First Corinthians 11:23-32
Each September in the country of Malaysia, Chinese people celebrate the Mooncake Festival. It is observed at a time when the moon is very bright and supposedly closer to the earth. The festival is filled with superstitions and pagan ideas. Mooncakes are round meat pies, stuffed with eggs, pork and bean paste. At the end of the 13th century in China the Chinese people planned an uprising against the ruling Manchu dynasty. Messages were hidden in mooncakes and circulated throughout the country. That gave the signal for the revolt. This is believed to be the ancestor of the fortune cookie.
There is a message in the bread of communion, too. It is not a message written on paper. Some eat the bread with no idea that the message is there. But to the discerning there is a deep spiritual message in communion bread — and that message is the very reason for Communion. The message is that Christ died for our sins, and we must now pledge our allegiance to him.
Let’s look at the Lord’s Supper! The Lord’s Supper was instituted by Jesus on the night before He died. For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night 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.” It was a typical Jewish Passover meal. A short table is in the middle of an upstairs room. Jesus and the twelve are “reclined” at the table. Probably in this setting there are servants providing the meal. In the tradition of the Passover meal the bread at the meal would have been unleavened; hard and tasteless. The bread would have been the centerpiece of the meal used for sopping up the food. Jesus takes the 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.” “This is my body,” is a connection to the incarnation of Christ. Jesus is both God and human at the same time. Our participation in eating this bread means that we confirm, He is God! Jesus holds up the bread and breaks it! In the Passover meal a lamb was roasted whole – no broken bones. It was eaten whole – no broken bones. When Jesus dies on the cross, the two thieves legs are broken, but Jesus’ side is pierced – no broken bones. However, at this point, Jesus breaks the bread. The Devil could not defeat Jesus. The world could not destroy Christ. But God could break Himself for each of us.
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.” The “new covenant,” means that the “old covenant” is gone. The Law required that blood had to be shed for the sinner to live. That is why a sacrifice was required at the Temple. No longer would this be necessary. A perfect sacrifice (a perfect Lamb) had been found in Jesus. The cup reminds us of that gift in Jesus Christ.
For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. The Book of Acts reminds us that every time the believers came together in worship, they always “broke bread.” It is a meal that all of us partake in, until Jesus returns and calls us home. We do so to be reminded of the saving acts of God. To remember the price that Christ paid on the cross. To remember the words and events leading to and away from the cross.
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. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.
The examining of ourselves is so often misunderstood. Unworthiness does not refer to the person of the one partaking, but to the manner of his partaking. All are unworthy always. There must be preparation before participation. Many abstain because they feel that they are sinners. It is because we are sinners that we partake in this meal. It is when we don’t feel we need God, that we are not worthy of this meal.
The Sunday School teacher asked her class, “What did Jesus and the disciples do when they finished the Last Supper? One young fellow in the class reluctantly answered, “They asked for separate checks?” No, Jesus paid the whole price.