The Lord's Supper
For the rest of this week, I want to take some time to reflect on the events leading up to Jesus’ death, which we (the Church) will celebrate as Good Friday this week.
I’ll be focusing primarily on Mark fourteen, which is the chapter just preceding Jesus’ crucifixion. A lot of things happen in this chapter – too many to write about before Friday – so I’ll just be picking out a few that stand out to me the most.
One of the first and most notable things that happens in this chapter is the last supper, where Jesus and his disciples gather for the passover meal and their last dinner together before Jesus is arrested.
While Jesus and his disciples are reclining at the table together, the scriptures say that Jesus, “took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, ‘Take; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, ‘This is my blood of the (new) covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God (vs. 22-24).’”
In this scene, I believe that Jesus is attempting to illustrate a myriad of different things to his disciples.
For one, I think that he is illustrating the importance of community and how important it will be for his followers when he is gone. In breaking bread together they are establishing community with one another and becoming the “body” of Christ while also remembering the body Jesus gave for them. I think that Jesus breaks the bread and serves his disciples as a way of showing them this.
Jesus is also illustrating the new covenant that he is establishing between God and His people. The old covenant was established in the sprinkling of the blood of the sacrifice on the people, which is seen in Exodus 24 when Moses says, “This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.”
Here Jesus is enacting a new covenant through his sacrifice.
One of the most notable, non gospel, writings about the Lord’s supper probably comes from 1 Corinthians 11:17-34, where Paul is rebuking the church on its practice of the Lord’s supper. Paul is telling this church that they are partaking in the Lord’s supper in an unworthy manner (by eating and drinking too much, and not caring for the poor in their community), and that there are consequences for that.
If we look at the Lord’s supper through the lens of covenant community this passage makes a lot of sense (to me at least). If the broken bread is Jesus’ body (the Church), and the wine is the blood of the new covenant that we now have with God and each other, then how we conduct the Lord’s supper is of the utmost importance.
Because how we conduct the Lord’s supper is really how we are fellowshiping and living into this new covenant that Jesus has established. A covenant of love, grace and forgiveness. Of self sacrifice and helping our neighbors. And Paul says that if we fail to partake in these elements of the Lord’s supper correctly we will be eating and drinking judgment on ourselves.
A heavy statement to say the least…
But I don’t believe that he says this to scare us, but instead to lovingly warn us that these things are very important, and to be taken seriously.
So in these days leading up to Good Friday, I want to encourage you to think about how you are engaging in community and living into Jesus’ new covenant. I know that being in community is harder than it’s ever been right now, but there are still ways to engage with the people of God!
Don’t miss out on those opportunities.