Stories, thoughts and reflections on the Bible from the WSFC Staff.
Last week I started bringing you a series of HELLO FRIENDS around the topics of COMMUNION and COMMUNITY. These writings are drawn from a research paper I wrote about 1 Corinthians 11:17-34, which is one of the most well-known passages of Scripture about The Lord’s Supper (communion). I trust you will find them immensely readable as well as applicable.
THE ORIGINAL HAPPY MEAL – PART 2
History Of The Happy Meal
At the center of the debate regarding the Lord’s Supper is the relationship it may have had to the Passover. There is absolutely no consensus on this matter from biblical commentators. Much of the confusion involves differences in the synoptic gospel accounts to that of the Fourth Gospel (Book of John). John’s account placed the Last Supper “before the feast of the Passover” (John 13:1, 2, 21-30) whereas the synoptic gospel writers claim it grew out of the Passover Meal.
However, the appropriate focus should be upon the meal itself and not discrepancies regarding the timing of the meal. As an example, a family will tend to eat supper around the “dinner hour” –which could be from 5 – 7 pm, or perhaps later depending upon circumstances. Yet, it is still supper. The Passover, regardless of when it was commemorated, was a meal of remembrance and celebration for the handiwork of the Lord in taking the children of Israel out of bondage in Egypt.
Whether or not the template for the Passover meal was carried over into what would be known as The Lord’s Supper (or Communion, or the Eucharist) is unclear. What is apparent is that the words and actions of Jesus at that final meal with his disciples (regardless of what day it happened on) seems to follow the liturgy of the Passover to some degree. Bread was broken, drink was shared, and a commemoration ensued, notably for that of the Passover lamb that was slain so that mankind might live eternally. This remembrance and celebration revolved around a common meal – a happy meal that clearly marked the early church.
Breaking Of Bread
The two men that walked with Jesus on the road to Emmaus certainly got an eye full. Luke 24:30 writes that “[Jesus] was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it, and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him.” This post-resurrection encounter undoubtedly reminded them of their final meal with the Messiah. This relational model of eating and sharing together carried over to the first church in the Book of Acts. The burgeoning church was committed to learning from the apostles, to fellowship, to praying, and to the breaking of bread. As the church moved beyond Jerusalem, and the Jewish influence was less of a dominant role in its development, it is possible that a combination of sorts took place with the annual Passover celebration and the regular “breaking of bread.” Corporate worship would happen not only in the temple but also in homes, therefore an extension of ordinary early Jewish worship context would be the Jewish meal, also known as the Love Feast (Jude 12). Within this framework, the gathered congregation would often commemorate the communal Lord’s Supper. A congregation, incidentally, that was increasingly growing in number with those that were being saved. New Christians, then and now, will often bring with them many of their former habits, dysfunctions, and immoral behaviors. Thus was the case at the Love Feasts in Corinth.
More to come next week…
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