Two events occurred on the evening before Jesus was arrested in the garden of Gethsemane. He and the disciples observed the Passover meal. This was in remembrance of the Exodus by the Israelites from Egypt. They had specific instructions for a meal to eat before they left. This included the eating of the Passover lamb. It was that commemoration that Jesus and his disciples shared together.
After they had finished the Passover meal, Jesus proceeded to implement what we call the Lord’s supper or communion. He said the wine would represent his blood and the bread would represent his body. Various churches observe this in different ways. For instance, some use grape juice instead of wine. Some use crackers instead of bread.
Some churches view the wine and bread as tokens or symbols. Some think the presence of Jesus is there in the observing of this event. That is called consubstantiation. Some churches believe that a miracle takes place in that the wine and bread become the literal blood and flesh of Jesus. That is called transubstantiation.
Some churches observe communion on a scheduled basis such as quarterly. Some churches observe communion every Sunday. Some churches take communion to those who are unable to attend service and an ordained deacon or minister presents this to the housebound person.
There are key instructions from Jesus to help us understand what he intended. This must be done in a serious, worshipful, respectful manner since it recalls the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross. Jesus said to do this. He also said when we do it, it is in remembrance of him. He gave no calendar schedule or frequency for this observance.
In first Corinthians chapter 11 Paul had to admonish that church for their misuse of the Lord’s supper. They combined it with another meal, and it became a banquet instead of a sacred observance. Previously in chapter 10:21 Paul declared that the members of the church could not drink of the Lord’s cup and participate in idolatry and their sacrifices. What complicated matters was the divisions that occurred within that church. How sad it was that before the apostles went to be with the Lord divisions and contentions already occurred within the body of Christ.
At the Lord’s supper Jesus said that the spilling of his blood was a New Testament. That was a new covenant or a new contract. This is not to imply that the Abrahamic covenant with God passed away, but that it was extended into and through the person of Christ.
At the conclusion of the Lord’s supper Jesus said three things: he would not drink of the vine until the disciples joined him in the father’s kingdom. At his crucifixion they would scatter as sheep. And most important of all, Jesus gave the promise that he would be resurrected and meet them in Galilee.
In first Corinthians 11:27-29 Paul said the partakers of the Lord’s supper should examine themselves whether they are worthy to partake because those who are unworthy bring damnation to themselves because they do not discern the Lord’s body
Jesus observed the Passover as an honorable Jew would do. Afterwards, he implemented a new observance, the New Testament or covenant. This included tokens that represented his body and blood on Calvary. He reminded them that his death was not the end of the matter. Even though they would be fearful and hide, they would be the instruments of God to spread the gospel. When we observed the Lord’s supper, we also are his coming again. Praise God for both!