This Is My Body (Part 1)
In this new blog series, I want to take some time to talk about something that should be of great importance to us as Christians. It is something that Jesus commanded the church to do, but which is done in many churches only occasionally. It is something that Jesus himself said he was very eager to do with us, but which many of us as Christians are not so terribly eager to do with him. It is a precious gift that Jesus gave to his followers to be opened again and again, but which we often leave unopened when we gather as his people. I am referring, of course, to the Lord’s Supper—sometimes also called Communion, or the Eucharist.
What is the Lord’s Supper? In short, it is a meal Jesus gave to his people which portrays in vivid pictures his sacrifice for us, and looks forward to the time when he will return and feast with us in a renewed creation. Jesus took this meal with his disciples on the night before he died, and commanded them to continue taking it in memory of him after his death. This story is told in Matthew 26:26-29, Mark 14:22-25, and Luke 22:14-23. Paul summarizes what happened in 1 Corinthians 11:23-25:
For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 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.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
In 2014, when I began serving as the Interim Pastor of a small Baptist church in North Carolina, I found that the church had stopped observing the Lord’s Supper. They had gone almost a year without “doing this in remembrance” of Jesus. One reason why they had not done so is because they had no pastor, and no one in the congregation felt capable of of leading the church in the Lord’s Supper.
But honestly, there was probably another reason why they had not been taking the Lord’s Supper—perhaps one that many Christians can relate to, but would rarely voice out loud. That reason is this: sometimes the Supper seems so irrelevant to our lives. Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever wondered, as the bread and the cup are being passed out on the first Sunday of the month (or whenever your church observes the Supper), “What does this have to do with me right now, with all that is going on in my life? If we just stopped doing this altogether, would I be missing anything?”
I have definitely felt this way. But as I prepared to lead my congregation to take the Lord’s Supper, taking a fresh look at the Scriptures and reading books describing the theology of the Lord’s Supper, I realized that the Supper is extremely relevant for the church. It really is. It is unbelievably important for us, and we impoverish ourselves when we neglect taking it and reflecting on all that God is saying to us through this little meal.
Here’s why the Supper is important: in the Lord’s Supper, God is holding out to us the solution to the most pervasive and devastating problem that humanity faces—the problem of our brokenness.
I’ll explain what I mean by “brokenness” next week.