The Last Supper (Four Places to Look)
I think many times we come to the Table with a feeling of ritualism. It becomes something we do, but don’t fully understand. We can even tend to abuse the Table as the Corinthians did because we don’t show The Table the reverence it’s due. Paul understood that the Corinthians simply didn’t know how or why the Table was so important. Rather and receiving blessing from the Table, the Corinthians were receiving chastisement. Here, we see Paul sharing that The Lord’s Supper gives us an opportunity for spiritual growth and blessings if we approach it in the right attitude. He answers the question: What, then, must we do if the Supper is to bring blessing and not chastening? Paul shared with the Corinthians that there are 4 places they must look in order to bring blessing from the Lord’s Table instead of chastisement. The first thing he states in order to received blessing is to
- Look Within and Hear your Heart (vs. 27-32)
I’m skipping ahead on purpose. I feel this is important to do before we partake of the elements. Paul challenged the believers to look inside their hearts and discern where they truly were. He challenges us to do the same. No pretending, no hiding, but real, rich honesty. When we come to the Table, it is a serious matter and we must examine ourselves to see where we really are. Taking time to listen to where our heart is highly important. We may not want God right now. We may simply partake of communion to pretend we are close with Him, when we are not. Paul declares this to be drinking judgment upon ourselves. We needn’t hide; we simply need to be honest with where our hearts truly are. You can’t fake it until you make it! Honesty truly is the best policy when it comes to the Table. If you have bitterness, deal with it. If you have sin in your life that hasn’t been confessed, deal with it. If you are in a place where you don’t want God right now, deal with it. You don’t have to pretend and take communion to look like a “good Christian”. We must live honestly. The Corinthians failed to examine themselves and instead sought to examine everyone else’s holiness. May we learn from their mistakes and deal with our own hearts.
*At this time, I would like you to take time and hear your hearts. Be really honest with where you are. As we venture back to the beginning of the passage, we see Paul sharing with us three other places we are to look. The first is to:
2. Look Back to Proclaim the Past (vs. 23-26a)
Paul makes a pretty bold statement in saying that he received these instructions from the Lord. He made this proclamation to the Corinthians to show that The Table is not only something we should do, but something that was commanded to be done. The Lord desires that His whole Church participate in this feast. This consistent command I fear may be makes The Lord’s Table feel like a ritual, because we always do it. The thing we miss is that there is more to it then simply eating and drinking. This event in the life of the Church was meant to be participatory on many other levels as well. As we’ve noted, we are not simply to partake in the meal, but also to look back and reflect on the Death of Christ. Christ commanded we do this, which may seem weird because many times we try to forget how loved ones died, but here Christ purposefully calls us to remember his death. Warren Wiersbe stated as he reflected on this passage: “We must remember that He died, because this is a part of the Gospel message: “Christ died … and was buried” (1 Cor. 15:3–4). It is not the life of our Lord, or His teachings, that will save sinners—but His death. Therefore, we also remember why He died: Christ died for our sins; He was our substitute (Isa. 53:6; 1 Peter 2:24), paying the debt that we could not pay.”
Christ was also purposeful in the manner in which he brought the meal about. Christ never did anything without purpose. Breaking of bread was and is a common way of describing a meal together. The bread when it is broken can then be distributed among many people, when it is whole it can only be with one person at a time. Here he was displaying the nature of His death being for all. When we look back, we see His death wasn’t just about one person. Christ death is for everyone. Also, breaking the bread in their midst, and drawing attention to it, the disciples could see it and hear it as it was broken. To then liken this to His body would be highly illustrative in what was going to happen to him and His body. When we break bread today, we can allow the breaking of the bread to remind us of how He willingly allowed his body to be broken. As we then rip our individual piece, we can be reminded of it being our sins that cause his body to be broken.
Jesus wasn’t just purposeful in choosing bread, but also wine. Some wine can have a color close to that of blood. As the disciples gathered and peered into the glass after Christ explained what it represented, I’m sure they could imagine it as an actual cup of blood. Again, in the moment this was happening, the disciples were utterly confused and more so by this cup of “blood”. Yet, each took a sip from the cup anyway. This Jesus reminded them again was to be done in remembrance of His death. This time, he added one other key. Not only are we to use this time to look back, but we are to use this time to proclaim the death of Christ. Proclamation is an admittance of our dependence. We proclaim His death declaring: “This is necessary!” It is an on the rooftops type of thing where we are proclaiming this to be true. It is an un-shy declaration! We are to look two other places in order to see the Table as a place of blessing we seen next we are to:
3. Look Forward to see the Future Fulfillment (vs. 26b)
Jesus then stated we should continue this proclamation until He comes again. In this, he challenges us to look ahead to when all things will be restored due to His death, we can anticipate his second coming with hopeful longing. We can also see that we are to live here and now in anticipation of Heaven now. We are to proclaim His goodness for today as well as tomorrow. In the future, the fulfillment of all promises will come to fruition. We can look around and know there is more to life than this world.
4. Look Around at His Body (vs. 33-34)
The Church is also called the Body of Christ. Last week, we touched on the issue of unity and living purposefully outside of ourselves. When we look around at our brothers and sisters, it is not to judge them but to love them. We are called to love the Body of Christ. A commentator once said: “It is impossible for a true Christian to get closer to his Lord while at the same time he is separated from his fellow believers”. I believe this to be fully true. When we get closer to the Body of Christ, we come closer to the Heart of Christ. You can’t hear His heart beat unless you are close to His Body. When we come to the Table, it should be in a spirit of unity, which can only be brought about by the Spirit. The Body of Christ all across the globe comes to the Lord’s Table and has for centuries. We are engaging in an ancient, powerful practice that unifies Christ’s church even beyond this building, this city or even this country!
May we seek to examine ourselves and be honest, look to the fullness of what Christ did for us, look to the future he has for us, and look around at the family he has given us when we seek to come to His Table. We will never be perfect, that’s why we need the Table. However, we can do these things to get out of the Table the blessings God so deeply desires to pour out.