Seventeenth Century Puritan, Thomas Watson wrote, “God can turn stones into bread, and a sinner can turn bread into stones – the bread of life into the stone of stumbling.” Almost 400 years later, spiritual people still stumble over one of the most precious and powerful ordinances in the local church.
For over 2,000 years, the Lord’s Supper has been a means by which followers of Jesus Christ have remembered their Lord and Savior, proclaimed His gospel and been knitted together in unity as a family of faith.
Here are three simple ways you can prepare your heart before you head to church this weekend and partake in Communion (without letting this symbol become a stumbling block). (see 1 Corinthians 11:23-33).
We want to properly understand The Lord’s Supper — and practice it in a way that honors Christ and His gospel – so we must start by understanding another symbolic meal that God’s people practiced for over a 1,000 years before the time of Jesus, the Passover meal. The Passover meal was the annual occasion for Jews to look back and remember their deliverance from slavery in Egypt.
So today, the Lord’s Supper provides an occasion to look back and remember how God has delivered us from sin, from hurts, from baggage of the past. Spend a few minutes looking back and remembering how God delivered you from a life of slavery to sin. Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper for us to have the occasion to look back. “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” (1 Corinthians 11:24).
- Look back and remember.
The Passover meal commemorated the central event of the Old Testament → God rescuing His people from slavery in Egypt. This story of deliverance is known as the Exodus. God has always been in the deliverance business.
- God delivered the Israelites during the famine.
- God delivered them from slavery in Egypt.
- God delivered them across the Red Sea.
To help Israel remember and celebrate God’s faithfulness in delivering them from slavery, God instituted a meal for the Jews designed to help them worship and remember His saving work. God commanded that each year His covenant people come together in their homes with their families over a meal that symbolized and memorialized the night that He “passed over” the sins of Israel in order to rescue them from the bonds of their oppressors. Every detail about the meal was symbolic, given by God to help His people remember how faithful He had been to them through His rescuing grace.
During the Passover meal, Israel also celebrated and remembered that God had promised, through His prophets, that there was coming an even greater rescuing, a day when God would rescue them from their slavery to sin just as He had rescued them from their slavery to Egypt. The people of Israel would gather together and celebrate that they were once slaves, yet God had set them free and would eventually set them free in an even greater way.
As you prepare to gather with other believers and celebrate Communion as the Church, remember how God has delivered you so many times and in so many ways, but none greater than the all-sufficient, undeserved deliverance from sin.
- Look within and repent.
Ironically enough, it was during the middle of celebrating the Passover meal with His disciples that Jesus decided to reveal God’s greater story. During the meal, Jesus, as the prophets before Him had done, reminded His disciples that the Exodus and the Passover meal that they were celebrating were mere foreshadows of a greater Exodus and a greater meal that God had promised. Then Jesus shared with them one of the greatest revelations in the history of mankind.
Gathered around the meal, Jesus affirmed to His friends that His looming death was inevitable. He had told them this before, but this time He added a twist to His proclamation. He promised them that His death and sacrifice they would witness in a few short hours, was going to be the greater Exodus that the people of God had been longing for. Likewise, He informed them that the very meal they were now sharing with Him would become the example of the greater meal that His people would celebrate to remember this new Exodus.
In saying these things to His disciples, Jesus progressed with the traditional blessings that the head of the house spoke during the Passover meal. And now as Christ – the head of the Church, He was offering His own blessings to His disciples, blessings that would henceforth be repeated anytime God’s people gathered to remember His sacrifice (Mark 14:22-26).
Can you feel the weight of this news, personally? The tenor must have been heavy as each man considered his own shortcomings. Much like a prisoner on death row, if we had no hope, it would still be called the Last Supper, but because we partake with the confidence that Christ won the battle over sin, death, and the grave, we now call it the Lord’s Supper. If Jesus is your Lord, then the Lord’s Supper provides you the time to examine your own heart today and repent of any unconfessed sin. “Let a person examine himself” 1 Corinthians 11:27).
Avoid the temptation to judge others, and let the Spirit of God expose sin that you may not even be aware of in your life so that you can confess it and repent of it and enjoy unadulterated communion with your Lord. (1 John 1:9). In fact, at Mobberly, the deacons who help prepare the elements prior to the Sunday celebration in worship, actually spend time praying for the people who will be partaking each element. We pray that God will work powerfully through this symbolic element in our Worship Gatherings.
- Look ahead and rejoice (1 Corinthians 11:26).
“Does partaking in Communion impact my life today?” Every time we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, we proclaim our hope in His second return. It is a communal, not an individual, act of worship that we engage in to celebrate the sufficiency of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is our cause for celebration as a body of faith. That’s why it’s open to all who are here today and have become adopted into God’s family. As John Westerhoff said: “The Lord’s Supper has a victorious redemptive focus more than a somber, funereal penitential one.” The early Christians celebrated their sacred meal on Sunday — the Lord’s Day, the day of victorious resurrection. Those who are gathered around The Lord’s Table might have been sinners, but they were redeemed sinners.
Use your personal time of preparing your heart to look ahead with confidence and rejoice that Jesus is coming again! “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26).
Note: The Bible does not teach that the bread or the drink somehow has been magically transformed into the actual body or blood of Christ. Yet, I do believe that The Lord’s Supper involves far more than mere ritualism. It’s a beautiful symbol of Christ dwelling among us during our worship, receiving glory from and giving faith to His people. The ordinances of Lord’s Supper and Baptism provide the backdrop of spiritual conversations we can and should be having with our friends, family, and children.
Since we have so much to be thankful for, we also include at Mobberly an offering to help those in need that our Benevolence Ministry will use throughout the year to help those less fortunate. So if you’re planning to come to Mobberly this Sunday, come prepared to give such a token of gratefulness at the close of the service.