The meal Jesus hosted before his death was part of the Passover meal
During this meal as accounted by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and later Paul, Jesus takes two emblems and uses them to draw attention to a new Passover lamb, a new sacrifice, a new covenant. He is that lamb, that sacrifice, that covenant. Jesus is about to change the entire world. And He begins with a meal
He speaks to them of the near future and holds these emblems to last forever and a day beyond that certain future he shares, bread and wine, body and blood. Luke gives one of these accounts in his gospel,
“And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19)
Luke who also wrote the book of Acts speaks in that account of the apostles regarding “breaking bread” together as a community of faith. This first account in Acts 2 shows that through the other happenings at this time, that the people weren’t simply gathered to eat a feast, but this was a worship service.
"42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:42-46)
With all of the different ways of worshipping God taking place at one time, it is evident that they have come together for what we would call today a worship services. The “breaking of bread” isn’t merely a meal, but a practice of the Lord’s Supper. And this had become a part of their worship tradition.
Later in Acts they enter into another service where they are taking the Lord’s supper and through this verse we can trace our tradition of taking the Lord’s Supper every week on the first day of the week. “7 On the first day of the week we came together to break bread…” (Acts 20:7)
They are coming together for the purpose of unity and nothing can bring unity among believers like taking the Lord’s Supper and remembering how they all have new life through his body.
Many times when we speak of the Lord’s Supper we talk about Paul and his letter to the Corinthian church. There is much going on in his letter to Corinth, but in chapter 11 he chooses to correct abuses against the Lord’s Supper. They have created some errant hospitality behaviors and a selfish community. He writes in his letter to remind them that “breaking bread” is for ALL people and should bring unity not division.
“23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 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.” (1 Corinthians 11:23-24)
But What About Body
How should we speak of the emblem? Is it bread or is it body? The answer is yes. Jesus held up bread and said this is my body. This wasn’t the first time Jesus had spoken of himself as bread. John is the only one who captures this sermonette,
“32 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
34 “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.”
35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:32-35)
“48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. 50 But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6:48-51)
Bread gives sustenance and therefore life. Jesus is to our spirit, what bread is to our body.
Consider these words from John Mark Hicks in his book Come To The Table:
““Breaking Bread” in Luke-Acts is a covenant meal where the Lord is present as host and we sit together as a community of his disciples in the hope of the resurrection. We share our food with each other as an expression of the communion that exists among the disciples by virtue of God’s redemptive act in Jesus. As we eat, we anticipate the eschatological kingdom in which all disciples will share. We will all sit at the Lord’s Table in his kingdom. “Breaking bread,” then, was not a solemn funeral but a celebration by the new community in which God has revealed the eschaton (resurrection) on the basis of the expiatory sacrifice of the body and blood of Christ. The disciples ate with joy and generosity as they praised God for his redemptive work. They ate with hope as they re-experienced the victory of Jesus over death through eating together. Indeed, these celebratory meals were filled with joyous interaction and enthusiastic outbursts of praise. The word which describes joy of breaking bread in Acts 2:46 may be literally translated “resounding jubilation” or “enthusiastic outbursts.”” (Come To The Table. John Mark Hicks, 97-98)
We don’t eat the humanity of the cross. We eat the divinity of the resurrection!
As we passed the trays with Matzah on them each person took a piece of the cracker and held it. They then were instructed to turn to one another and say, “This is Christ’s body, given for you.”
This was never intended to be a tradition of individuality, but a meal of community. It was never intended to be a funeral for the dead, but a celebration for the living. We cannot use the Lord's Supper to mourn Jesus' death, but rather use it to express abounding joy in His resurrection.