PREPARING OUR HEARTS FOR THE LORD’S SUPPER: WEEK THREE
This is week three of our focus on preparing our hearts to receive the Lord’s Supper. In week one we looked at the ties between this observance and the covenant of betrothal. In week two we examined the need for coming to the table prepared. This week our focus will be on the element of the bread, which is probably a subject with which we are fairly familiar, but perhaps our familiarity has led to us treating it too casually, so let’s refresh our understanding.
The symbol of bread is one that has been widely used throughout the Scripture to point both to God’s provision and to Christ, who is God’s provision for our salvation. God supplied the bread in the desert, in the form of manna, to sustain His people physically—to nourish them, to give them life. And He provided Jesus, giving Him a “body prepared for Him,” in order that we might be given eternal life—spiritual life. The Bread of the Presence that was kept in the Holy Place in the tabernacle and temple also pointed to Jesus. This bread was made without leavening, which spoke of Jesus’ purity and sinlessness. The Bread of the Presence was also pierced, just as Jesus was pierced for us.
Of course, we remember Jesus’s feeding of the multitudes, multiplying the loaves and fish to nourish the crowds. This excited a lot of people, because they thought Jesus would meet their physical needs like that every day, but Jesus had a deeper meaning in mind. This miracle was a sign that pointed back to God’s provision through Moses, but it was also a segue to Jesus’s revelation of a deeper, spiritual provision that would come through Him alone. He, personally, was the Bread of Life. Only through Him could we live spiritually and eternally. This was hard enough for them to digest, but when He took it a step further and said that they must eat His body and drink His blood they couldn’t stomach that at all and many turned away from Him. Even His disciples found it difficult to conceive of and uncomfortable to accept, but Peter summed up their decision to stay with Jesus with these words, “Where else should we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
As we come to the table and take the bread, Jesus says, “This is my body that is broken for you. Take and eat.” By doing so we are symbolizing the truth that His sacrifice was indeed for us personally. By taking it, we are acknowledging that we are receiving that gift for ourselves. By participating, we are pledging to take upon ourselves whatever His costly sacrifice entails for us, because part of His call to us is to take up our crosses and follow Him. He says that those who refuse take up their crosses are not worthy of Him.
The act of taking the bread into ourselves symbolizes the reality that we are doing more than merely acknowledging that Jesus died for sinners. We are saying, “He died for me. He bore my sin, my shame, and the wrath that was due to me.” Just like we can know that food is nutritious in theory, and we can see that it looks and smells good in fact, it will do us no personal good until we actually eat it—taking it into ourselves. Knowing that Jesus is God, and that He died to save sinners will not help us until we take the life of Christ into us and make it our own—make His life our life, in all that entails.
The bread of the Lord’s supper is our reminder that we need more than merely the type of bread that sustains our physical bodies, we need the kind that gives life to and sustains our souls (Jn. 6:26-27). We need the reminder that Jesus is the one and only Bread that satisfies—do we find our true satisfaction in Him? Taking the bread reminds us that just like the manna that God gave the Israelites sustained them day after day so faithfully, He will sustain us and give us life faithfully day after day. He is truly our daily Bread.
We also need to remember that our Bread of Life is no meager fare, He is a feast! He has promised us not only life but abundant life! Each time Jesus fed the multitudes the Scripture says that when everyone had eaten their fill and were satisfied, there were still multiple baskets of leftovers. Our God is a God of abundance! While the token we receive during the observance of the Lord’s supper is merely symbolic, we should never forget that the spiritual Body of Christ that it represents is a lavish, overflowing supply. We need never go away from the table of the Lord unsatisfied, and if we do it is either out of ignorance, indifference or disobedience.
The next time we come to the Lord’s table and take the bread to our lips, let us reflect on our gratitude for all the sacrifice it represents, the solemnity with which we take His life as our life and the depth of all that means, and the understanding that His life in us gives us the abundant power to live out His life in this world and the one to come.