Today is a special day for us. For nearly 2000 years, this day has been commemorated by the disciples of Jesus. In an unbroken chain, disciples have set aside the first day of the week to remember that Jesus died and was resurrected.
On the night of Passover, Jesus gathered with His disciples and partook of that Old Covenant memorial. As they ate their memorial supper, Jesus took some of the unleavened bread, broke it and gave to His disciples telling them it was His body. Then He had them take the fruit of the vine, already divided among them, and told them it was His blood shed for the remission of their sins. He told them as often as they partook of this memorial, they were to remember His death (Luke 22:14-23). Paul explains that when we participate in this same memorial, we are proclaiming the Lord’s death until He comes (I Corinthians 11:26).
This memorial was a central part of the Christian faith and practice. Paul referred to it in I Corinthians 10:16-22. The Christians broke bread and drank the cup of blessing. It was not a meal; it was a memorial and a participation in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. According to Acts 2:42, the disciples were devoted to breaking this bread. They were devoted to remembering and proclaiming Christ’s death through this memorial.
In Acts 20:6-7, we see that Paul, though in a hurry to get to Jerusalem for Pentecost (Acts 20:16), waited for an entire week in order to gather with the disciples to break bread, that is, to remember Jesus in this memorial. He waited in order to partake of this memorial on the first day of the week with the disciples. He did not wait for a quarterly or an annual observance. He waited until the first day of the week and the disciples gathered then to break bread.
In I Corinthians 11:20, Paul rebuked the Corinthian church because when they were gathering together they were not partaking in the Lord’s Supper. They had corrupted the memorial and were not doing what they were supposed to when they gathered. This explains that when the Corinthians church was assembling, they were supposed to take the Supper. In I Corinthians 16:2, we see that the Corinthian church gathered on the first day of the week, otherwise they could not gather a collection so that there would be no collecting when Paul came.
We are gathered today to edify one another, to worship God, and to proclaim the Lord’s death on the same day of the week on which Jesus resurrected. Every first day of the week, we gather to do this. If you are our guest, we welcome you to remember that Jesus died and was resurrected, not because this is a special holy day to be observed annually, but because this is the first day of the week. It is the day our Savior was resurrected. It is the day His disciples have remembered His death and resurrection for 2000 years. We are excited to once again recall what Jesus did for us. We are excited to proclaim to you that God became flesh, dwelt among us, died among us and was resurrected among us. May we glorify Him until He returns.
The night Jesus was betrayed, He gathered His 12 closest disciples in an upper room. Together they ate the Passover, remembering the great deliverance of their ancestors from Egyptian bondage. While in the midst of this Old Covenant memorial, Jesus instituted a memorial for His New Covenant. Paul called it the Lord’s Supper in I Corinthians 11:20.
According to Luke 22:19-20, Jesus took bread and fruit of the vine. He told the disciples to eat the bread because it was His flesh given for them. He told them to drink the juice because it was the new covenant in His blood. He said they were to eat the bread and drink the juice in remembrance of Him.
It was a new memorial for a new covenant. Of course, they weren’t actually participating in the memorial itself because they had nothing yet to remember. Jesus hadn’t yet given His body or shed His blood. Jesus was simply showing them what they were to do when the New Covenant was established. When they actually took the Supper, it would be in memory of Jesus.
When did they actually take the Supper? According to Acts 20:7, the disciples gathered together to break bread on the first day of the week. I can’t help but notice that Paul was in a hurry to get to Jerusalem (Acts 20:16), however, he apparently arrived in Troas on a Monday and waited to meet with the church there for seven days until they gathered to take the Supper. If Paul was in such a hurry, why didn’t he just gather the disciples together earlier in the week to take the Supper? They were waiting for the first day of the week to partake in the New Covenant Memorial.
In I Corinthians 11:20, Paul rebuked the Corinthian church because when they were gathering together they were eating there own supper instead of the Lord’s. (By the way, this demonstrates the Lord’s Supper is not a meal to assuage hunger, but a memorial to honor Jesus.) Paul rebuked the Corinthians because they were not eating the Lord’s Supper when they came together. When did they come together? I Corinthians 16:2 demonstrates the Corinthian church was meeting on Sundays. The church was to collect funds for the needy saints in Jerusalem so when Paul arrived he would not have to collect funds. They were clearly gathering every first day of the week. When they came together, they were supposed to be eating the Lord’s Supper.
Jesus wants us not only to remember His death but to memorialize it. However, unlike the Old Testament Passover, His memorial is not an annual observance but a weekly one. On the Lord’s Day, we gather to eat the Lord’s Supper, to remember, to rejoice, to refresh. Let’s not weaken this with an annual celebration. Let’s strengthen it by following the example established in the New Testament. If we are eating the Lord’s Supper, let it be the Lord’s Day; if it is the Lord’s Day, let us eat the Lord’s Supper.