Text: 1 Corinthians 11:23-32 | Listen to Message
Most Christians are familiar with Jesus’ words instituting The Lord’s Supper (also called Communion): “Do this in remembrance of me.” For those of us in church, we hear these words fairly often. But what does it actually mean to remember – and to proclaim – the Lord’s death until he returns?
Remembering something might be as simple as recalling it from your memory. For example, you might remember that 2 + 2 = 4, that December 25th is Christmas Day, or that you need to get eggs from the grocery store.
But Jesus means more than simple recall. He’s calling us to rehearse not just the fact of his death but, more importantly, the significance. Everyone knows that Jesus died on a Roman cross, but why – to what end? What is the abiding meaning and power of his death that we’re meant to rehearse?
In 1 Corinthians 11, the apostle Paul reveals at least six significant things we proclaim about Jesus’ death when we come together to partake of his body and blood:
1. The Lord’s Supper is a symbol of salvation.
Jesus spoke these famous words while eating the Passover meal with his disciples. This highest of all Jewish feasts commemorated the night God delivered their ancestors out of slavery in Egypt. Incredibly, Jesus said the historic symbols of bread and wine would now represent his body and blood, because he was about to pull off the greatest rescue operation in the history of the world. Just as the Passover was about salvation first and foremost, Communion is about our salvation in Christ.
2. The Lord’s Supper is a symbol of suffering.
Jesus was betrayed and then killed. When we take communion, we’re rehearsing the fact that our Savior did not stand aloof from the pain and suffering and sorrow of this world, but entered into it. God wrote himself into our Story as the servant who would suffer to take away all suffering once and for all.
3. The Lord’s Supper is a symbol of substitution.
Jesus said his body was for us. Now obviously that means his body is a gift, but it means more than that. He was saying we stood condemned and deserving of death, but he would offer himself for us – that is, in our place. He would take the punishment we deserved in order to give us the blessing only he deserved.
4. The Lord’s Supper is a symbol of security.
When Jesus said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood,” he was referring to the ancient practice of “cutting a covenant.” A covenant was ratified by a blood sacrifice, symbolizing the seriousness of the agreement along with the penalty for violating it. Jesus was basically saying, “I offer my own blood, the very blood of God, as the security deposit, the assurance, that I will keep my promise to forgive your sins and give you grace.”
5. The Lord’s Supper is a symbol of sustenance.
In those days, bread wasn’t viewed as empty carbs, it was viewed as life. Only the wealthy could afford to eat meat with any regularity, so bread was the staple nourishment of a normal diet. Jesus was saying his body given for us would be like that: it would meet the most basic needs of our spiritual life. His sacrifice would be the thing that would sustain us before a holy God.
6. The Lord’s Supper is a symbol of satisfaction.
Unlike bread, wine was an extravagance. A gratuity. Wine symbolized abundance, prosperity, celebration, and joy. Bread was to satisfy a physical/biological need, but wine was given to satisfy us on another level. It was about joy and delight. Jesus was showing us that his blood poured out, and received by us a free gift, would bring that kind of all-satisfying delight.
The next time you celebrate The Lord’s Supper, you probably won’t remember these six key words: salvation, suffering, substitution, security, sustenance, and satisfaction. But to direct your heart to these kinds of significances, and to reenact them with gratitude, and to proclaim this hope to others, is what it means to take the bread and wine in remembrance in Christ.