For I pass on to you what I received from the Lord himself. On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, he took the cup of wine after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood. Do this in remembrance of me as often as you drink it.” For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are announcing the Lord’s death until he comes again.
1 Corinthians 11:23-26 | New Living Translation (NLT)
Today is Maundy Thursday. I know that I get this question every year, so I’ll take that on first and then we will look at the scripture. What is Maundy Thursday? Maundy comes from the Latin word Mandatum, which is translated “commandment.” On Maundy Thursday, Jesus gave his disciples a new commandment – to love one another.
Dear children, I will be with you only a little longer. And as I told the Jewish leaders, you will search for me, but you can’t come where I am going. So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
Many churches that normally don’t have regular services on Thursday, will have services to remember the events that happened on Thursday, the night that Jesus was arrested and betrayed.
That night Jesus was having dinner with his disciples. We often call that the Last Supper.
During this dinner with his friends that have been with him for the last three years, he gives us the instructions for communion. In 1 Corinthians, Paul repeats these instructions and they make up our reading for today.
Jesus takes some bread and gives it to his disciples and pronounces these words: This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me. These words are so powerful. As I officiate communion, I always take the time – I don’t like to rush through communion. As I break the bread I remind our congregation, how Jesus’ body was broken for us – how it was beaten for us. Each time we break the bread we remember that Christ died for us. Then Jesus takes the cup and says: This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood. Do this in remembrance of me as often as you drink it. Jesus blood was spilled out for the forgiveness of our sins. Think of the pain and suffering that he endured.
Often we think of communion as being a memorial of Christ’s death. It was several years ago, while I was attending FLAME that one of the professors explained that communion is a full on celebration. Yes, we remember that Christ died, but Christ – looking forward to Sunday – also rose. It’s important to remember this because it helps us understand Paul’s last words about this meal. For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are announcing the Lord’s death until he comes again. Paul doesn’t say it here but if we are announcing the Lord’s death until he comes again, that means that Jesus also rose from the dead. This is important. Our atonement requires both the crucifixion and the resurrection – it is what gives us hope in Christ’s return. It is what we remember on this night.