I think it’s safe to say that you’re most likely not doing the Lord’s Supper the way Jesus did it!
That may shock you but I have good reason to believe that what you do about once a month, probably on a Sunday morning looks very different from what Jesus did with his disciples almost 2000 years ago on a Thursday evening.
For starters you’re probably not reclining on the floor, if you’re like many American churches then you’re probably not sharing a common cup and you may not even be drinking real wine! In addition to this you most likely aren’t enjoying a whole meal together.
It’s true, how we celebrate the Lord’s Supper now may not look a lot like what Jesus did at the Passover feast with his disciples.
Have we done something wrong by changing the traditions that Jesus participated in? In order to answer that question we must first clearly understand the message Jesus was trying to convey through the bread and the cup.
The Lord’s Supper wasn’t always the Lord’s Supper
I think sometimes we forget that before it became the Lord’s Supper it was the Passover meal for the Jewish people. When we forget this history we lose out big time on the meaning. Celebrating the Passover was an important holiday for the Jews that emphasized God’s ability to save his people from slavery and certain death.
The disciples had a deep understanding of the significance of the Passover meal, thus when Jesus introduced a new aspect to it they immediately understood the significance.
It was a mnemonic device not a magical ceremony
The important thing for Paul was that the Lord’s Supper be a time of remembrance of what Jesus had done. (I Corinthians 11:24-25)
Sometimes we can get a little to hung up on making sure that everything is ceremonially correct about how we conduct the Lord’s Supper. We think that if we use the right words, choose the right music and go through the motions correctly then God will bless us or endow us with great spiritual power or something.
Paul does talk to the Corinthians about how they are conducting the Lord’s Supper and his instructions are pretty broad. He tells them that they can’t participate in idol worship and the Lord’s Supper too (I Corinthians 10:21). Paul also warns the Corinthians to be respectful of others when participating (I Corinthians 11:28-29).
No matter what it should focus our hearts on Jesus
We need to be careful not to make the Lord’s Supper an inward focused activity. Paul calls the Corinthians to examine their selves only to make sure they are treating the other members of the Body of Christ with love and care. This examination is important but it’s not the main focus of the Lord’s Supper.
Jesus is the center of the Lord’s Supper!
When we do it right we will be thinking about the life of Jesus, the teachings of Jesus, the death and resurrection of Jesus, the forgiveness of Jesus and the church of Jesus! These are all vital aspects of the Lord’s Supper, they are the basic elements of the Christian faith that we must return to again and again.
Faith over form
In Christianity form ought to always serve as a tool to strengthen our faith. The Lord’s Supper is a tool that was commanded by Jesus. However, the form in which it takes can differ. Yes, I’m pretty sure you don’t celebrate the Lord’s Supper the way Jesus did, however I’m also pretty sure you don’t celebrate it the same way we do in Ukraine or the same way other believers celebrate it in China, Brazil or South Africa.
Jesus isn’t as interested in the form of our communion service as he is in the faith that it kindles in our spirit!