Several years ago, a dear sister in Christ was very frustrated with me for refusing to see Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. She could not understand why I did not want to see Hollywood’s portrayal of the most important death in human history. Most of the time, it is all I can do to read the vivid gospel accounts of my Savior’s cruel crucifixion! I wrestle with these thoughts each Lord’s Day as we remember His death. What do you think about as we gather around the Lord’s table?
I don’t believe anyone can dictate what we should be thinking about during this solemn feast; however, there are several different Biblical trains of thought that are appropriate. Naturally, it is a time to reflect on the death of Christ – a point the apostle Paul declares in 1 Corinthians 11:26. We are assisted in this focus by so many hymns sung before and after the Lord’s Supper.
Another possibility is to reflect on what the elements represent – the body and blood of Christ given for our sins. Jesus certainly stated this in Luke 22:19-20. This could include the painful scourging and crucifixion, or one might concentrate on the beautiful symbolism of the bread and the cup.
It would be very “normal” to think about our sinfulness and the impossibility to fathom what God and His Son did for us at Calvary. One passage to consider would be Romans 5:8 as we meditate on the lyrics of Why Did My Savior Come to Earth?
One often-overlooked facet of the Lord’s Supper is the communal aspect that Paul alludes to in 1 Corinthians 10:17. He gets even more specific in 1 Corinthians 11:29 when he warns against the failure to discern or recognize the Lord’s body during communion (i.e., assuming that division within the Corinthian church was acceptable). There is a horizontal aspect in the Lord’s Supper as we recognize and lovingly accept our fellow members of the Lord’s body.
As we read the gospel accounts of Christ instituting His supper (e.g., Mark 14:22-25), it does not appear that He expects us to agonize each Lord’s Day. Rather, this memorial should be observed in the shadow of His resurrection – His horrible death in the face of hope.
And when I think that God, His Son not sparing,
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.