The Lord's Supper: Participation In Grace
Working with the text
1 Corinthians 11:23-26 NIV
23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
Reading the text: thoughts and reflections
The event at the table. Perhaps one of the most significant acts of Jesus’ ministry. It’s full of imagery. There is dramatic tension. Utmost theological importance. These are just some of the musing going around in my head as I reflect on this. Ferociously debated for centuries. Often more divisive than uniting, this tends to be the separation point for many churches (as well as baptism). Like many things in our walk with the Lord, we end up defending the trivial while the transcendent gets scant attention. Its easier to argue about I suppose, things we can use our senses to validate. But what happens to the mystery?
I think it is important to keep in mind that the term “sacrament” doesn’t show up in Bible until Jerome’s Latin Vulgate somewhere in the 4th century. Until, the Lord’s Supper was considered a μυστήριον a mystery. I think we’d do well to keep this in mind. We should also remember that it is a means of grace. And because it is grace, we’d also do well not to dissect it so that we don’t kill it.
Like most of Scripture, we’re given the words without much explanation or footnotes. They just are just spoken yet they bring response. God’s word does not return empty. When Jesus spoke of his body represented by bread and his blood represented by wine, what could that have meant to the twelve who were gathered at the table? How were they supposed to respond? Why didn’t they ask Jesus a litany of questions? Maybe this happened, we just don’t know but I am confident that all participated in the sharing of the bread and the cup…even if done in silence. There is a mystery in the participation that defies language. We are asked to be part of something we don’t fully know or understand yet the Lord’s Supper calls us..bekons us to throw ourselves into the arms of God and trust, with Phil Yancey, that rumors of another world are undeniably true.
What do we do with the issue of faith when it comes to partaking in communion? How much faith should we have? What’s the dividing line? Should those that have not professed a faith in Christ abstain? How about those that just can’t buy that the bread/body, wine/blood thing? Like most of us, we know where the boundary lines are so we can live safely in the box. I have a suspicion that Jesus is about boundary busting than building. His command: “do this” didn’t have a list of conditional clauses for us to initial by. The twelve themselves struggled with doubt (even after the resurrection!) yet participated. The event is, I believe, more invitational than exclusionary. Faith does, of course, play a crucial role. Otherwise, communion would have little significance or meaning to the participant. Still, it is an extraordinary act of grace that Jesus commends a new covenant with those that are still struggling with doubt. Perhaps it is the action that creates the faith rather than vice versa.
Images. Pictures. Feelings. All kinds come to my mind when I think about communion. Covenant: Moses…Mount Sinai…Jeremiah: a new covenant, not written on stone. Bread: Jesus comes from Bethlehem…I am the bread of life…man does not live on bread alone…when he broke bread with them, their eyes were opened. The cup: wedding at Cana: saved the best until last, if this cup might pass…blood is life. These are but a few of the images and themes that happen on “the night Jesus was betrayed”. I wonder if the disciples had known the significance of the event in the upper room if they would’ve participated.
God prepared this special moment almost as mysterious as his birth. There are some things that simply can’t be explained but we’re drawn to them because there is something truthful…something beautiful….something in our yearning for the eternal, home. “Do this in remembrance of me”…the covenant remembered not with stone tablets but with grace…written on the hearts of humankind.
Context & historical background
1 Corinthians 11:24 NA27 w/GRAMCORD, Int.
24 καὶ εὐχαριστήσας ἔκλασεν καὶ εἶπεν· τοῦτό μού ἐστιν τὸ σῶμα τὸ ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν· τοῦτο ποιεῖτε εἰς τὴν ἐμὴν ἀνάμνησιν.
ὑπὲρ for, in behalf of, for the sake of someone
The cup of blessing is rather a ’koinonia of the blood of Christ’; the bread is a ’koinonia of the body of Christ.’
The common definition of a sacrament accepted by the Reformed and Roman Churches is that of an outward and visible sign, ordained by Christ, setting forth and pledging an inward and spiritual blessing.
…The efficacy of the sacraments depends on the institution and command of Christ. The elements in themselves have no power; it is their faithful use that matters. For through them men are brought into communion with Christ in his death and resurrection (Rom. 6:3; 1 Cor. 10:16). Forgiveness (Acts 2:38), cleansing (Acts 22:16; cf. Eph. 5:26) and spiritual quickening (Col. 2:12) are associated with baptism. Participation in the body and blood of Christ is realized through Holy Communion (1 Cor. 10:16; 11:27). Baptism and the cup are linked together in the teaching of our Lord when he speaks of his death, and in the mind of the church when it remembers its solemn obligations (Mk. 10:38–39; 1 Cor. 10:1–5).
