The Lord’s Supper
Jesus Christ, the Son of God and our Savior, instituted this divine dinner on the night he was betrayed. The context for this new sacrament was Passover, the Jewish fellowship meal observed in remembrance of the Lord’s deliverance of his people from hard slavery in Egypt. The central element in this meal was the roasted lamb, a blemish-free sacrifice whose blood served as a sign for God to ‘passover’ their home during the night as the Lord struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt. Shortly after the Lord gave to Israel the Passover ordinance, delivered the people swiftly from the bondage of Egypt, and communicated the Ten Commandments and other regulations, he met with Moses in the wilderness of Sinai and said to him:
Come up to the Lord, you and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and worship from afar. … And he sent young men of the people of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the Lord. And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.” Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, and they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. And he did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank. — Exodus 24:1, 5-11Ultimately this episode in God’s redemptive dealings with mankind could be described as a covenant meal. As part of God’s offer of the covenant and Israel’s acceptance of the covenant, access — fellowship with God — was visually, vividly and truly experienced at a shared table by the leaders and elders from God’s covenant people. While the connection between the Passover meal and the Lord’s Supper, as given during Jesus’ Last Supper with the disciples, is more instructive and compelling, this Siniatic covenant meal is nevertheless an important background source for understanding the Lord’s Supper. While Jesus Himself commanded that this meal of covenant fellowship be celebrated in remembrance of His atoning death, we are told in Scripture that the meal also represents present and future aspects. In the present, rightly partaking of the elements of bread and wine both reminds us of Christ’s abiding presence with us through the Holy Spirit, and conveys in some way real grace to us. The Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians indicates that the Lord’s Supper also serves to remind us of the future return of Jesus Christ in glory. The book of Revelation describes for us the celebration that awaits us when Christ returns. That future fellowship feast is called the Wedding Supper of the Lamb. The Lord’s Supper is therefore a foretaste of the unimaginably joyful table fellowship we will enjoy with one another and with our glorious King at His coming. The Lord’s Supper represents to our hearts and our senses the work of Jesus Christ in redeeming each of one of us individually through his shed blood. Yet it also vividly portrays for us his work in redeeming corporately a kingdom of covenant people. As the book of Revelation makes so clear:
… for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom of priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth. — Revelation 5:9-10When we observe the Lord’s Supper at Hope, we are reminded of our shared family ties through Christ as adopted sons and daughters of God our Father. In fact, we are to discern both the spiritual presence of the Lord’s body and the physical presence of Christ’s Body the Church gathered together as we celebrate this new covenant feast. We believe that while the Lord Jesus Christ is not physically present within or around the bread and the wine or juice we receive, he is nevertheless truly present to nourish us through the powerful working of his Holy Spirit. In order to explain how the Lord’s Supper nourishes us in Christ, yet without the elements being transformed into his actual body, the authors of the Heidelberg Catechism of 1563 wrote:
Question 79: Why then does Christ call the bread His body, and the cup His blood, or the new covenant in His blood; and Paul, the “communion of the body and blood of Christ”? Answer: Christ speaks this way not without great reason, namely, not only thereby to teach us that as bread and wine support this temporal life, so His crucified body and shed blood are the true meat and drink whereby our souls are fed to eternal life; but more especially by these visible signs and pledges to assure us that we are as really partakers of His true body and blood (by the operation of the Holy Spirit) as we receive by the mouths of our bodies these holy signs in remembrance of Him; and that all His sufferings and obedience are as certainly ours, as if we had in our own persons suffered and made satisfaction for our sins to God.It is our prayer and earnest desire that everyone who comes to the table of the Lord grow stronger and be encouraged through God’s abundant grace. Also, that each of us would long, with an ever-growing passion, to spiritually feed upon and celebrate the fellowship with Christ as he is offered us in this sacrament. At a time in the life of the Protestant faith in which many churches celebrate this gift of God to his church infrequently, Hope is committed to weekly embrace our Lord’s invitation to his table.