“Hey, I’m the one who was hungry & thirsty!” were the words my daughter, 3 year old Alyssa, blurted out during communion one Sunday morning.
Communion/The Lord’s Supper, my daughter’s first experience with it! Her words rang loudly throughout the whole church as the congregation made their way up to the front alter. Alyssa was three years old at the time and thought we were all going up for snack and then, she realized she wasn’t given any. Of course, this event brought much laughter to the entire church as the voice of this small body pierced the quietness of the room. It was a little embarrassing, to say the least, but made quite a memory in my mind (almost 15 years later).
It’s a funny story, but how many times do we participate in The Lord’s Supper without fully coming prepared to this most special table. We may not look at it like just a ‘snack,’ but do we take it as seriously as we should?
Why do we really celebrate this meal?
Simply, because, we sin and we need God’s forgiveness!
From the beginning, God required a blood sacrifice for the payment of sins. Blood was His choice of purification. We cannot fully understand this. It may seem barbaric to us that God should require such a harsh punishment. Because of this though, we have a glimpse into the seriousness of how God sees our sins. Our sins are so disgusting that He cannot bear to be anywhere near them and that He would need blood to cover their ugliness from His sight. Blood is gruesome to us, so sin must be even more gruesome to think that blood would be the ‘pretty icing’ in comparison!
- Lev 5:6 “and, as a penalty for the sin he has committed, he must bring to the Lord a female lamb or goat from the flock as a sin offering; and the priest shall make atonement for him for his sin.”
After a while, God got sick of the sacrifices. People were not sacrificing from their heart. They no longer felt badly about their sins or wanted to be pure. They kept on sinning and sacrificing, sinning and sacrificing, over and over again. Killing animals became as easy as taking a drink of water. What He really wanted from them was for them to obey Him and love Him.
- Heb 10:11 “Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.”
- Is 1:11 “The multitude of your sacrifices— what are they to me?” says the Lord. “I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.”
- 1 Sam 15:22 “But Samuel replied: “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.”
So, God had to put a new plan in place – a New Covenant – a plan so perfect that He would be able to forgive sins for all eternity past and present! One final, pure atoning sacrifice of a perfect human (Jesus).
- Jer 31:31 “The time is coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a newcovenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.
- Heb 7:27 Unlike the other high priests, Jesus does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.
So, how does this all relate to the Lord’s Last Supper? It’s a celebration for Christians everywhere! Celebrating the Lord’s final sacrifice!
Why a MEAL? How did that come about?
Communion (The Passover Meal) started in the days of Moses (in 1446 BC) (Exodus 1-12). The Israelites (God’s chosen people) had been slaves in the land of Egypt for approximately 600 years. Moses (himself a Hebrew/Israelite) was God’s chosen one to deliver the Israelites out of slavery. God caused amazing miracles, the ten plagues, to be shown through Moses in order to convince Pharaoh to release His people. On the night of the last, most deadly plague, the Israelites were given strict instructions to follow so that they might survive the plague…
- Ex 12:1-13 (paraphrased & shortened): “Each family should take a spotless (perfect) male lamb and kill it at twilight. You shall take some of the blood and put it on the doorposts of your home. Then, you shall cook the lamb over a fire and you shall eat it with unleavened (no yeast) bread. Make sure to burn all the leftovers and keep none for the next day. You shall eat this meal quickly, dressed and ready to leave – this is the Lord’s Passover Meal. For I will move throughout Egypt and kill the firstborn males in all of the land as extreme judgment, for I am the Lord. The blood on your doorposts will be a sign on me to Passover your home and no plague will befall your family.”
As a memorial to the Lord’s mighty power to destroy and to save, He commanded His people to celebrate this victorious day…
- Ex 12:14 “Now this day will be a memorial to you, and you shall celebrate it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations you are to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance.”
This Passover meal was the last meal that Jesus and His disciples shared on the night before He was crucified. During this meal, Jesus surprised His disciples by identifying the unleavened bread as His body and the cup of wine as His blood.
- Luke 22:19-20 “And when Jesus had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them saying, “This is My body, which is given for you, do this in remembrance of me. And in the same way, He took the cup after they eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”
By saying these things, Jesus identified Himself as being the spotless lamb, the final sacrifice that God would require for the forgiveness of sins.
- Gen 22:8 “Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son…”
- John 1:29 “The next day John The Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
- 1 Peter 1:19 “but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.”
How should you prepare for this meal?
Now that you know the history of the meal, you’re almost there. There’s one more key factor in understanding the symbolism and seriousness of this meal…
Do not come to the Lord’s Table without first examining yourself, otherwise you are heaping sin upon yourself.
- 1 Cor 11: 28-32 “Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment. When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world.”
What does it mean to examine yourself? Take some quiet time before you participate in the Lord’s Supper. Ask the Lord to reveal your sins. He will show you. You need to acknowledge them as sins and ask for forgiveness. Of course, there are always going to be sins that you don’t immediately become aware of at that point. As you mature in faith, these will become more apparent to you. A great phrase is, “…and please forgive me for my unknown sins that you may bring light in those areas and help me to grow closer to you.”
- Romans 10:9 “That if you confesswith your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
You’re now ready to partake in the most privileged meal you will ever receive!
Enjoy God’s Grace and His forgiveness found only in Christ Jesus!