Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 11,
For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, broke it, and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’
In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, and said, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
And from this, we see four things we proclaim when we take communion.
1. Our need to be saved.
There is one way to heaven—through Jesus. It may feel generous or sophisticated to say, “Jesus is my personal way to get to heaven, but I’m sure God accepts other ways.” But any other way, no matter how sincere, is an insult to Jesus. Think about it.
Jesus prayed, “Father, if it’s possible, if there’s any other way, let this cup pass from me.” What if God the Father had responded, “Well, there are multiple ways to me, but I’m still going to make you die”? How cold is that?
So as Jesus proclaimed the night before he died, “This [bread] is my body which is broken for you for the forgiveness of sins.” The cup and the bread of communion proclaim our need to be saved, to be born again. Being sincere is not enough.
2. Our ability to be saved.
Jesus did not add any qualifiers to the word “you” when he said, “This is my body, which is broken for you.” There is no amount of sin or shame or avoidance that prohibits you from salvation. Jesus said, “Whosoever will may come and eat the bread of life freely.” If you are a “whosoever,” this salvation is for you.
There is a place at this table for you, no matter who you are, what you’ve done, or what’s been done to you. No matter what kinds of failures or struggles you bring into this moment. Jesus has saved you a seat at his table and invites you to sit with him.
No matter what kinds of failures or struggles you bring into this moment. Jesus has saved you a seat at his table and invites you to sit with him.
3. Our suffering and death are not the end.
In 1 Corinthians 11:26, Paul writes, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” In other words, communion looks forward, in hope, to the world to come. And, boy, do we need that hope.
In this world, good people live with hardship. They struggle with poverty. They struggle with illness. With need. With conflict. And, in the end, we all succumb to death. But the table proclaims, “Poverty is not the end! Sickness is not the end! Conflict is not the end! Death is not the end! As surely as Jesus rose, he will return again.” Our hardship, like Jesus’ cross, is part of God’s good plan to bring salvation into the world.
4. Our church is a community of the forgiven.
Nowhere should the unity of the church be seen more profoundly than at this table. When holding the bread and the cup, we are reminded of our common identity—first and foremost, lost sinners who have been redeemed. For by grace we’ve all been saved, by faith, and not even that is of ourselves. It’s the gift of God; not of works, so that no man can boast.
The blood of Jesus is the only hope for the best of us and a certain hope for the worst of us. This blood destroys religious pride, classism, and racial divisions. It washes away our boasting in a beautiful flood of grace.
For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.