Dave Black, noted author, blogger, and bookworm extraordinaire has had the privilege of experiencing the celebration of the Lord’s Table at his current assembly. This is no ordinary experience however, as they have had the benefit of celebrating this event with a singular cup and singular loaf of bread. Before you cringe at the thought of germs, it is noteworthy to consider the antibacterial qualities of wine, and I am sure that the bread was handled in a hygienic manner as well!
In his post, he posed an essay question. It is extra credit, so I will do my best to raise my grade with this particular entry. His question was, “Did Jesus ever invite anyone to the Lord’s Supper? Or are we commanded to partake of the elements?” This is an excellent question, especially for personal bible study. This is also a perplexing inquiry when considering that many churches across the land have distinct “attendance” requirements for receiving the elements of the table.
The qualification of attendees to the meal is a centuries old debate that will outlive most of my present readers and their grandchildren. Those who remain to celebrate the earthly manifestation of this glorious event can hash it out until Kingdom Come. As for me, I will gladly await the conclusion of this conversation at the wedding supper of the Lamb.
I have poured hours and hours into the study of this sole topic, and quintessentially, could be accused of majoring on a minor. But for me, it is not a minor concern at all. If anything, the meal at the assembling of the saints has become a core dynamic in which I measure the health and direction of meetings we attend or desire to attend. With the countless essays, books, and blogs I have read providing a major store of information, I still find myself scratching my head from time to time.
The stark reality of what influences our table manners is the theology behind who can attend. A lot of my questions were answered when I considered the Lords interactions with others at the meals he attended. Even though considering invitations has its merit in the scripture, merely considering who was in attendance at meals with our Lord is even more revealing. What I have discovered is a significant change in who I feel is permitted to eat bread and drink the cup.
If we limit the view of the meal to just a sacrament, our perception is already skewed. If we remember that all references to the practice of ‘breaking bread’ in the New Testament involve an actual supper, our eyes and hearts can be opened. The Gospel of Luke is very revealing. Let us focus there for the answer to this question.
Luke 5:27-32 – Jesus invites a publican to follow him, and the publican prepares a meal for Jesus. Is this significant? Was it an invitation? Ask yourself.
Luke 7:36-50 – Jesus is invited to sup with Simon the Pharisee. Essentially this may not be Jesus doing the inviting but he is dining with unfavorable company. Is this significant? Ask yourself.
Luke 9:10-17 – Jesus feeds the company of at least 5000 men. Although this is a miracle in its own right, not necessarily a direct invitation, but the Lord of Glory providing food to the multitude is an inviting situation is it not? They surely were not turned away, and in turn, dined with Christ. Is this significant? Ask yourself.
Luke 10:38-42 – Jesus entered into the household of Mary and Martha. The famous dilemma of Martha’s clamoring and obsession with serving implies supping no? Surely others were with the Lord and a meal took place. The emphasis here is the presence of the Lord, not the attention to the details of dining together as a group. Is this significant? Ask yourself.
Luke 11:34-54 – Jesus was dining with Pharisees again. Most likely an uncomfortable dining experience, as Jesus was laying into them about their hypocrisies. Nevertheless this was a dining experience with the Lord. Again, Jesus is the invited and he agrees to dine amongst questionable company. Is this significant? Ask yourself.
Luke 14:1-24 – Jesus again dines with one of the chief Pharisees. It is almost as if he has invited himself but is most likely the one bidden to dine. The dialog remains peaceful and the culmination is this instruction:
“But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”
Is this significant? Ask yourself.
Luke 19:1-10 – Jesus invites himself again, this time he is in the company of Zacchaeus, a grateful sinner who is zealous to see the Lord. Jesus invites himself to sup with this man. Is it significant? Ask yourself.
Luke 22:7-38 – Jesus now provides explicit instructions regarding the feast of Unleavened Bread. The Lord proclaims himself as the one who serves (v27) and shows us that those present, the Disciples, were those who have stayed with him in his trials. Jesus again appears to be the initiator of the feast, but also the primary servant. Is this significant? Ask yourself.
Luke 24:13-35 – Jesus has been crucified. He has risen. And we read this example of someone clearly showing up unexpected for dinner. But the two men on the road invite Jesus to dine with them and to stay awhile (v29-30). It is noteworthy, and a bit humorous, to note that Jesus played into the invitation, as if he didn’t know they would invite him along (v28). Is this significant? Ask yourself.
Luke 24:36-53 – Jesus clearly invites himself to dinner and asks the disciples for food! Yes, a point was being made in all this; the Lord reminded them of his state through a familiar reference in their personal schema. He made himself known in fellowship and dining together. Is this significant? Ask yourself.
In conclusion, I would wager that the Lord Jesus does not make a distinct open invitation to potential diners in the scriptural references to the final supper. Jesus does invite others to dine with him. Jesus also invites himself to dine with us. Jesus is also not arbitrary with the invitations that he does make. With the idea of bread breaking in view, and as noted above, we see Jesus has had a habit of inviting himself to dine with adversaries and disciples alike. Dining with Jesus often entailed a bit of mystery and surprise. It also entailed exposure of the truth, and generally in the relations of those who were present.
We also see that the occasional unwanted guest showed up. That unwanted guest usually left with salvation and a glimpse of the Kingdom that was to come.
To address the second part of the question, are we commanded to partake of the elements, requires definition of what the elements are. That is another essay for another time. The short and most efficient answer at this juncture would be, no. But, the command to remember Jesus when we break bread is implicit. We are instructed to do this when we come together to proclaim his death until he comes again. (Luke 22:19-20)
May we all look forward to the time when we all sit at table and break bread together as the holy and spotless bride Christ has gathered to himself.