1 Corinthians 11:23-26
The Lord’s Supper is a memorial of Golgotha, of the body given and the blood shed. Jesus’ key verb is “’Remember me”. As he distributed the bread the command was clear: “Do this in remembrance of me” (Lk. 22:19). It brings the past into the present. This vivid reminder is followed by three further realities:
- First: Anticipation. The Lord’s Supper brings the future as well as the past into the present. The anticipation is of the heavenly banquet when we shall sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the consummated presence of God (Mt. 26:29).
- Second: Consecration – to the pilgrim life (2 Cor. 5:7f.). We gather in order to scatter; we worship together with the Lord’s people that we may be equipped to witness to our crucified and risen Lord in our secular world. Yet most vital of all:
- Third: Realisation of Christ’s living presence. Jesus’ physical body is not on any human altar but is glorified now in Heaven at the Father’s right hand. But his presence mediated by the Holy Spirit is with us here on earth and not least as we meet together around his table.
Andrew Bonar was a Scottish Presbyterian who ministered at a time when the Church of Scotland had begun a mission to the Jews in Budapest. In 1842 after the work of conversion began in earnest, at their very first celebration of the Lord’s Supper together, an eyewitness recalls: “Almost as soon as the Service began, a strange mysterious presence filled the place. A hushed silence fell on the little company, only occasionally broken by the suppressed sob of some hurting heart… An Irish gentleman who was there observed: ‘I thought I heard the sound of [Jesus’] noiseless steps as he passed up and down in the midst of us.’ ”
Bonar goes on to combine the account in Revelation, where the risen Lord walked amongst his gathered people represented by the seven golden lampstands, with the occasion when blind Bartimaeus’ cry at Jericho caused Jesus to stop in his tracks and engage him in a conversation that led to his healing (Rev. 1:12; Lk. 18:41). Bonar counsels: “Jesus is walking today among the seven golden candle sticks, and he will stop here, at our Communion Table, to see if any of you want anything from him.”
For reflection: As we remember Jesus’ sacrificial death, we also embrace his living presence. The first instance of the breaking of bread was in the Upper Room, prior to the cross; the second was after his resurrection with the two in the Emmaus village. It is the living Christ they encountered then and “he was known by them in the breaking of bread” (Lk 24:35).