The crucifixion of Jesus coincides with the celebration of Passover. The NT writers saw this as deeply significant. The Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) present the Last Supper as a Passover meal (Mt 26:17; Mk 14:12; Lk 22:7–8), emphasizing the importance of Jesus’ words and actions. This meal is subsequently commemorated in the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor 11:23–33). Elsewhere the death of Jesus is linked to the offering of the Passover sacrifice. John’s Gospel alludes to this by observing that Jesus’ death resembles that of the Passover sacrifice because his bones were not broken (Jn 19:36; cf.Ex 12:46). This connection is made even more explicit by Paul: “For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed” (1 Cor 5:7 NIV). By linking the crucifixion of Jesus to the Passover, the NT writers highlight the redemptive nature of his death. Like the original Passover sacrifice, his death atones for the sin of the people, his blood purifies and cleanses, and his body sanctifies those who eat it at the Lord’s Supper.
|The Passover||The Last Supper|
|God remembered his covenant||A new covenant is enacted|
|Slavery in Egypt||[Slavery to sin?]|
|Deliverance from Egypt||Forgiveness of sins (Mt 26:28)|
|Blood of Passover Lamb||Blood of Christ (our Passover, 1 Cor 5:7; the lamb of God, Jn 1:29, 35)|
|Interpretation of elements||Interpretation of elements|
|Call for continual celebration||Call for continual celebration|
11:26. The Lord’s Supper was a visible sermon that proclaimed “the message of the Cross” (1:18, 23; 2:2, 8), that is, the reality of the Lord’s death, and also the certainty of His return (until He comes) 
23–25 Paul begins with a reminder that he is repeating the tradition received from the Lord which he had passed on to the Corinthians when he was with them. It recounts the actions and words of the Lord Jesus on the night he was betrayed. They were to break bread in remembrance of Jesus’ death. They were also to drink the cup in remembrance of the new covenant which Jesus ratified in his blood (cf. the ratification of the old covenant with blood in Exodus and the promise of a new covenant in Je. 31:31, a covenant which was for the blessing of all the nations Gn. 12:3)
Relevant Bible references
§ 148. Jesus Institutes the Memorial of Eating Bread and Drinking Wine
|Jerusalem. Evening before the Crucifixion|
|Mark 14:22-2522 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.” |
23 Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it.
24 “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them.
25 “I tell you the truth, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God.”
| Matthew 26:26-2926 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” |
27 Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you.
28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
29 I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
| Luke 22:17-2017 After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. |
18 For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”
19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.
| 1 Corinthians 11:23-2623 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, |
24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
|(Lk. 22:17-20) Luke here (see § 144) departs from the order of Mark (and Matthew) and mentions the institution of the supper earlier in the evening. It seems best to follow the chronology of Mark, who places it after the departure of Judas.(1Co. 11:23-26) These are two parallel reports of the institution of the supper. Mark is followed by Matthew and 1 Corinthians (about A.D. 56) by Luke (not earlier than A.D. 58).|
Genesis 22:8 NIV
8 Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.
Deuteronomy 8:3 NIV
3 He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.
Leviticus 17:11 NIV
11 For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.
Psalm 34:8 NIV
8 Taste and see that the LORD is good;
blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.
Isaiah 52:14 NIV
14 Just as there were many who were appalled at him—
his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man
and his form marred beyond human likeness—
Micah 5:2 NIV
2 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
though you are small among the clans of
out of you will come for me
one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
from ancient times.”
Luke 13:29 NIV
29 People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.
Luke 24:30-31 NIV
30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.
John 1:29 NIV
Jesus the Lamb of God
29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
John 6:35 NIV
35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.
1 Corinthians 5:7 NIV
7 Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.
1 Corinthians 10:16-17 NIV
16 Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.
1 Corinthians 11:28-29 NIV
28 A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.
Hebrews 9:15 NIV
15 For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.
Hebrews 10:10 NIV
10 …..we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
Hebrews 10:19-23 NIV
A Call to Persevere
19 …… since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.
What is the main point?
Current/local issues (from news and other sources)
|Forrest Gump (1987)||The first schoolbus scene with Forrest trying to find a seat is a great lesson in mercy and compassion. While no one else would offer Forrest a seat, Jenny invites him to sit with her. (Bil Shappell/St. Paul's Ev. Lutheran Church, Lutherville, MD)|
|The Mission (1986)||Rodrigo emerges from his climb up the falls to be forgiven and accepted by the very people he had sinned against. (submitted by Charlotte Hoppe)|
|The scene where Robert de Niro has a huge weight of armour cut away by the natives he used to hunt. Powerful display of forgiveness. (Luke Whiteside, Youth Alpha Australia)|
THE CROSS AT GROUND ZERO
I’m an excavation laborer, and a member of union local 731. Pick-and-shovel work is my trade. I live in New Jersey, but I’m a New York City native, Brooklyn born and bred. After the Towers collapsed, my city was hurting. When I heard they needed guys like me for search-and-rescue work at Ground Zero, I couldn’t get there fast enough.
I’d seen the news coverage, but that didn’t prepare me for the reality. Down there it was like hell on earth. Fires burned out of control. Destroyed vehicles littered the streets. Everything was blanketed with dust; the air was filled with a choking stench. I soaked a bandanna with water before wrapping it around my head to cover my nose and mouth. I went to work wondering if I’d be able to get through this.
