I was typing away on this series on moral and positive law and figured I needed to say something more specific about the Lord’s Supper. After all, if there’s any positive command that can be defended, surely it’s the Lord’s Supper. I mean, Jesus told us to have a weekly ceremony on each Sunday to eat a crumb of unleavened bread and drink a sip of grape juice, didn’t he?
So anyway, the post got just way out of hand. I mean as I got into the scriptures, it just got longer and longer … and now it’s its own series.
I’ve always had a special place in my heart for the communion. I probably enjoy writing the occasional communion meditation as much as anything I do here.
So even though I don’t toe the traditional line, don’t think I take the Lord’s Supper lightly. Indeed, to me, it’s a much bigger deal than for most people in the Churches of Christ. It’s not mere obedience; it’s passion. There’s something ineffable, something mysterious, something divine about the Eucharist — something that we miss by relegating it to a mere “ordinance” or “symbol.” Indeed, I cringe when we announce at the beginning of this special moment: “We’ve been commanded to …” No, it’s much, much more than that.
The Synoptic Gospel accounts
(Mat 26:26-29) While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” 27 Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
(Mark 14:22-25) While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.” 23 Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it. 24 “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them. 25 “I tell you the truth, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God.”
(Luke 22:15-20) And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” 17 After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. 18 For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.
In Matthew and Mark, Jesus’ commands are to the apostles regarding the meal being taken at that moment. There’s no indication that he is commanding something to be done in future meals except in Luke 22:19: “Do this in remembrance of me.” “Do” is present imperative, speaking of future, ongoing action.
Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper at a meal on a Thursday night. He says nothing of how frequently to do “this,” and it’s less than clear whether “this” is just the bread and wine or a meal enjoyed with Jesus. He certainly doesn’t say, “Do this weekly on Sundays.”
And there’s this mysterious saying: “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” But Jesus would have had to live on earth another year before taking the Passover again. It didn’t happen.
Or he could be referring to taking communion with the apostles in the future, but there’s no Eucharist recorded after the resurrection and before the Ascension. There are some meals, where Jesus ate with apostles, but none is quite like what we call the Lord’s Supper. Most nearly Eucharistic is Jesus’ visitation on the road to Emmaus —
(Luke 24:30) When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them.
This is also in Luke and took place on the first day of the week. It seems very likely that Luke intends us to take this as fulfillment of 22:19 — but there’s no mention of wine. It’s a meal, and as was typical of a First Century meal, bread was served. This is evidently “this Passover” that Jesus referred to.
In short, although it’s obvious that Jesus’ placed special emphasis on the bread and the wine and clearly expected his disciples to continue to eat and drink in his memory, Jesus seems to have had something in mind other than an command to eat bread and drink Welch’s on each Sunday morning (Sunday night if Providentially hindered).