THE LORD'S TABLE
The Lord's Table, Holy Communion or Lord's Supper, are very familiar words, aren't they? Every Sunday we partake in the communion; the priest serves us with bread and wine and we go away. Do we really understand the meaning of Holy Communion?
Let's first look at the origin of Holy Communion. Exodus 12 talks about the Passover. What is the Passover? The Passover was celebrated by the Jews honouring the night when God delivered them from slavery. God had commanded the Israelites to kill a lamb and smear its blood on the door frames so that when the Lord passes over, He would see the marks of blood and would not harm the members of that family. In remembrance of their deliverance from the hands of the Egyptians, the Jews used to celebrate the festival of Passover every year.
Why did God ask them to kill the lamb? The lamb was killed as a substitute for the person who would have died in the plague. This means some innocent blood has to be shed in your place for the sins committed by you. The Lord's Table was instituted on the night of the Passover. The Passover foreshadows the innocent blood of Christ shed in our place for our sins. Jesus was the Lamb of God. To sum up, the Passover was celebrated remembering the deliverance from the bondage of slavery for Israelites. The Holy Communion is celebrated remembering the deliverance from the bondage of sin, not only for the Jews, but also for us, the Gentiles.
1 Corinthians 11:25 says "In the same way, after supper He took the cup, saying, 'This cup is the New Covenant in My blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of Me.'" This verse talks about the New Covenant, which means there was an Old Covenant also. Let us see what the Old Covenant was.
The Old Covenant was the agreement between God and people sealed with the blood of animals. This means, in the Old Testament, God accepted symbolic offerings. When a person committed sin, he had to sacrifice an animal which died as a substitute for him. But remember, animals cannot remove sins, only God can do that. The new covenant is an agreement between God and people sealed with the blood of Jesus. Instead of animals in the Old Testament, Jesus was sacrificed. This sacrifice is forever. All who come to God through Jesus with faith and full confidence confessing sins will surely get forgiveness. Jesus is the Lamb of God.
Again, this verse says about remembrance. What does God want us to remember when we partake in the Holy Communion?
1. His Suffering. Isaiah 53:3-5 says, "He was despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces, He was despised, and we esteemed Him not. Surely He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered Him stricken by God, smitten by Him and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed." When we partake in the Holy Communion, we ought to remember His sufferings. He was beaten up, people spat on Him, He took up the cross, all this only for me. This was supposed to happen to me, but He took it up. He shed His body and blood on the cross instead of me.
2. Death. God is a holy God, the God of justice and truth. He cannot tolerate sin and the outcome of sin is death. I sinned so much that I deserved death. But God says, "No, My child, you don't die. I want you to live. My Son will die for you." And Jesus says, "Yes, My child, I will die for you. Just come to Me." I was supposed to be beaten up, people were to spit on me, I had to take up the cross, but He did it for me. The Sinless One took my sins. What a love! I sometimes wonder why He should love me so much. I don't have any such qualities to please Him, still why does He love me so much? I sought an answer and I got it. The last three words of 1 John 4:10 gave me the answer: that is "God is love." Yes, He loves me so much because He is love.
1. Testimony Of Unity. "Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf" (1Cor.10:17). Even though we are different individuals, coming from different homes and different places, we share the same bread and drink wine from the same cup. This shows that we are united in Christ. So, the Holy Communion is a testimony of unity.
2. Public Proclamation. The Holy Communion is a public proclamation that Christ has died for me. "For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes" (1Cor.11:26). Unknowingly we are proclaiming that Christ has died for us and that our sins are forgiven because of Him.
3. Reminder. It is a constant reminder that Christ is coming again. "For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes."
Before partaking the Lord’s Supper, the priests always say, "All those who have prepared themselves may please come and participate in the Supper." How are we supposed to prepare ourselves?
1. Partake worthily. "Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord" (1Cor.11:27). “Unworthy manner” means without understanding the meaning of the Lord's Table. We have to participate in the Holy Communion worthily, with reverence and respect. We need to understand what the Holy Communion means, what is the significance, and His love on the cross. Remember, if we partake in the Lord's Table unworthily, we are guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. We are bringing Lord's judgement on ourselves. We need to be very careful while participating in the Lord's Table. The fact is that no one is worthy to have Lord's body and blood because we are sinners. But remember, even though we are sinners, we are saved by His grace.
2. Examine yourselves. "But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgement" (1Cor.11:31). We need to examine ourselves if there is any unconfessed sin or resentful attitude. Knowingly or unknowingly, we sin a lot. Ask God to forgive such sins. Any misunderstanding with your brother, resolve it and then come. Do not keep yourself from partaking in the Holy Communion. We need to confess, reconcile and then participate.
3. Honour. To honour the body of Christ means to understand what Lord's Supper is and then to participate. Never partake in the Lord's Table because you are used to it, or with an attitude of what others will think about you. Remember, it is not a ritual or a habit.
May the Lord Almighty help us to prepare ourselves before partaking in the Holy Communion worthily.