If you can stand it, I would like to ask you all one more time to look at the Lord's Supper through the lens
of the New Testament and see if you would not agree with me that this may be one of the biggest blind spots for the church around the world in the last 2000 years!
It's a supper, stupid!
First and foremost, if you look at all the texts that describe what we now practice and call "The Lord's Supper", you will notice that it was in the context of Jesus and His disciples sharing the Passover meal together.
Mtt. 26:26 And while they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples.
Mark 14: 22 And while they were eating, He took some bread, and after a
blessing, He broke it; and gave it to them, and said, "Take it; this is
Luke 22:20 And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood."
John 13:3-4 Jesus… rose from super, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself about.
Later on we see the early church, following the instructions of those very same disciples, doing the same exact thing!
Acts 2:44,46 And all those who had believed were together, and had all
things in common… and breaking bread from house to house, they were
taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart.
Acts 20:7 And on the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread
I Cor 11:20-22 Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the
Lord’s Supper, for in your eating, each one takes his own supper first;
and one is hungry and another is drunk.
I Cor 11:33 So then, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another.
Jude 12 These men are those who are hidden reefs in your love feasts
when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves.
If the Bible was to fall out of the sky today and hit me on the head
and I read for the first time the above scriptures, I must conclude
that the early church had a meal together they called the Lord’s
If I never knew that there was a thing called a Christian, I
would expect that if I found some of them on planet earth they would
gather together like their Master and first disciples and eat a grand
meal, with lots of food and drink and so carry out His commandments.
Why we don’t eat this meal together today when we gather as believers
in this same Jesus is beyond finding out? I have asked high and low,
searched out far and wide and the only reason I have been presented is
that the early church abused this meal and so we then had to change it to a
"wafer and cracker" service….
After all, we don’t want any drunks in our church! Boy, I sure do!
At least I wish to be in a fellowship of committed Christ-followers
that gather together with such festivity and celebration that at least
the "potential" to get drunk is very present!
"He who ate my Bread has lifted up his heel against me."
Secondly, I think we just don’t understand the biblical metaphor for
"breaking bread" well enough. It is a custom that the Western world has
little or no comparison to.
When my family first went to live in the tiny little country of
Tajikistan as missionaries in 2000, we were soon offered the delight of
eating a meal with a local Tajik family. What we witnessed that day
changed our lives forever.
As we sat on the floor on a beautiful rug we, waiting for a huge meal,
the man of the family took a loaf of flat bread and broke it and passed
it around to each of us sitting there! It was his way of welcoming us
to his house and his way of expressing that he will provide for us.
Anything that he could offer was ours!
I immediately said to myself, "This is what Jesus did… Yet I am
experiencing it first hand in a Muslim home completely cut off from the
When the head of the house broke bread and humbly passed it around to
each of us, I thought this must be a small ritual that dates back
1000’s of years.
Sure enough you can read about something very similar in the Psalms.
"Even my close friend in whom I trusted, Who ate my bread, Has lifted up his heel against me" Ps 41:9
Here in Psalm 41, David is lamenting his enemies, false friends who are
now predicting his demise. In particular there is one close friend whom
he trusted, who even shared his bread with him, that has now turned his
back on him and seeks to kill David.
In the time of David to "share bread with someone" meant that you were
one with each other. One of heart and friendship was secure. There was
often a "covenant meal" eaten by its participants to guarantee the
deed! Much like the example of Jonathan who stripped himself of robe,
armor and sword and gave them to David.
As is always the case, Jesus followed this "red thread" through to its
conclusion when, on the night of His betrayal – during the Passover
Meal – He quotes from this same passage concerning Judas:
"I do not speak of all of you. I know the ones I have chosen; but it is
that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘HE WHO EATS MY BREAD HAS LIFTED
UP HIS HEEL AGAINST ME.’ John 13:18
Given these two tragic situations one must conclude that the height of
treachery is to dine with someone and then turn your back against him
Constantine the Crook
Finally one must study the influence of Constantine the Great (ca. 313 Edict of Milan) to understand HOW the church could get so off
course in such a simple, powerful experience of the original meal and
(In this regard, I do not feel any liberties to discuss the dilemma of
the Roman Catholic church as it attempted – down through the centuries
– to give blatant meaning to this simple meal by describing God being
physically present in the host, etc.)
