The essence of the emblems
“As often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till he comes” (I Cor. 11: 23)
We think of Christ whenever we approach the bread and wine. We think of the great love he had for us in giving his life to bring us to his Father’s kingdom. We also think of his words and works that are set as a pattern for us - as children intent upon becoming citizens of his kingdom - to follow, all throughout our pilgrimage to that Land. We think of his body, his blood and their meaning.
The bread we eat
“The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?” I Cor. 10:16.
Christ’s body is special in that he never gave in to the power of sin though he was equally the seed of mortal Adam. We, too, show that we arepart of that by eating of his body (John.6:51), which is symbolized in the bread. We do this in remembrance of him (Lk.22:19).
The wine we drink
As we know from the law in the Old Testament, blood was the major prerequisite for men to approach God (Lev. 17:11). Thus, without the shedding of the blood of an animal man could not approach God, e.g., for forgiveness. But for the great love God has for the world, seeing that the blood of an animal was not enough to save man from sin, He decided to give His only begotten son who willingly sacrificed his precious blood for our sins – to reconcile us to God. So, we have the cup of the New Testament in Christ’s blood (Lk.22: 20). The Old Testament in the blood of animals has been replaced by the New Testament of the blood of Jesus, the old Covenant being replaced by the superior new covenant.
As we drink of the wine, the symbol of Christ’s blood, we come-inunion with Christ and remember his love which has made it possible for us to approach God so freely in prayer. We are not only expected to partake of the emblems by eating and drinking, but to remember the importance of them by appreciating the love of Christ and strive to walk in his footsteps. As we partake of the emblems, we remember Christ in all he did and said.
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John. 15:13). Seeing this great love in our reflection on the emblems means we should strive also to exercise love to our brethren. Let each esteem other better than himself (Phil. 2:3). We should love even our enemies, bless them that curse us, do good to them that despitefully use us and pray for them that persecute us (Matt. 5:44). Despite our worldly difference, we are united in this great love as children of Abraham. This unity comes from the cup we share.
Whenever we come to the Lord’s table, we are encouraged in our journey to the kingdom. After the daily chaos of life, we come to think of that blessed day when we shall drink in newness with him. We are also encouraged in seeing others on the same way, comforting one another, making the journey less strenuous by sharing our loads as the yoke of Christ.
Though Jesus knew the evil intention of Judas Iscariot, he still gave him the opportunity to consider his thoughts by allowing him to partake in the Lord’s supper (Lk.22: 21). Despite the differences the apostles had on leadership, they stayed together and comforted one another and we read of them fellowshipping together (Acts. 2:42). As we journey with one hope in Christ, we should always learn to support one another, encouraging one another not to give up despite our differences. The way is difficult, so let us exhort one another.
One of the great lessons we draw from the emblems is the free invitation Christ gave us to partake of his joy through his preaching. Preaching is an act of love. Christ had much love for us in showing and teaching us about God and the way to the coming kingdom. We should see this act of love in the emblems and realize that we are expected by Christ to show this same love to others, inviting them to the joyful hope we have. And in doing this we already have the pattern Christ left for us. When Jesus preached, he did not think of making a feast where people would come with the prime motive of eating and drinking – though some did come because of the miraculous feeding of 4,000 and more, (Matt. 15:38). Rather, he preferred the wilderness where there is nothing worth lusting after (Matt. 15:33).
We, too, should see this in our preaching work. We should not let food and drink or money prevent us from doing the work of God; we should not place these things as prime motives for our preaching work. It is a sad thing for Christ to see that his work is stopped because of our greed and selfishness for material things, for “man shall not live by bread alone”(Matt. 4:4), and “seek ye first the kingdom of God and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33). When we preach, we present the love of Christ to the world and not materialism, we present the future joy and happiness of his kingdom and not present riches that corrupt. If we truly appreciate the love of Christ and the joy of the coming kingdom, then we should consider ourselves selfish if we can’t preach this good news, inviting others as we have been invited through his blood, into the joy of his kingdom.
“Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid” (Matt.5: 14). This is the positive witness of the ecclesia. Christ should not be hidden. Knowing or unknowingly, we are being observed by others who for one reason might want to prove our faith. Remembering Christ in the emblems also serves as witnessing to him in the world, standing as his true followers whose glory is reflected in their lives for onlookers to see, hear and believe.
When unbelievers celebrate the death of their lost ones, they broadcast how nice the deceased was and feast in memory of them. Much more should we as those whose Redeemer lives and is exalted on high. We ought to show to the world that he is worth praising because he is alive and the only hope for this hopeless world; and so he said, “Ye are witnesses of these things” (Lk. 24:48).
Relief from the burden of sin and death
We are supposed to approach the emblems with a bright conscience. Because we are fallible, we should search our hearts (I Cor. 11:28) and knowing the meaning of the blood of Christ, ask heartily for our sins to be pardoned and with faith, joy in that our sins have been forgiven. We know the warning (I Cor. 11:27) of partaking of the emblems with a clouded heart.
We are comforted when we partake of the emblems and remember the saving blood of Jesus, joy in that he has forgiven us and accepted us at his table. This is exhorting us to flee from sin seeing that we have come in contact with him who has no sin and our sins have been washed away by his blood. Also, we do show the Lord’s death till he comes (I Cor. 11:26), “always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body … knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus (II Cor. 4:10, 14). Though we are faced with the reality of sin and the inevitable presence of death, we are comforted to see through faith in the emblem that we shall drink of the fruit of the vine in newness with Christ in his kingdom (Matt 26:29). This, and more, we do in his absence and thus remember him until we behold the brightness of his face, soon, in his Kingdom.
Bro Amban Rassendyll (Limbe, Camroon)