Based upon the example of the early church/apostles, we are to partake of the Lord's Supper upon the first day of every week (see Acts 20:7 for more info). But what exactly are we doing when we join together in eating the unleavened bread and drinking the fruit of the vine?
I submit that the Master's Supper is a type of memorial service...someone most important and very dear to our hearts has died. It is a time when we gather as the people of the Messiah to remember Him and His death upon our behalf. Paul writes to the Christians of ancient Corinth:
"For I received from the Master what I also delivered to you, that the Master Jesus on the night when He was betrayed took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, 'This is My body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.' In the same way also He took the cup, after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in My blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me'" (1 Corinthians 11:23-25; see also Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; and Luke 22:14-23).
Paul tells these holy ones that he imparted to their hearts what he had received from the Lord about the night of His betrayal and arrest. Let us keep in mind that the Master willingly suffered and died for everyone. He had the authority to give up His life for us, and He chose to fulfill that very task. He explains,
"For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of My own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.This charge I have received from My Father” (John 10:17-18).
His retelling of Jesus' words on that night show us the focus of the partaking of the bread and the juice. Communion is to be a time of recollection, for we are to think back to the time of the cross, and to express our earnest appreciation for the King of glory who shed His precious blood for us. Without the blood of Jesus, the New Covenant of forgiveness and faithfulness would not be possible. May we always strive to keep our minds focused on Deity and the sacrifice of the cross as we partake with our fellow brothers and sisters in the Messiah. The Lord's Supper is not some kind of free time during the service to think about our lunch plans or to contemplate our schedule for the week. Do you think God is pleased when we are distracted and discontented during this time of worship to and remembrance of Him?
But partaking of the Lord's Supper is more than just a memorial service of recollection...in fact, it is quite unlike any other memorial service we have ever or will ever attend. For the One we are honoring and remembering in this service is no longer dead! Even during the institution of the Lord's Supper, Jesus made it clear that this upcoming crucifixion would not be the end for Him (see Matthew 26:29). Just as His suffering and death were not a surprise to Him, the resurrection was always a part of the plan (Matthew 16:21; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
Consider the way Paul refers to him in 1 Corinthians 11:23-25 as "the Master" and "the Master Jesus." Was He the Master (or Lord) when the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to pen those words? Yes. Is He still the reigning Lord and King today? Absolutely. The Father raised Him up from the grave and exalted Him to His right hand (Acts 2:32-33). Therefore, we can "know for certain that God has made Him both Master and King" (Acts 2:36). As we partake of the communion, let us never lose sight of the fact that Jesus is alive and well in Heaven. The cross of the Messiah ought to motivate us to lovingly and humbly obey the Master of heaven and earth.
Paul went on to observe, "For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Master's death until He comes" (1 Corinthians 11:26). Our continual observance of communion is one key way we declare our Savior and His redemptive work to the world. The Master's Supper then is also a type of proclamation. How often do we truly perceive what we do each Sunday morning to be a message to each other and even to the world?
But Paul tells us that this proclamation is to be done until He comes again. Once again we are reminded of the fact that He not only died for us, but He was also resurrected to never die again (Revelation 1:18). He is not only alive, and not only reigning as the King of kings and Master of masters, but our Jesus will return to this world again so we can be with Him forever (1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11; Hebrews 9:27-28). As we gather around the table to commemorate His death, we are proclaiming His death, His resurrection, and His coming to all!
In light of this recollection and proclamation, I suggest that the Lord's Supper should also be a a time of celebration. We know that God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians), and it makes sense that we should express our gratitude during communion with an aspect of joy in our hearts to Him. The Master's Supper is certainly a time of soberness and sadness (as we dwell on His pain and death), but it can also be an occasion of cheerfulness as we reflect on the point of His death, the power of His resurrection, and the promise of His return.