Summary: The grave danger of familiar traditions is that they will become routine; and thus, the power of the symbol is diluted, if not destroyed. The Lord’s Supper is the continuing ordinance given to believers by our Saviour.
DINING WITH JESUS
“Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’ And He took a cup, and when He had given thanks He gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you, for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.’”
The grave danger of familiar traditions is that they will become routine; and thus, the power of the symbol is diluted, if not destroyed. The Lord’s Supper is the continuing ordinance given to believers by our Saviour. Those who have received Christ as Master of life are called to identify with Him immediately through the ordinance of baptism. Only then, having identified with Him openly, those believers, gathered as members of a particular congregation, are instructed to actively call to mind His sacrifice and His promise through sharing in the tradition that we have received and know as Communion, or the Lord’s Table.
The Lord’s Supper is given to believers to remind them of Christ’s love revealed through His sacrifice, to encourage them to strengthen fellowship within the Body to which He has appointed them, and to encourage them in the hope that arises from His promise to return. And though it is important that we remind ourselves frequently of what we declare, perhaps we need to shake off our lethargy from time-to-time and refresh our minds.
THE SETTING FOR THE MEAL — Sitting in a modern church building, it is doubtful that contemporary Christians capture the intimacy associated with the meal described in the Gospels. We sit together in pews, or on seats, while first one and then the other of the elements are passed down the rows. We sit obediently, waiting for the pronunciation of the formula that permits us to eat or drink. Then, in unison, we chew the bread or hurriedly swallow the juice. Just because we have eaten bread and drunken juice at the same time does not mean that we have experienced fellowship, nor even that we have worshipped.
What is done in such a setting is often not fellowship, but rather individual worship. Don’t misunderstand; I am not opposed to worship as an individual, but the Meal is meant to be communion—a sharing of lives. Indeed, the Meal is to be observed in a group setting and not as a solitary act for an individual, or even for individuals focused on their own actions. And the normal practise among contemporary Christians, however comfortable and regardless of how beautiful one believes the act to be, is not necessarily conducive to corporate worship.
Jesus was together with His disciples to observe the Passover Meal. All were present, save for Judas who had just hurried out. The Master had just finished washing the disciples’ feet, when he divulged that one of the disciples would betray Him. Their response was shock. John says that they “looked at one another, uncertain of whom He spoke” [JOHN 13:22]. Their silence was broken as the disciples, one after another, asked, “Is it I, Lord” [MATTHEW 26:22]? Jesus indicated that it was the one who had dipped his hand into the bitter herbs with Him. Judas, also, asked whether he was the one who would betray Jesus, and the Master’s answer was, “You have said so” [MATTHEW 26:25].
It seems apparent that the other disciples did not understand the exchange, if they actually heard what was said. Likely, they were each speaking, questioning what had just been said. They were focused on their own thoughts, and so missed what was said. Peter, recovering a presence of mind to wonder what Jesus meant, motioned to John to ask Jesus who it was. John happened to be leaning back with his head near Jesus chest. So turning slightly, he asked, “Lord, who is it?” At this, Jesus responded, “It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it.” And with that, Jesus dipped the bread and handed it to Judas [JOHN 13:23-26].
Handing the bread to Judas, Jesus said, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” I can only wonder that John didn’t exclaim his surprise, or turn and blurt out this stunning knowledge before the others. Undoubtedly, Judas knew that he was exposed, and so he hurried out to betray the Master; and John sat there silent in the face of this stunning knowledge, perhaps unable to fathom what he had just witnessed. It was after Judas left, that the Master instituted the Meal with those who were truly His disciples.