The Lord’s Supper
Arthur Shearman, Worcester, England
There were in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ many moving moments. The Gospel records abound with incidents which stir us to the depths of our hearts as the beauty of the character of the Saviour is displayed. Among these incidents, there is none more stirring, none more appealing to true affection, than the institution of the remembrance feast on the night of His betrayal into the hands of sinful men. A life of unmarred perfection lay behind Him, a life in which He had shared all the real experiences of human life. During this time He had gathered around Himself a small band of men whose hearts God had touched. Few they were, fickle in their affec-tions and unreliable to a great degree, yet like precious treasure, they were 'His own' and He loved them 'to the uttermost'. What a night this was to Him when, with the cross so very near and its awful shadow falling darkly across His path, He sat down with them, to share in that last Passover and institute that new feast of remembrance, a precious heritage for the future to His Church until He come. This do in Remembrance of Me
We now consider the force of these words. Human forgetfulness is implied, for the very feast was symbolic in its character. Simple emblems arc chosen, only bread and only wine. Profound depths are so often concealed in simple tokens. What depths he beneath these symbols when we hear Jesus say regarding the bread, 'my body which is given for you', and then regarding the wine 'my blood which is shed for you'. These terms have been mishandled by many, and their value exaggerated to false extents. No 'real presence' is implied, no mystical transformation into something other than the symbol. But, notwithstanding this, the simple act of breaking the bread is indeed the occasion for a true remembrance of His glorious Person, such as can stir the soul, and move the heart to deep adoration and worship as the implications are brought home by the Holy Spirit.
Now to Christians gathering to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ this feast is indeed central, and the most important gathering of all. Other gatherings have their place in relation to the various activities that express the life of the Church. Rightly in these meetings we seek to minister to our own needs and also to reach out to the needs of others. But here is a gathering of saints which is exclusively for our blessed Lord Himself. Every real expression in thus meeting together brings us to Him. And unless, in our remembrance He is the Centre, and as a result of our gathering He is exalted, extolled and made very high, we meet together in vain.
It is our sad experience very often that these gatherings on the first day of the week are cold and formal. Is it because to many of us it is just another morning meeting? Some feel that it is incumbent upon them to gather thus, while they show no further interest in the affairs of the Lord's work. They 'belong' to the assembly, therefore they must be there on the Lord's day morning, but it is easy to see that every activity, however sacred, can develop into an act of duty, thereby ceasing to be an expression of heartfelt devotion. Is there not the danger today that privileges become ours, not by reason of conviction produced by the direct teaching of the Holy Spirit, but because we have grown up into them as a matter of course? Thus the power and reality of personal conviction are lacking in these things, but this condition should not obtain for any who have the knowledge of personal relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ.
There are three aspects of the Lord's supper which may serve to deepen our appreciation of it.
1. The Demands it Makes upon us
We can fittingly sum up personal responsibility in relation to the breaking of bread by thoughts connected with examination and preparation. These go together, and impress us with the need of careful exercise before we gather around His Person. To come together with a heart soiled with known and practised sin, or to come with a heart empty of true worship because of occupation during the week with that which is carnal and contrary to the mind of the Lord, is, according to 1 Corinthians 11. 27, to eat and drink unworthily. A heart and conscience bound by unconfessed sin is not free to worship. A life filled with the world in any of its many forms has no desire to do so. And while the outward form may remain, the inward reality can be altogether lost. Self-examination will serve to deliver us from the first of these obstacles. Sober heart-preparation, springing from an everyday life of enjoyment of Christ, will preserve us from the latter. How sad it is that even in our most sacred gatherings the presence of sin and self is such that the Lord Jesus Christ is robbed of the worship that the very emblems handled testify He is worthy of. We do well to heed the words of Scripture, 'Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat', 1 Cor. 11. 28.
2. The Devotion it Expresses to Christ
Christ is the centre of our gathering. The two thoughts of contemplation and adoration sum up the devotion that we show towards Him in this service. How good it is, with a quiet sense of God's presence, to contemplate His glorious Person. He delights to make Himself known to us and the Holy Spirit is ever ready to open our understanding. So glorious is He and so great is the sum of His glories that our expressions of worship seem so poor in comparison. But as our hearts are occupied in this contemplation, we begin to appreciate something of the delight that the Father perfectly finds in the Son of His love. 'Remember me.' Those words, spoken so long ago, draw us to Him, and such occupation ever elevates our souls until we are bound to exclaim 'He is altogether lovely'. For such heart-contemplation of Christ will unfailingly lead to adoration. To the satisfaction of Him who suffered for us at Calvary our redeemed hearts will bow in ready acknowledgement of His worthiness to receive all our worship and our praise. Such is the song of the redeemed company in heaven. In this feast the reality of His love is brought so forcibly before us enabling us to see beyond the signs. We see Jesus Himself, and in the light of that glorious vision we worship and we •adore. What warmth of devotion can develop to the Lord Jesus in this simple feast of remembrance.
3. The Direction of its Testimony
This weekly remembrance seems to stand between the sufferings of Christ in the past and the glorious manifestation of Himself in the future. As oft as ye do this, the apostle wrote, 'ye proclaim the Lord's death till He come', R.v. As we consider this aspect of our remembrance the thoughts of proclamation and expectation come to mind. 'No gospel like this feast', the hymnwriter has said. To a Christ-rejecting world, this simple act may be a testimony that believers are one with Him through and in His death. As the bread is broken, His body given for us is brought to mind. The world's hatred caused that precious body to be bruised, defaced and broken; through His body He suffered. But we worship and adore Him as we remember that His body was the medium through which His obedience to God's will was displayed, and that as He laid down His life at Calvary the depth of God's love was told out. 'My body which is given for you' - tremendous reminder of the medium through which God's counsels of love were unfolded. Again, as we drink of the cup, the value of the precious blood of Christ is brought to mind. To the world it is an object of worthless scorn, but to the saved of the Lord it is the basis of redemption, the measure of priceless sacrifice, the ground of communion and the foundation of covenant relationship with God. 'My blood, which is shed for you' - precious blood, the true value of which God alone can appreciate. Each time we obey His loving request we testify to angels, to the world, yes and to demons, the glorious worth of His death.
Only 'until He come' we do this. Each passing feast moves us nearer to the fulfilment of our expectation, when symbols and signs will vanish and the glorious reality will be ours forever. Years have passed since His words 'remember me' were first uttered, but the passing of time has not dimmed their force, neither has it dulled the joy that His promise 'I will come again' has given. The day is not far distant when He shall come to gather to Himself in unbroken fellowship His waiting, worshipping people. Until this time may we know in an ever increasing measure the true reality of blessedness in keeping the memorial of His death. May it always be the expression of deep, heartfelt devotion of our lives to the Lord who loved us to the uttermost.