About Jesus - Steve Sweetman

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The Lord's Supper


While being raised in a Free Methodist Church family we called it communion.  Others call it the Lord's Supper, the Table of the Lord, or the Eucharist.  We participated in communion every three months.  Others participate more or less frequently.  We ate broken pieces of bread and drank grape juice from little cups while kneeling at an altar.  Others eat crackers and drink wine while sitting in pews.  There are as many variations, or should I say deviations, of the Lord's Supper as there are denominations that celebrate it.  It has been a subject of debate for centuries.  I won't end the debate, but I would like to share one important aspect of communion that our traditions more often than not overlook.  More could be said on the subject, but I'll leave that for another day. 


The Lord's Supper is rooted in the Jewish Passover meal.  As God was about to judge Egyptian families with the death of their firstborn son, He commanded each Israeli family to kill a sheep or a goat, put its blood on their doorposts, and eat it in what was called the Passover meal.  It was so named because God would pass over the family who had a blood stained doorpost, saving their firstborn son from death.  From then on Israeli families were commanded to eat the Passover meal once a year in remembrance of their salvation from God's judgment on Egypt.    


Among other aspects of Passover seen in Exodus 12 we should know that it was a family meal.  Families ate the Passover.  If there was too much for one family to eat, other families, along with those without a family, joined in the meal.  No one ate Passover alone.    


Evangelical Christians are familiar with what is called camp meeting or family camp.  Each summer families gather for a week or two in a rural location for fellowship and Biblical instruction.  It's a family event.  It was in this kind of family atmosphere where Jesus ate His last Passover while on earth in human physical form.  As instructed in Deuteronomy 16:6, thousands of Jewish families were visiting Jerusalem for Passover because God once chose to have his name dwell there. 


In an upper room Jesus reclined at a table with His family, His Twelve apostles (Luke 22:14).  Remember, Jesus considered his true disciples to be His real family (Luke 8:21).  Jesus explained to His apostles that He fervently desired to eat this particular Passover with them before He suffered, because, He would not eat it again until it was fulfilled in the Kingdom of God (Luke 22:14 - 16).  That's a significant prophetic statement that I will leave for another day too.  Suffice to say, like the Passover meal that gave birth to the Lord's Supper, the first Lord's Supper was a family meal.    


At one point during Passover Jesus took a cup of wine, gave thanks, and as He passed it to the Twelve He said, "Take this and share it among yourselves (Luke 22:17 HCSB)."  Notice that there was only one cup containing real wine that was shared among brothers in God's family in Jesus' presence.  This was a family experience. 


Jesus also took bread, gave thanks, and while handing pieces of the bread to the Twelve He said, "This is my body given for you (Luke 22:19 HCSB)."   Much could be said about this statement, especially the little verb "is", but I'll stick to my singular point.  Jesus took a piece of bread that was big enough for twelve men to eat.  Each man ate from that one piece of bread that was shared among themselves in the presence of Jesus.  This was a family experience.     


In case you missed my point, here it is.  Like the Passover meal, the Lord's Supper in its original form was a family meal.  There was one piece of unleavened bread and one cup of real wine.  Both were shared among brothers in God's family in the presence of Jesus. 


It's sad that the first Lord's Supper ended in betrayal and an argument over who should be the greatest (Luke 22:23 - 30).  My most vivid imagination cannot begin to picture how the meal Jesus fervently desired to eat with His family ended in such a manner.  Church history shows that things haven't changed.  No wonder we choose to eat the Lord's Supper alone in our pews. 


Except for the way the first Lord's Supper ended, does your experience with Jesus' Supper look anything like what the Bible describes?  Is it a family meal? Do you share what you eat and drink with your brothers and sisters in God's family or do you simply sit in your pew and eat and drink alone?  


When Jesus said "do this in remembrance of me," (Luke 22:19) did He mean "do this" as I "do this" or did He mean "do this" in whatever way you want to "do this"?  If you love Jesus, want to follow His example in all things, and want to imitate His every move, wouldn't you want to eat His Supper in the way He ate it? 


It's been my experience that when I share the bread and wine with my brothers and sisters in Christ, it's a blessed communal family experience.  It's what the Body of Christ is all about; brothers and sisters in God's family joined in relational harmony because of the broken body and shed blood of Jesus.  When we share the bread and wine with each other we're not only sharing the life of Jesus, we're sharing our own lives with those to whom we are joined in the Body of Christ.  No one should ever eat and drink from the table of the Lord alone in his pew.  The Lord's Supper is a family meal. 



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