Where are you looking when you participate in the Lord’s Supper? Chances are, if you are anything like me, your first course of action is to physically look down to the ground, and then mentally to look inward at yourself as you diagnose your actions the past week/month in light of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. While this is not wrong all-together, I do believe that God’s Word leads us to a fuller course of actions. These actions will be labeled looking back, looking side-to-side and looking forward.
I have written this article with the members of The Masters Community Church in mind, but these biblical principles are timeless and apply to every Church under heaven that meet in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. My hope is that this article will show how these three acts have the ability to enable God’s people to further appreciate their Savior’s sacrifice in the past which will unleash God’s unifying power in the present causing them to look to their Savior’s return in the future. Enough introduction. Let’s start looking!
“Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19; 1 Corinthians 11:24) Remembrance is something that we are not good at in the West. It is often hard for us to remember what we had for lunch better yet an event that occurred some 2000 years ago. Did Jesus not expect this when he gave the meal? In short, yes. I believe that this is one of the primary reasons why He did give the meal because He knows how prone His people are to forget their identity and the grounds for that identity.
For a first century Jew, remembering would have been a lot more than a mere mental recollection. This remembering was rooted in the Passover when each family would “remember the night when God took them out of Egypt in a mighty way delivering them from captivity and bondage” (Exodus 13:3). This involved the family putting themselves back into that night and experiencing the events in a somewhat “first hand” kind of way. The Lord’s Supper is meant to invoke the same kind of actions in the New Covenant Community. We too are meant to remember the Lord’s death by putting ourselves at the foot of the cross and remembering afresh the price that had to be paid for our sins to be forgiven once and for all. By looking back to Christ’s sacrifice and placing ourselves at the cross, we feel its impact in the present and its power affects the way we see the future. This leads perfectly into the next admonition that the Lord’s Supper ought to invoke.
As the blood-bought people of God look back on the price that was paid for their sins, they are brought into closer unity with the other members who were purchased with the same price and now share in the same benefits brought about by the indwelling of the Spirit. Once one turns from their sins and trusts in Christ, they are united to Christ and the Holy Spirit comes to take residence inside them (2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 5:5). The Holy Spirit brings believers into a brand new mode of existence that is now marked by a cross-shaped lifestyle—self-sacrificial laying down of one’s own interest for the building up of those around them (Philippians 2:1-10). Our new status of sons of God brought about by our union with Christ leads us into an unparalleled union with our fellow brothers and sisters around us—especially in our local Church (Ephesians 2:11-22). This meal is essentially a means of confirming a believer’s identity with the resurrected Messiah and His people. Through the mutual sharing of the Spirit, the Church is united with both Christ and each other.
With these unchangeable, biblical truths in mind, one can see why it is absolutely devastating when there is any kind of disunity in the Body when partaking of the Lord’s Supper. It is the complete opposite of what the Supper portrays and this is why Paul commands the Corinthian believers to examine themselves and then discern the body before they partake of the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:28-29). This is an important point to to make because these verses are often used to invoke self-reflection, but that is not what Paul is exhorting the Corinthian Church to do. Taking the elements in an unworthy manner is not primarily about personal sin in one’s life (although that is something that can be drawn principally from the text); rather, it is primarily about taking of the elements in such a way that does not promote the unity that Christ’s death and the sending of the Spirit are meant to accomplish. So examining oneself is not as much about looking inward as it is about looking outward and discerning whether you have been living in a manner that aligns with the self-giving act of your Savior at the cross.
Have you been self-sacrificially serving your fellow members and seeking to stir them up to love and good works or have you slipped into a consumer mentality where others have become a means to pleasing you? Do you have any kind of bitterness in your heart towards another member in the congregation? Are you looking down on another believer based upon their lack of biblical knowledge, social standing, or appearance? Have you done everything in your power to use your spiritual gifting to build up the Body during the last week? Are there any practical needs of someone within the body in which you can meet? These are the kind of questions that ought to be running through one’s head before they partake of the bread and the wine.
It is a very scary thing to continually take of the Lord’s Supper while promoting disunity in the body. In fact, as Paul said to the Corinthians, as a result of this kind of behavior– a prideful spirit which revealed itself in the humiliating of poorer members—some of the members were sick, ill and some even died (1 Corinthians 11:30). The Lord’s Supper is a place where the cross reminds us not only what God has done for us individually, but also what He has done for us corporately in uniting us to each other and making us partners in the New Covenant Community.
Jesus said to His disciples, “I will not drink from the fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s Kingdom” (Matthew 26:29). Not only should the believers look back to the cross and around to the New Covenant Community, but they should also look forward in eager expectation for the day when they will partake of these elements in the perfect presence of the Messiah at the marriage supper of the Lamb. It is quite an amazing truth that a Church that looks back to the cross for their identity, around to each other for confirmation of that identity, and forward to the second coming of Christ is a Church that has begun to experience the spiritual benefits of the Lord’s Supper as the Lord Jesus intended. The thought of seeing Christ face to face, receiving new resurrected bodies, and eating a meal with Him ought to invoke a type of joy in us which enables us to proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes again. It is in looking forward that we are reminded that the story that God is telling does not end at the cross. In fact, it does not even end at the second coming of Christ. C.S. Lewis beautifully illustrates this truth in the closing of his Chronicles of Narnia book,
And as Aslan spoke, He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story, which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.
The Lord’s Supper is more than a
somber time of self-reflection, a mental recollection of a past event or a
command that must be kept out of duty. The Lord’s Supper is an opportunity to
experience the transformative power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is by
looking back that we find the grounding of our new identity; it is by looking
forward that we see the culmination of our true identity, and it is by looking side-to-side that we see both the past and
the future collide as eternity breaks into the present. Oh, what a sweet divine foretaste of the eternal glory set before
us when the Body celebrates the Lord’s supper as a diverse yet unified people in
 C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle (New York: Macmillan, 1956), 183.