Remember

166 times the Bible calls us to Remember. A number that tells a story about forgetfulness, mine and yours. Remembrance is central to why we gather as believers, read and hear the Bible, baptize and participate in the Lord’s Supper.

Our memories need to be jogged, our hearts riveted again and again and our faith fed and strengthened—this happens as we preach the gospel to ourselves and one another and we recall the things of first importance.

The summons to remember is always connected to the memory of the saving work of God. The Israelites were to never forget the Exodus. We are never to forget the true Passover Lamb. The fight of faith is the battle to remember.

“Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David” (2 Tim 2:8).

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Early Christian Writing on the Lord’s Supper

In the previous post I shared a portion of the Didache on the theme of baptism. In this post, we turn to the Didache to see what it says about the Lord’s Supper.

Now  about  the  thanksgiving,  give  thanks  this  way: First,  about  the  cup:  “We  thank  you,  our  Father,  for  the  holy  vine  of  your  boy  David   which  you  made  known  to  us  through  your  boy  Jesus.  Glory  be  to  you  for  the  age.

Now  about  the  broken  loaf:  “We  thank  you,  our  Father,  for  the  life  and  the  knowledge   that  you  made  known  to  us  through  your  boy  Jesus.  Glory  be  to  you  for  the  age.  Just  as   this  broken  loaf  was  scattered  on  top  of  the  hills  and  as  it  was  gathered  together  and   became  one,  in  the  same  way  let  your  assembly  be  gathered  together  from  the  remotest   parts  of  the  land  into  your  kingdom.  “For  yours  is  the  glory  and  the  power  through   Anointed  Jesus  for  the  age.”  Now  no  one  should  either  eat  or  drink  from  your   thanksgiving  meal,  but  those  who  have  been  baptized  into  the  Lord’s  name.  For  about  this   also  the  Lord  said,  “Do  not  give  what  is  holy  to  the  dogs.”

Now  after  you  have  been  filled,  give  thanks  this  way:  “We  thank  you,  holy  Father,  for   your  holy  name,  which  you  made  to  live  in  our  hearts,  and  for  the  knowledge  and  trust   and  immortality  which  you  made  known  to  us  through  Jesus  your  boy.  Glory  be  to  you   for  the  age. Almighty  master,  it  was  you  who  created  all  for  the  sake  of  your  name.  You  gave  both   food  and  drink  to  people  for  enjoyment,  so  that  they  might  give  thanks  to  you.  But  to  us   you  have  freely  given  spiritual  food  and  drink  and  eternal  life  through  your  boy.  Before   all  things,  we  are  thankful  to  you  that  you  are  powerful.  Glory  be  to  you  for  the  age. O  Lord,  remember  your  assembly,  remember  to  rescue  it  from  every  evil  and  to  make  it   complete  in  your  love,  and  to  gather  it  from  the  four  winds  into  your  kingdom  which  you   prepared  for  it-­-­it,  which  has  been  made  holy.  For  yours  is  the  power  and  the  glory  for  the age.”

This early writing is packed with interesting material on this ordinance. Here are a few things that grabbed my attention. First, the ordinance is described as “the thanksgiving” and as a “meal.” This places the Lord’s Supper in the context of gratitude and fellowship. This is an early argument for understanding the appropriate setting of the ordinance as a meal. Second, the language used to describe Jesus is unique. He is called “your boy” multiple times. This language paints a picture of intimate sonship. Third, the Didache refers to the cup as the “holy vine of your boy David.” This seems to draw on the OT background of the everlasting covenant with the Davidic King. This is a unique Old Testament background for understanding the Lord’s Supper.

The fourth observation can be summarized as the missiological impulse of the ordinance in the Didache. The text says, “Just  as   this  broken  loaf  was  scattered  on  top  of  the  hills  and  as  it  was  gathered  together  and   became  one,  in  the  same  way  let  your  assembly  be  gathered  together  from  the  remotest   parts  of  the  land  into  your  kingdom.” There has been much discussion about the purpose of the Lord’s Supper and the general conclusion has been that it is primarily for the edification of the church. This early document pushes the concern of the ordinance outward to the nations as well. Fifth, the Didache’s application of Matthew 7:6 to the ordinance is unique: “Do not give what is holy to dogs.” This was a way of fencing the table. The document also makes clear that baptism is the appropriate precursor to the table.

Any thoughts on this early document’s take on the Lord’s Supper?

The Lord’s Supper: Broken Bread for Broken People

In the gospel of Matthew the story of the Last Supper is sandwiched by two narratives of betrayal. The text that precedes the Last Supper is the story of Judas selling out Jesus (Matt 26:14-25). The text that follows portrays the certainty that all the disciples will fall away and betray Jesus (Matt 26:30-35). It is striking that Jesus knows exactly what is coming and still, he invites his disciples to the table. This is a powerful and intentional demonstration of grace. Jesus is showing us exactly who he wants at his table: broken and needy people.

The only way for the disciples to sit at table with God is through the broken body and shed blood of Jesus—there is no other way. At this meal, we see the heart of God. We behold his embrace of rebels and sinners. In Christ, he has provided all that is necessary to dine with him! The Last Supper for Jesus leads the way to the sinner’s first supper with God. Gilbert Ostdiek is intrigued by this idea as he reads the Last Supper narrative. He states this:

“Why would the early communities for which the gospels were written have chosen to include this less than flattering portrait of the first disciples in their accounts of the supper? Exegetes commonly hold that the four gospels were written not simply as transcriptions of historical events, but as faith accounts told in such a way as to help the different communities reflect on the meaning of these events for their lives. Francis Moloney has argued that admission of broken and weak disciples to the table of the Lord is a thread that runs through each of the biblical accounts of the last supper, though altered to fit the circumstances of each community. These memories are enshrined precisely because the later disciples experienced themselves as did the first, prone to fail and in need of the strength and forgiveness this holy meal provides. From his study of New Testament materials Moloney concludes: ‘the Eucharist celebrates and proclaims the presence of Jesus to the broken.’”

John Calvin makes a similar point when he states, “let us remember that this sacred banquet is medicine to the sick, comfort to the sinner, alms to the poor.” A broken body for a broken people—this is how God makes us whole.