Six firefighters and I entered World Trade Center building six, which had been flattened by Tower One. We took a smoke-filled stairway down into the garage levels, searching for survivors. There were no cries for help, no signs of life. We spray-painted orange Xs to indicate where we’d searched and to help us find our way back.
After 12 hours of searching, we’d recovered three bodies. By then I was exhausted, but I couldn’t quit. “Think I’ll take a look over there,” I told the firemen, motioning toward the remains of the lobby atrium.
Picking my way through the massive piles of debris, I peered into what had become a sort of grotto. Illuminated by the pale light of dawn were shapes . . . crosses. What? How did these get here? The largest was about 20 feet high. It must have weighed a couple of tons.
In that little grotto I felt a strange sense of peace and stillness. I could almost hear God saying, The terrible thing done at this site was meant for evil. But I will turn it to good. Have faith. I am here. I fell to my knees in front of the largest cross. Tears came, and I couldn’t stop them. I cried like a baby.
Finally I was able to pull myself together. I grabbed my gear and left the strange grotto to go back to search-and-rescue work. But first I spray-painted “God’s House” on the atrium ruins.
Digging day after day at Ground Zero was the hardest work I’d ever done. Often I was so drained I felt I couldn’t go on. That’s when I’d go to God’s House. Standing there in front of that 20-foot-high steel-beam cross, I always felt my strength and spirit renewed.
Word spread. The cross had the same healing effect on others too. Firemen, police, volunteers, grieving survivors, visiting dignitaries and clergy. They would walk into God’s House, see the cross and fall to their knees crying, like I had. Some people sang, some prayed. Everyone left changed.
There are some who say that the cross I found is nothing more than steel. That it was just plain physics that broke the steel beam into the shape of a cross when it plunged through the roof of building six. But I believe differently.
So does my friend Father Brian Jordan. He was a chaplain at Ground Zero, and is a priest at St. Francis of Assisi in midtown. When the time came for what was left of building six to be removed, God’s House faced demolition. Father Jordan talked to officials and persuaded them to save the cross. After it was removed from the site, ironworkers fixed the cross to a concrete base, then hoisted it up and mounted it atop a 40-foot foundation that had been a pedestrian walkway outside the World Trade Center. It stood high enough that the rescue workers who were down in the pit could see it whenever they lifted their heads.
Ground Zero was not obviously a place of hope. But it was there that I learned we can always have faith. In fact, we must have faith if we are to go on. New life will rise from the ashes. I know that because the cross was a sign, a promise from God that he is with us even in the face of terrible evil and untold suffering. Especially then.
Can you all see what I have in my hand? A receipt. And what purpose does a receipt serve? It is the proof that the payment has been made. That’s what Jesus’ resurrection is. The receipt. The proof that the payment is made, that death and sin no longer have power over us.
Christianity’s demand is this: your life, exerted to the limit, should express works. One thing more is demanded, that you humble yourself and confess: ‘But for all that I am saved by grace.’
We are justified not by grace plus experience or by grace plus obedience but by grace alone.
The Lord’s supper is not just a memorial of Christ’s past sacrifice but a participation in his present intercession for the sins of the world.
It (the Last Supper) is not in memory of him. That would be of little value, for it would be a memory of absence. The meal is in fellowship with him and with all others who are in him.
Body means presence, availability, and accessibility.
C. John Weborg
Jesus was born in Bethlehem, "The House of Bread" because bread is one of life’s most common things. God wanted his Son to be "common" in one sense. God wanted Jesus to be available to all.
My great recent discovery is that when I mourn Joy least I feel nearest to her. Passionate sorrow cuts us off from the dead.
Psalm 113:1-3 NIV
1 Praise the LORD.
Praise, O servants of the LORD,
praise the name of the LORD.
2 Let the name of the LORD be praised,
both now and forevermore.
3 From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets,
the name of the LORD is to be praised.
Achtemeier, Paul J., Publishers Harper & Row, and Society of Biblical Literature. Harper's Bible Dictionary. Includes Index. 1st ed. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985.
cf. confer (Lat.), compare
Wood, D. R. W., and I. Howard Marshall. New Bible Dictionary. 3rd ed. /. Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1996.
NT NT. New Testament
cf. cf.. compare
NIV NIV. New International Version
Ryken, Leland, Jim Wilhoit, Tremper Longman et al.. Dictionary of Biblical Imagery. electronic ed. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000, c1998.
Walvoord, John F., Roy B. Zuck, and Dallas Theological Seminary. The Bible Knowledge Commentary : An Exposition of the Scriptures. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983-c1985.
Carson, D. A. New Bible Commentary : 21st Century Edition. Rev. Ed. of: The New Bible Commentary. 3rd Ed. / Edited by D. Guthrie, J.A. Motyer. 1970. 4th ed., 1 Co 12:1. Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994.