also a communal aspect to the supper. The disciples always came together to take the Lord’s Supper. Paul said earlier in 1 Corinthians 10:17 (NKJV), “For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread.” In taking the Lord’s Supper, we acknowledge our fellowship with one another as a part of the same body of Christ.
With remembrance – Of course, the primary purpose is to remember Jesus. He specifically says, “do this in remembrance of Me”. We can do this in a number of ways. We could read one of the crucifixion accounts. We could reflect on a song about the crucifixion. We could close our eyes and visualize the events of that night. However we choose to do it, the important thing is that we keep our focus in the proper place.
Everything that God asks of us is ultimately to our benefit. The Lord’s Supper is no different. If we observe it each week in the proper manner, then we will find it to be a faith affirming blessing to our spiritual lives.