The main teaching on the Lord’s Supper is found in 1 Corinthians 11, starting with verse 17. In chapter 11, Rabbi Paul deals with the problems the Corinthian congregation was having in celebrating “The Lord’s Supper.”
But in giving this instruction, I do not praise you, because you come together not for the better but for the worse. Rabbi Paul is not able to complement the Corinthian believers, because when they came together as a community, it resulted in more and more conflict, and more problems. How awful to be in a situation that when Messiah’s Holy Community of Jews and Gentiles comes together, it results not in the people being built up, encouraged, but instead it results in more divisions, more disagreements, more fights, so that they left torn down and discouraged. We have enough disunity in the world, don’t we? God’s people need to be built up and encouraged and unified when we come together.
When you come together as a congregation… “How often did they come together as a congregation?” Yearly? No. They came together as a congregation on a regular basis – weekly, or more often. This is a regular meeting of the community. They are coming together as a congregation – they are not coming together for a once a year Passover Seder! This is a congregational gathering, but Passover does not primarily take place at a congregational meeting; rather each family observes it by themselves in their own home. The Lord’s Supper is not the same as the Passover Seder.
Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper. When they met together, weekly or daily, one of the things that they did was eat Aruchat Adonai – the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper is not a Passover Seder, although it has some relationship to Passover. The Lord’s Supper is a meal that belongs to the Messiah. It is Aruchat Adonai – the Lord’s Meal. It is a special meal in which we look to Him, and remember Him, and remember our unity with Him and one another. We remember that He is the living Host of this meal. We are in His presence. He has risen from the dead. He is alive. We live in Him and He lives in us.
It’s a very nice thing to sit down and eat a meal with someone. It is the height of chah-vay-root – fellowship, unity, peace, family, brotherhood. Our living Lord invites us to have a meal with Him, and He wants to dine with us. He has extended His invitation for us to join Him for His Meal to all of us – Jews and Gentiles, men and women, rich and poor, black and while. The Lord is our Host, and all of us who are participating are His honored guests.
But there was a problem with the Corinthian Believers. When they met together as a congregation, they should have met together to eat Aruchat Adonai – the Lord’s Meal, but the things they were doing and the attitudes that they expressed prevented them from truly eating Aruchat Adonai. By not approaching the Lord’s Supper in the right manner, with the right attitude, they nullified its true meaning. For in your eating each one takes his own supper first; and one is hungry and another is drunk. When the community assembled from all over Corinth, they would worship, they would pray, they would sing, they would hear from the Word of God. They would also bring food and drink with them and have a meal together. They had a congregational meal together – very similar to the Kiddush, eating the bread and wine on the Sabbath, or an Oneg – a congregational meal that many synagogues have. But in Corinth the wealthier Believers were bringing lots of food and drink, and the poorer believers and the slaves had next to nothing to eat. They weren’t eating at the same time. Some were drinking too much wine and getting drunk, which tells us that drinking wine – not grape juice, was the norm for this meal.
Paul was not pleased with the way they were selfishly conducting themselves during this ceremony designed to bring them into closer unity with the Lord and with each other, as we see in verse 22: What! Do you not have houses in which to eat and drink? Or do you despise God’s congregation and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? In this I will not praise you. The main purpose for meeting together as a community is not for eating and drinking – you can do that at home. The purpose of this special meal is to draw nearer to the Messiah, and to one another. If you want to focus on good food and good wine, you should do that at home.
What they should be focusing on is that they were a family, and Messiah Yeshua is the Head of the family. During the Lord’s Supper, they were to honor Him by doing things His way, which means honoring one another. Can you imagine being part of a family, with a mother and father and brothers and sisters, and you sit down for a meal together, with the father presiding over the meal, at the head of the table, and some are served heaping plates of delicious food and delicacies, and others are served a slice of bread and some water? What kind of family unity would that family have? And how would that behavior reflect on the head of the family? It would reflect very badly on him.
Because of their selfishness, and inconsiderate behavior toward their brothers and sisters, they were not celebrating the Lord’s Supper. The Lord Yeshua never acted that way, and they were not reflecting Him.
So, Rabbi Paul reminds them of the origins of the cup and the bread. They are rooted in the selfless sacrifice of the Messiah which took place on Passover. The way the Messiah conducted Himself at His Last Passover Seder is used as the model of how we are to conduct ourselves at our congregational meals. For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Yeshua in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; Paul got this information from the Lord – either directly through a special revelation, or by some other means. But either way, it is authoritative and reliable.
And when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” How did Yeshua conduct Himself at His Last Meal? Did He greedily eat the bread, before His disciples did, knowing that He needed that extra nourishment more than the rest of them, for the trials He was about to endure? No. He broke the bread and gave it to His disciples. He was thinking about the welfare of His friends – not about His own welfare. He was giving His life, that they might live. What does the bread represent? Messiah’s broken body – His sacrificial death for us.
