In one of His ministry’s final acts, Jesus established a ceremony which memorializes His death. It consists of unleavened bread and fruit of the vine. The bread represents the body of Jesus, the fruit of the vine His blood. Jesus instructed the disciples to remember Him as they consumed this simple meal (Luke 22:19). Though not bodily present at the memorial’s institution, the apostle Paul later relates that a disciple proclaims the Lord’s death when they partake of this simple meal (1 Corinthians 11:26). He adds that disciples must also examine themselves lest they fall into judgment. This meal is known by many names. Paul called it the communion of the blood and body of the Lord which some shorten to “communion” (1 Corinthians 10:16). Later in the same chapter, Paul calls this meal “the table of the Lord” which creates another title “the Lord’s table”. And again later he calls it “the Lord Supper.” Whatever name we choose, it remains an essential part of Christian worship.
First century Christians regularly assembled on Sunday. It appears that they generally met in the evenings since Sunday was a workday in the Roman Empire until the fourth century A.D. Believers often met in homes, sometimes an upper room, and their assemblies were simple. When they gathered together the believers:
- Sang to one another
- Read the scriptures aloud
- Received teaching from the scriptures
- Laid aside money
- Prayed together
- Observed the Lord’s Table
Overall, contemporary religious assemblies incorporate these basic elements, though today’s services tend to be far more elaborate. Apart from modern sophistication, one striking difference is how frequently the early disciples memorialized the Lord’s death. Contrary to modern traditions, first century believers observed the Lord’s Table every week. When travelling from Greece to Jerusalem, Paul stopped in Troas. Luke records, “Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread…” (Acts 20:7) The Holy Spirit’s wording leads one to believe this was a regular occurrence. On the weekday of the Lord’s resurrection, the disciples purposefully assembled to “break bread.” This phrase references the Lord’s Supper. Similar terminology was used in the memorial’s institution:
- Matthew 26:26 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.”
- Mark 14:22 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.”
- Luke 22:19 And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”
- 1 Corinthians 11:23-24 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”
Following the evidence, I conclude that Troas commemorated Jesus’ death every first day of the week.
One could argue that Troas observed this memorial on a special occasion. However, when interpreted with 1 Corinthians 11 in mind, a weekly observation remains likely. “When you come together,” the apostle states, “it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat.” The Corinthian’s disruptive, factionalized assembly rendered the memorial ineffectual: The American Standard Version translates verse 20 this way, “When therefore ye assemble yourselves together, it is not possible to eat the Lord’s supper.” Though the Corinthians’ chaotic atmosphere is Paul’s principle concern, the passage certainly connotes a weekly commemoration of Christ’s death. When Corinth came together, the members regularly partook of the Lord’s Supper, albeit in a fractured, disjointed way.
With these passages in mind, we might ask why contemporary religious groups do not weekly observe the Lord’s Supper? If this essential practice has been altered, what else have modern groups altered? What could be more important than regularly commemorating the Lord’s death? If we fail to regularly memorialize Jesus’ death, are we truly, “proclaiming the Lord’s death until He comes?”
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