“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
– Matthew 18:20
The Memorial Supper is our symbolic rendezvous with Jesus. The symbols serves as a remembrance aid of what he did for us (the bread of life) and what he will do for us (the cup of the covenant). But do not think that because it is conducted symbolically, that Jesus is present only symbolically. For if Jesus is present when two or more are gathered in his name, then he is actually ‘there’ at the Memorial Supper.
This is the mind set with which we should approach the evening – that Christ is here with us. We are dining with our faith brothers, true. But primarily we are dining with our elder brother, Christ Jesus. This is his meal. It is hosted by the Father – Jesus is the person of honor.
This reminds us of the parable of the king who hosted a feast for his son, in the 22nd chapter of the book of Matthew. Verses 3 through 8 tell of the king’s difficulty in getting his invited guests to come. Verses 9 and 10 tell us that the king thereafter gave an open invitation to all who could be found to come to the feast. But then a problem arose:
“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless.”
– Matthew 22:11-12
The king’s generosity allowed for even the lowliest of mankind to come and share in the feast. Yet one guest was not respectful of the occasion. He had not come prepared to share in a marriage feast. The king wondered why he was there and who let in someone so indifferent to the occasion. The man had no answer. It continues:
“Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ “For many are invited, but few are chosen.’”
– Matthew 22:13-14
The disrespectful guest was forced out of the feast where he awaited certain judgment – the weeping and gnashing of his teeth. While all were invited, not all were chosen to remain.
It is similar with the Memorial Supper. The Father has invited all, even the lowliest ones of mankind, to share in the Memorial Supper with his son. Those who come must realize that they have come to eat and drink with Christ. It is a participatory meal, not a spectator event. We recall that at the first supper, there were no observers. Everyone participated. No provision was made even for servants or attendants.
So, it is appropriate to ask, Why have I come to the Memorial Supper? Have I come prepared to eat and drink? Or is the Father wondering why I am here and how I got in? And, more importantly, have I placed myself in judgment for failing to come prepared? If you are not clothed with the proper state of mind, now is the time to readjust yourself before Jesus arrives.
Behold, he comes!
“When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve.”
On this night, Jesus’ apostles gathered first. They found the room as Jesus had told them and they prepared it for the meal. (Mark 14:12-16) However, they forgot one thing. They were full of obedience, but they were not full of humility.
It was the custom in those days that the servant of the host wash the feet of the guests. But on this night, there was no servant. One of the apostles could have taken on the role of servant and washed the feet of his brothers, but not one would take such a humble position. Nevertheless, Jesus allowed the meal to began. But before he introduced a new aspect to the meal, he set aside his garments, took on the servant’s role and washed their feet himself, including the feet of Judas. And after he had demonstrated what true humility was, the meal continued. (John 13:1-17)
What can we learn from this aspect of the supper? That we must approach the evening with humility toward our brothers, all of them. It is not an evening of judgment or superiority. All are brothers on equal footing before God. Our master is one – the Christ. And as Jesus said on that night:
“I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.”
– John 13:15-16
Let us prepare ourselves to receive the presence of the Christ. In whatever way we can show humility to our brothers, let it be so. It is not our custom to wash one another’s feet; but it is the custom to be gracious to the host and to his guests. Therefore, let all matters of contention be dissolved and washed away so that when our host arrives, we will be found ready.
The meal continues. Our Lord lifts the bread and says:
“Take and eat; this is my body.”
Our Lord has taken the first bite and the bread is passed. During the first supper, each apostle was personally presented with the bread. And each one individually responded to it. Our Lord has said ‘take and eat.’ And each apostle obeyed. This night, as it travels from brother to brother, let each one respond personally to Jesus’ invitation. Will we ‘take and eat’ or will we let it pass?
Contemplate the meaning of the bread. Jesus said it means his body. On an earlier occasion, Jesus made the same analogy. He said:
“I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
– John 6:48-51
Thus, the invitation is given to all – to the whole world. All who want everlasting life must eat of this bread.
“Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me.”
– John 6:53-57
Only those sharing in the meal are given a resurrection to everlasting life, and are in union with Christ. Those who do not choose to eat of it will die.
