1 April 2010

1 Corinthians 11:23-26

"For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, 'This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.'" (v.23-24)


Each Maundy Thursday the Church traditionally re-enacts the foot washing of the disciples before the Last Supper and the sharing of bread and wine afterwards. In fact, each time the Church celebrates Holy Communion these words from 1 Corinthians are used, in order to be faithful to the tradition handed on to the Church.

Paul wrote these words to the Church in Corinth, urging them to preserve the traditions they had received from him (1 Corinthians 11:2). Corinth was experiencing some internal divisions which Paul was addressing - dress codes for women and sharing the Lord's Supper. Paul was scandalised that instead of sharing a common meal, the rich were bringing their own food and getting drunk in front of the poor who had nothing. To recall them to the heart of the Lord's Supper Paul reminded the Church in Corinth that keeping this tradition required only bread and wine and the actions of taking, giving thanks, breaking and sharing in remembrance of Jesus and in celebration of the new covenant in Christ's blood, proclaiming his death and looking for his coming again.

Yet faithful sharing of the bread and wine was not only about a particular form of words, as Paul went on to explain. To share in this cup and to eat this bread required self-examination and recognising the body of Christ (verse 29). The Corinthians needed to understand that they were not just eating an ordinary meal, but sharing in Christ's risen life; they also needed to discern that their fellow disciples were part of the Body of Christ too.

So Paul warned the Corinthians to judge themselves in order to avoid being judged by others and to let God discipline them so that they would not be condemned along with the world (verses 31-32).

To Ponder

What do you think Jesus expected people to do in remembrance of him?

What do you think is needed for a faithful celebration of the Lord's Supper?

To what extent can we, who live in the richest nations of the world, avoid drinking the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Jane Leach

Jane writes on ministry, pastoral supervision and pilgrimage..