Yesterday I sent an email to the congregation, inviting you to gather for Communion at the church in groups of five. The present restrictions on gatherings has prompted many churches to consider whether and how the Lord’s Supper may be observed. Now that we are gathering again for Communion, I want to consider the meaning and significance of the Lord’s supper in a series of five notes on 1 Corinthians 11:17-34. There are five words that help us think about the meaning and significance of the Lord’s Supper: remembrance, covenant, anticipation, invitation, and examination.
The first word is remembrance. In 1 Corinthians 11:23-25, Paul quotes the command of Christ:
“For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood.Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’”
“Do this in remembrance of me.” The Lord’s Supper is a meal of remembrance. Jesus himself commanded us to come together and eat and drink in order to remember him.
Why did he ordain that we remember him in this way? He could have said, read the Gospels in remembrance of me, or pray together in remembrance of me. But he says, “Do this – eat this bread and drink from this cup – in remembrance of me.”
Meals have commemorative significance in Scripture. The various feasts ordained in the Old Testament commemorated God’s presence and great works of salvation for his people. The people of Israel celebrated Passover every year in remembrance of the night God delivered them from slavery in Egypt. The meal wasn’t simply a means of recalling what God had done a long time ago, but what God does for his people. He is the God who is present with his people and who delivers his people.
In the same way, when we eat and drink at the Lord’s Supper, we remember God’s great work of salvation in Christ. We remember Jesus’s death on the cross for us. We remember his body, given for us, and his blood, shed for us and for many, for the forgiveness of sins. We’re reminded of God’s love for us, which is manifest and given on the cross.
The meal also reminds us of Jesus’s presence with us. Jesus commands, “Do this in remembrance of me.” We remember him, who is risen and present. He’s with us. His last words to his disciples were: “Behold, I am with you to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). He commanded us to gather together and celebrate this meal to remember and recognize his abiding presence and saving work among us.
We eat and drink in remembrance of Jesus and this act of remembrance is an act of faith and love. The Apostle Peter writes in 1 Peter 1:8:
“Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory.”
We eat and drink in remembrance of Jesus. We eat and drink because though we have not seen him, we love him; though we do not now see him, we believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory.