Thursday

18 April 2019

1 Corinthians 11:23-26

‘As often as you eat this bread and drink the cup you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.’ (v. 26 )

Psalm: Psalm 116

Background

In most Christian traditions, today is observed in commemoration of the day on which Jesus was betrayed, arrested and put on trial, and our passage is the earliest record we have of his final meal with his disciples, preceding the accounts in the Gospels. We note Paul claims to have learned it from the Lord Jesus. He does not make it clear whether this was by direct revelation or through the testimony of Christians who passed on the record to him. In most Christian traditions it is the foundation for the regular observance variously known as the Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion, the Eucharist or the Mass.

Few biblical passages, however, have received such widely different, and controverted, interpretations. Does "this is my body" mean "this symbolically represents my body" or "this actually is my body"? Does "in remembrance of me" imply only that we are to think about him or that by our breaking the bread and drinking from the cup he actually becomes present to us? Does "do this as often as you drink it" imply that every meal should be such a commemoration or only that meals intended to be a commemoration should be conducted in this way?

Such questions must not detract us, however, from the point that his death is "for us" (v. 24) and that the meal declares the fact, pointing us back to the past and forward to the future (v. 26), hinting at the fact, elaborated in chapter 15, that the death of Jesus is not the end of the story.

 

To Ponder:

  • In what sense did Jesus die "for us"?
  • How do you envisage Jesus coming again?
  • If you do not belong to a tradition in which Jesus’ last supper is regularly commemorated, how do you interpret today’s passage?

Bible notes author

The Revd Brian Beck

Brian Beck is a Methodist minister, now retired, and a former president and secretary of the Methodist Conference. A large part of his ministry has been spent in theological education, both in Limuru, Kenya, and in Cambridge, England.

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