Of Holy Communion
This last week we celebrated Easter. It is a beautiful time of celebration and remembrance for who Christ is, what he accomplished on the cross, and the work that he continues to do. Easter is the celebration of what we call Holy Week or Passion Week. It is the anniversary of Christ's death and specifically his resurrection. During the days leading up to the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, we see some fantastic things happening in scripture. We see the triumphal entry, where Christ rides into Jerusalem as King, but more importantly for our topic today we see the Lord celebrating the Passover and him instituting what we called the Lord's Supper, or Communion. We read in Luke 22:14-20 how Jesus gave the disciples the bread and the wine and told them "Do this in remembrance of me." Many of us are familiar with this passage or the one in 1 Corinthians 11 but we still have questions about what exactly happens when we take Communion. Our Catechism question for today can help us to understand a little deeper.
"How does the Lord's Supper signify and seal to you that you share in Christ's one sacrifice on the cross and in all His gifts?"
At first glance, this question can be a little confusing. So to help us understand we need to break it up into its parts. The question asks first about how the Supper signifies that we are in Christ, and second how the Supper is a seal that we are joined with Christ in his sacrifice and in the gifts that he has given us. With a better understanding of the question, we can look at the answer.
"In this way: Christ has commanded me and all believers to eat of this broken bread and drink of this cup in remembrance of Him. With this command He gave these promises: First, as surely as I see with my eyes the bread of the Lord broken for me and the cup given to me, so surely was His body offered for me and His blood poured out for me on the cross. Second, as surely as I receive from the hand of the minister and taste with my mouth the bread and the cup of the Lord as sure signs of Christ's body and blood, so surely does He Himself nourish and refresh my soul to everlasting life with His crucified body and shed blood."
We see here that the answer is in three parts. First is the reminder that the supper is given as a command to all believers. That believers are to come together as the body of Christ to take the Lord's Supper in remembrance of Him. If we called ourselves Christians but are not regularly participating in the fellowship of the church and participating in the Lord's Supper together, then we are acting in disobedience to Christ. We also see in this that the Supper is for believers and not for those who have yet to come to a saving faith in Christ. This is why many churches require that someone be baptized before they are allowed to participate. The second part of the answer, the first part that deals with the question itself, tells us that the Supper is a visual reminder of God's grace. When I see the bread and I see the wine, I am reminded of the body and blood of Christ. The Supper is not just something we eat but it is something we see. In many churches, the elements of the Supper are covered until it is time to participate, and while I think there are good reasons for this, such as keeping flies off the elements, I think it is something we should avoid. As the catechism points out, one o the aspects of the Supper is seeing it. Seeing it as a reminder of what it cost to pay for our sins.
More Than Just Visual
But the Supper is more than just a visible reminder, we are called to eat, and drink of it. When we eat of the bread we are to remember that the Lord is our provider. In His body, he has provided everything we need to be joined with Him. He nourishes us, it is not the bread itself that sustains us but it is what the bread points to. Jesus in Matthew 4 when confronting the Devil reminds us that "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God." The bread reminds us that our life is in Christ and Christ alone. Similarly, the wine refreshes us. It satisfied our thirst. Christ tells the women at the well that he is the giver of living water. This living water is found in his blood. His blood washes us and satisfies us in a way that nothing else ever could. As David writes in Psalm 24, "Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him."
Over the next couple of weeks we will continue to talk about the Lord's Supper and seek to have a fuller understanding of the beauty and wonder that it represents. I hope that as you think about these things, they cause you to reflect on your relationship with Christ. He has shown his love for his people in his suffering and death on the cross. How are we to respond to that love? Do we see the Amazing Grace that John Newton saw or the Love Divine that Charle Wesley wrote of? Does the horrible nature of our sin confront us and does the mercy and grace of God overwhelm us? My hope and prayer is that as we take a closer look at the Supper that we would draw closer to the Lord and Savior who gave us the Supper so that we might remember and celebrate his death and resurrection until he returns again.
Soli Deo Gloria
Matt. 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19, 20; I Cor. 11:23-25.