In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” In the same way He took the cup after the Passover supper. In the same way – what way? Selflessly, sacrificially. He gave them the cup. He didn’t greedily drink it Himself. The wine we drink represents Messiah’s blood that He shed, His life that was given, that enables us to enter into the new Covenant, that new relationship with God, wherein we our alienation from God ends, we are reconciled to Him, and we are granted atonement, forgiveness. We come close to Him, and we become His beloved sons and daughters who will live forever with Him, ruling and reigning with Him throughout eternity.
Yeshua’s Passover Seder, followed by His death the next day, still on Passover, is the supreme model of selflessness and sacrificial love, that we are to imitate, especially during our meals together as a community.
Aruchat Adonai – the Lord’s Meal, the Lord’s Supper, is connected to Passover, but it is not identical to Passover, and it doesn’t replace Passover. The cup and the bread have a connection to Passover, but they are not limited to Passover.
Bread, even though it is made with leaven (which is a symbol for sin), is nevertheless a good symbol – not a symbol of evil. Would Messiah say, “I am the Bread of Life” if it were a symbol of evil? Bread is eaten all the time during the year, except for Passover, and so should we, when we eat our congregational meals together during the year as part of the Lord’s Supper.
For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. Whenever we eat this bread, whether it is the matzah at Passover, or regular bread the other 51 weeks of the year, and drink the wine, whether it is the third cup of the Passover Seder, or the wine on Shabbat when we come together as a congregation, we are proclaiming the Lord’s death. We are telling the whole world that here is the Supreme Sacrifice. He who is the Prince and Author of Life, and the Living One, died so that all of us might truly live. His sacrificial death repudiates all sin and selfishness, and so should we.
Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. We can eat the bread and drink from the cup in a worthy manner, or in an unworthy manner. We eat it in a worthy manner my by participating in a reverent way, and by focusing on the sacrifice of the Lord, and our love for one another.
We eat the bread and drink from the cup in an unworthy manner by thinking of ourselves, our needs, our desires, our wants, our pleasures, and losing sight of the fact that we are part of a new family, with unity, oneness, and brotherly love. We are here to serve our brothers and sisters, more than being served. We are here to give to our brothers and sisters, more than being given to.
Rabbi Paul tells us we should examine ourselves, so we can prevent ourselves from an unworthy participation in the Lord’s Supper: But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. Examine yourself – your heart, your attitudes. What does being a disciple of the Lord really mean to you? What is your life really about? Personal enrichment or selfless service?
There is a proper time not to participate in the Lord’s Supper. If you are in sin, out of unity with the Lord, or in disunity with another member of the synagogue, first get right with the Lord, and get right with your brother or sister, and then participate in the Lord’s Supper. But to withhold yourself from participating in the Lord’s Supper for any other reason is to withhold yourself from fellowship with that body of believers, and disrupt the unity of that fellowship.
For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. If you don’t participate in a worthy manner, by emulating the Lord’s selfless love for the saints that He died for, then you are in danger of bringing God’s judgement down upon yourself. This is very serious, and this is no place for religious hypocrites, who are using religion to impress people, but who are unwilling to die to self, pick up their cross and follow the Messiah.
For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. Paul was able to discern that God had been bringing judgment upon many of the Corinthian believers for their sinful attitudes. The judgment of the Lord who kills and who makes alive had allowed many to become weak, and sick, and various people died.
God can and does bring weakness and sickness and death to sinful believers who aren’t heading His correction. Why was God doing this to them? Because He is a cruel? Because He doesn’t care about our suffering? No – quite the opposite – He was judging them so that they would be corrected, and not keep on going in the selfish, worldly direction they were headed, demonstrating themselves to be fit for Hell like the rest of the world.
But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world. The Corinthians Believers were not judging themselves. They were satisfied with their sins and comfortable with their selfishness. But God wasn’t satisfied with the way they were, and like a good Father, He was disciplining them.
So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. This doesn’t make sense in the context of Passover, when the family eats togther in their home. It only makes sense in a congregation meal where people bring their own food. The Corinthians should show respect for their brothers and sisters by waiting for each other and eating together.
If anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, so that you will not come together for judgment. If they come only to satisfy their physical craving and not to eat and drink in the presence of the Lord and in the presence of His people, then they should eat their meal at home, for otherwise God will judge them in some way.
It’s never wrong for a congregation to assemble together, eat bread together, and thank God for Messiah, the Bread of Life, drink wine, and remember Messiah’s blood that was shed.
It is my understanding that from very earliest times the Church understood that the Lord’s Supper was part of a regular congregational meal.
It is my understanding that the majority of the Messianic congregations in Israel celebrate the Lord’s Supper once a month. Normally, the first Sabbath of the month is chosen. An almost equal number of groups observe the Lord’s Supper either every week, or every second week.
As often as we eat together, it’s appropriate to eat bread, and remember Yeshua, the Bread of Life, the Living Bread that God sent from Heaven. When we drink wine at our congregational meals, it’s right and proper to remember Messiah’s blood that was shed for us on Passover, enabling Jews and Gentiles to enter into the New Covenant relationship with God, and to thank God for Messiah, and bless Him with this cup of blessing.