After Supper He Took the Cup…
If you can stand it, I would like to ask you all one more time to look at the Lord’s Supper through the lens of the New Testament and see if you would not agree with me that this may be one of the biggest blind spots for the church around the world in the last 2000 years!
1. It’s a supper, stupid!
First and foremost, if you look at all the texts that describe what we now practice and call “The Lord’s Supper”, you will notice that it was in the context of Jesus and His disciples sharing the Passover meal together.
Mtt. 26:26 And while they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples.
Mark 14: 22 And while they were eating, He took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it; and gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is My body.”
Luke 22:20 And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood.”
John 13:3-4 Jesus… rose from super, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself about.
Later on we see the early church, following the instructions of those very same disciples, doing the same exact thing!
Acts 2:44,46 And all those who had believed were together, and had all things in common… and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart.
Acts 20:7 And on the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread
I Cor 11:20-22 Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper, for in your eating, each one takes his own supper first; and one is hungry and another is drunk.
I Cor 11:33 So then, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another.
Jude 12 These men are those who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves.
If the Bible was to fall out of the sky today and hit me on the head and I read for the first time the above scriptures, I must conclude that the early church had a meal together they called the Lord’s Supper.
If I never knew that there was a thing called a Christian, I would expect that if I found some of them on planet earth they would gather together like their Master and first disciples and eat a grand meal, with lots of food and drink and so carry out His commandments.
Why we don’t eat this meal together today when we gather as believers in this same Jesus is beyond finding out? I have asked high and low, searched out far and wide and the only reason I have been presented is that the early churched abused this meal and so we then changed it to a wafer and cracker….
After all, we don’t want any drunks in our church! I long to be in a fellowship of committed Christ-followers that gather together with such festivity and celebration that at least the “potential” to get drunk is very present!
2. “He who ate my Bread has lifted up his heel against me.”
Secondly, I think we just don’t understand the biblical metaphor for “breaking bread” well enough. It is a custom that the Western world has little or no comparison to.
When my family first went to live in the tiny little country of Tajikistan as missionaries in 2000, we were soon offered the delight of eating a meal with a local Tajik family. What we witnessed that day changed our lives forever.
As we sat on the floor on a beautiful rug waiting for a huge meal, the man of the family took a loaf of flat bread and broke it and passed it around to each of us sitting there! It was his way of welcoming us to his house and his way of expressing that he will provide for us. Anything that he could offer was ours!
I immediately said to myself, “This is what Jesus did! Yet I am experiencing it first hand in a Muslim home completely cut off from the Gospel.”
When the head of the house broke bread and humbly passed it around to each of us, I thought this must be a small ritual that dates back 1000’s of years.
Sure enough you can read about something very similar in the Psalms.
“Even my close friend in whom I trusted, Who ate my bread, Has lifted up his heel against me” Ps 41:9
In the time of David to “share bread with someone” meant that you were one with each other. One of heart and friendship was secure. There was often a “covenant meal” eaten by its participants to guarantee the deed! Much like the example of Jonathan who stripped himself of robe, armor and sword and gave them to David.
As is always the case, Jesus followed this “red thread” through to its conclusion when, on the night of His betrayal – during the Passover Meal! – quotes from this same passage concerning Judas:
“I do not speak of all of you. I know the ones I have chosen; but it is that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘HE WHO EATS MY BREAD HAS LIFTED UP HIS HEEL AGAINST ME.’ John 13:18
Given these two tragic situations one must conclude that the height of treachery is to dine with someone and then turn your back against him in betrayal.
3. Constantine the Crook
Finally one must study the influence of Constantine the Great (see: ca.313 Edict of Milan) to understand HOW the church could get so off course in such a simple, powerful experience of the original meal and love feast.
(In this regard, I do not feel any liberties to discuss the dilemma of the Roman Catholic church as it attempted – down through the centuries – to give blatant meaning to this simple meal by describing God being physically present in the host, etc.)
Constantine the Great, operating out of his new glorious capital Constantinople (modern day Istanbul), wanted to unite and consolidate his newly acquired empire from the Romans. His “brilliant” idea was to use the persecuted Christian church, which hitherto had met simply in homes, and make them THE official religion of his Kingdom. He made Sunday THE official holiday of the empire and turned the previously pagan temples into huge Christian cathedrals… and basically forced everyone in his empire to attend!
Imagine having a “breaking bread meal” with 1000’s of “worshippers” and you can quickly come to the obvious conclusion that the church took a bad turn out of the wrong reasons!
Unfortunately for Constantine (and untold millions of Jesus believers) his newly claimed kingdom was thoroughly pagan before they “magically” became Christianized in one day and from this time forward brought with them many pagan ideas and practices into the church.
The one glaring fact of church history is that the pre-Christian Constantinople was following the sun god Ra. Ask when the Ra was most supremely celebrated and you will find that it links with the winter solstice, Dec 21st and they followed a practice of gift exchange on Ra’s actual birthday Dec. 25th.
Have you ever wondered why Easter, unlike Christmas, is not celebrated on a certain date but changes yearly. Constantine (AD 325) and the church council of Nicaea is your answer.
Easter is a movable feast; that is, it is not always held on the same date. It was decided that Easter should be the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the vernal equinox of March 21. Even the name Easter comes from Eostre, an ancient Anglo-Saxon goddess, originally “of the dawn”. In pagan times an annual spring festival was held in her honor. (wikipedia.com)
Now is the time to break free of the pagan past and embrace the liberty Christ died for. Before we call ourselves a “bible believing church” ever again let’s make sure we have covered all the bases.
Here is to the next generation who will never know anything of the “sip and cracker” Lord’s Supper.
Here’s to the future generation that will know nothing of the institutional church born from a 4th century madman Emperor/Conqueror, that eventually gave us pew, pulpit and passivity!
Yours for the least in the Kingdom,