The Lord’s Supper is one of the most powerful evangelistic and faith-building tools in the arsenal of the Church. Jesus introduced it on the night before His Crucifixion.
“And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body.’ Then He took the cup, and when He had given thanks He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. And He said to them, ‘This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many.” Mark 14:22-24
The disciples were experienced with the Passover Feast (also known as the Passover Seder). They had participated in the annual Feast most of their lives. It was the retelling of how God delivered Israel from His Judgment of Egypt. Moses told the Israelites to take a male lamb in its first year, without blemish, and kill it at twilight (one lamb for every household). Moses instructed them to take the lamb’s blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the house where they ate it. The families ate the flesh of the lamb on the same night after it was roasted in fire, along with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Moses told them not to eat the lamb raw or boil it in water. The entire lamb had to be roasted in fire and consumed completely. Anything that remained in the morning was to be burned with fire. The people were to eat the lamb, unleavened bread and bitter herbs with a belt on their waist, sandals on their feet and a staff in their hands. “So you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord’s Passover.” (Exodus 12:11)
God said He was going to strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast, and that He would execute judgment against all the gods of Egypt. Moses told the Israelites that the blood on their houses would be a sign to God – “And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 12:13) Moses told the Israelites that the Passover Feast would be a memorial to them throughout all generations. He called it “an everlasting ordinance” (Exodus 12:14). Moses said that when Jewish children asked their parents the purpose for the Passover Seder, parents were to answer – “It is the Passover sacrifice of the LORD, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt when He struck the Egyptians and delivered our households.” (Exodus 12:27) God did as He promised and the people of Israel were freed to leave Egypt.
The primary theme of the Passover Feast is freedom from slavery. Israel lived in slavery to Egypt for many years, but God freed them to leave Egypt and return to Canaan, the land of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The theme is played out during the Passover Seder through carefully orchestrated steps, along with specific foods and drinks that illustrate Israel’s journey from slavery to freedom.
The disciples were familiar with the blessings, washings, eating, drinking, telling, praying, and singing of the Passover Feast – but on the night before Jesus was Crucified, the Lord added something they had never seen before. As they were eating, Jesus took the bread, blessed and broke it, gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My Body.” Then Jesus took the cup, gave thanks, gave the cup to the disciples, and they all drank from it. Jesus said, “This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many.” Jesus was telling the disciples that He was – “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)
How did the Jesus’ followers participate in the Lord’s Supper after He returned to Heaven? Luke wrote in Acts 2:46-47 that Jewish believers continued daily with one accord in the Temple, broke bread from house to house, and ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. The words “breaking bread” in the Greek are klontes arton and are used for breaking off pieces of bread to eat an ordinary meal as well as the Lord’s breaking of bread at the Last Supper. It could have been the Jewish followers of Jesus remembering the Lord’s death or it could have been Christian fellowship around a meal.
We see a few other places in Acts where believers “broke bread” together and the Apostle Paul was involved in each one (Acts 20 and 27). In fact, Paul is the only Apostle to explain in detail what we call “the Lord’s Supper.” Paul explained that the Lord’s Supper was something Jesus had given him – “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you.” (1 Corinthians 11:23) It’s amazing that in all the historical information we have in the Book of Acts and the Letters of the Apostles that Paul is the only one to write anything about the Lord’s Supper – and even Paul only wrote about it one time. He wrote to the Corinthians because they were doing it wrong.
In the next part of our study, we will learn about the many problems in the Corinthian Church and how the believers’ behavior at the Lord’s Supper brought pain and suffering into many of their lives. It’s a lesson all Christians need to know.
In Christ’s Love and Grace,
“Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”