Last night I finished a study leading up to Easter on the ministry of Jesus from the upper room to the empty tomb. We started six weeks ago by studying the Thursday night before Jesus went to the cross. Today we traditionally remember that day.
On the Church calendar, this is called Maundy Thursday. The word Maundy comes from a Latin word meaning “command.” This was the day that Jesus commanded his disciples to “Love one another, as I have loved you.” It is also the day that Jesus celebrated the Last Supper and instituted the Lord’s supper. While this whole week is considered “Holy Week” today moves us closer to Jesus sacrifice on the cross.
Today many Churches across the world will gather for special communion worship programs to remember the events of this night. Some Churches I know are celebrating the evening by having a Passover meal recreation to help people fully understand that night. The group of Churches I serve have gone a different direction in their emphasis. We take communion every week and remember the last supper and Jesus death on the cross whenever we worship.
Communion is the interesting time in any Church. Each place does it a little different. Some chose one loaf of bread and one cup. Other Churches like us use little-precut pieces of bread with little individual cups, mainly for hygiene reasons. There are dozens of variations on these methods. The beautiful part of this little celebration is that God gives us the freedom to take it in our own way as long as our emphasis is correct.
Quite often when I speak of communion, I hear someone quote a verse of scripture from 1 Corinthians 11:27 that says, “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.” This quotation is usually followed by some sort of explanation that we need to be careful about having our life right with God before we take the bread and the cup. The problem with that understanding is that it is not a very good interpretation of Paul’s words.
Please let me explain. The passage is about a Church that comes together for a fellowship meal, and at the end, they were to take communion. The Church had people showing up ahead of other people and eating all the food. There were even those who were getting drunk. At the end of their meal, the people took a piece of bread and a cup just like it was another part of the meal without ever thinking about Jesus. Paul writes to remind them to focus on Christ and his work on the cross at communion. The bread is to remember his body broken. The cup is to remember his spilled blood. We celebrate the Lord’s Supper in an “unworthy manner” when we forget about what Jesus did for our sins on the cross.
Paul is not telling them to clean up their minds and actions before they take communion. If that were the case, no one could take it. He is telling them to focus their thoughts on Christ. The emphasis is not on us and our shortcomings, rather on Jesus and his overcoming.
If you are a believer and tonight, you take communion for Maundy Thursday, or if you take it tomorrow at a good Friday program or if you simply take it on Sunday morning as part of your Easter celebration you need to know that no one is good enough to take communion. We take communion because Jesus did an excellent work on the cross for us.
Today and this weekend may Jesus love for you be ever close to your hearts as we meet to worship him.