Of course, the bread of the Memorial supper is symbolic. It is clearly not the actual flesh of Jesus. Such a literal idea is offensive, even as many of his disciples commented:
“On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”
– John 6:60
Jesus was using the idea of bread as a symbol to which he gave a spiritual meaning:
“The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life.”
– John 6:63
The bread of life is the living word of God as revealed in the Son. Jesus gave us this bread as a gift of sharing in divine sonship. When he said ‘unless you eat the flesh,’ he is telling us that we must live our lives as he lived his, not as a carpenter, but as a son of God dedicated to doing the Father’s will. And when we ‘take and eat,’ we are voluntarily demonstrating that we are willing to do just that.
And our Lord takes the cup and says:
“Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks,
he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you.’”
Our Lord has taken the first sip and the cup is passed. During the first supper, each apostle was personally presented with the cup. And each one individually responded to it. Our Lord has said ‘drink.’ And each apostle obeyed.
Contemplate the meaning of the cup. Jesus said it means ‘his blood of the covenant.’ In the parallel account by Luke, Jesus said:
“In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”
– Luke 22:20
The Apostle Paul identified the new covenant mediated by Jesus as the same covenant spoken of by the prophet Jeremiah.
“But in fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises. For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. But God found fault with the people and said: “The days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they did not remain faithful to my covenant, and I turned away from them, declares the Lord. This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.”
– Hebrews 8:6-10
The new covenant is a covenant to be God’s people. The terms of the covenant are not written as laws. They are discerned by what is in our minds (acquired by spirit-led knowledge), and what is in our hearts (acquired by whole-soul belief and then faith). Thus, no man can judge another’s worthiness to be in the covenant.
Jesus said this covenant is established by his blood which is to be poured out on our behalf. Again, by what Jesus said in the 6th chapter of John, we know he is not referring to his literal blood. (John 6:63) Instead, he is referring to spirit:
“God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.”
– Acts 2:32-33
“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.”
– Titus 3:4-7
The outpouring of holy spirit, specifically the spirit of truth, was the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise:
“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you.”
– John 16:12-14
And the work of the spirit of truth is what validates the new covenant. (Hebrews 8:6-10) Therefore, when Jesus said ‘drink,’ he was telling us that we must allow the spirit of truth to dwell in our hearts and direct our steps. And when we ‘drink,’ we are voluntarily demonstrating that we are willing to do just that.
“When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.”
When the Memorial Supper was completed, Jesus went on to teach many things. The Apostle John recounts those matters. (John 13:31-17:26) And when the teaching was completed, they sang hymns and went out.
The meal ended with praise to the Father and, no doubt, thanksgiving. Likewise, as we complete our meals, let us praise the Father and give Him thanks for the gift of His son to lead us to life everlasting.
By our participating in this symbolic drama, we are confessing our union with Christ Jesus and allowing Jesus to confess union with us. (Matthew 10:32-33) We are voluntarily accepting our sonship with God and allowing ourselves to be led by spirit. We are submitting to the baptism into Christ’s death so that when we are released from the flesh, we will have a glorious resurrection like our Lord.
“Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.”
– Romans 6:3-5
Yes, the Memorial Supper is a symbolic drama of sonship with God and being heirs to the kingdom of the heavens. This was a fine culmination to the life of Jesus of Nazareth. Everything he taught is summed up in this meal, along with the lessons of that night. Instead of a having set of rules on how to conduct ourselves, we look to the bread of life and we allow the spirit to lead us into all truth.
For example, when we are unsure of how to handle a certain situation, we look to how Jesus handled a similar matter. When we struggle with earthly life, we look to the courage and strength of Jesus who was ever mindful of the temporal nature of life on earth and the enduring life in the heavens. And when we experience doubt about our worth to the Father, we look to how Jesus treated his followers and see our true value.
Not all are willing to pick up their crosses and follow the Christ. (Mark 8:34) But to those who do, untold blessings await.
“What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived” the things God has prepared for those who love him.”
– 1 Corinthians 2:9
What a night for the sons of the kingdom! We have eaten of the bread of life and drank of the spirit in the presence of our Lord. We communed with our brothers and confirmed our dedication to live as faith sons of God until our release from the flesh.
In all of our subsequent gatherings, we must be certain to invite the Christ and acknowledge his presence. As he himself said, in all such occasions, ‘there am I with them.’ (Matthew 18:20) Let us praise the Father.