Constantine the Great, operating out of his new glorious capital
Constantinople (modern day Istanbul), wanted to unite and consolidate
his newly acquired empire from the Romans. His "brilliant" idea was to
use the persecuted Christian church, which hitherto had met simply in
homes, and make them THE official religion of his Kingdom. He made
Sunday an official holiday of the empire and turned the previously
pagan temples into huge Christian cathedrals… and basically forced
everyone in his empire to attend!
Imagine having a "breaking bread meal" with 1000’s of "worshipers" and
you can quickly come to the obvious conclusion that the church took a
bad turn here for all the wrong reasons!
Unfortunately for Constantine (and untold millions of believers) his newly claimed kingdom was thoroughly pagan before they
"magically" became Christianized and from this time forward
brought many pagan ideas and practices into the church.
For instance, one glaring fact of church history is that the pre-Christian
people from Constantinople were devoted worshipers of the sun god, Ra. If you study this religion a little bit you will quickly see the connection to the sun and the celebration of "her". Ask when Ra was most
supremely celebrated and you will find that it links with the Winter
Solstice, Dec 21st and the people followed a practice of gift exchange on
Ra’s actual birthday, Dec. 25th.
Have you ever wondered why Easter, unlike Christmas, is not celebrated
on a certain date but changes yearly? Thanks go to Constantine (AD 325) the church
council of Nicaea.
You see Easter is linked up with the sun!
Easter is a movable feast; that is, it is not always held on the same
date. It was decided in AD 325 that Easter should be the first Sunday after the
first full moon on or after the Vernal Equinox of March 21, when the sun can be observed to be directly above the equator. (wikipedia.org)
Enough said. I think you get the picture.
Now is the time to break free of the pagan past and embrace the liberty
Christ died for. Before we call ourselves a "bible believing church"
ever again let’s make sure we have covered all the bases.
Here’s to the next generation who will never know anything of the "sip
and cracker" Lord’s Supper.
Here’s to a church that truly knows what it means to "break bread" together!
Here’s to the future generation that will
know nothing of the institutional church born from a 4th century madman
Emperor/Conqueror, that eventually gave us pew, pulpit and passivity!
Yours for the least in the Kingdom,
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3 replies on “After supper He took the cup.”
standing and applauding
Bravo, Jeff! Excellent article. Thank you for putting this into words.
Good article… until you got to the Constantine part. Constantine didn’t make Christianity “THE official religion of his Kingdom.” Yes, he legitimized Christianity with the Edict of Milan. Yes, he built churches and convened church councils, most notably the one at Nicaea. And, yes, he made Sunday an official day of rest (though farming was still allowed). But it wasn’t until Theodosius I that Christianity became the official religion of the Empire in 380 and pagan worship was outlawed in 392.
Wikipedia is your friend. 🙂
Rich, I don’t think that the fact that Christianity was not officially made the Empire’s religion until Theo I negates Jeff’s point. Historians I have read all agree that Const did indeed try to consolidate his aging empire with this ploy.
By the way, I went to Sardis a few years ago and saw the 5th century church building there. You may remember that Sardis was unique in the Revelation letters from Jesus as having been the only group He had nothing good to say about. Apparently they never did get it right. The Church was built up against the humongous temple of Zeus. It even shared a wall and some of the massive pillars. Only two reasons that I can think of for that. One, the Church was declaring its superiority over the old fallen temple or, much more likely in terms of the Rev. letter, they were declaring their affinity with the old temple and trying to claim some of its power.
All that to say that I agree with Jeff on that point.
But, Jeff if you are trying to say that Christmas should not be celebrated on the 25th of Dec I disagree. Yes, the origins were pagan but we have ‘baptised’ the old form and given it new and godly meaning. We teach the same here in Middle Earth. A new believer does not give up his culture but baptizes those things that are neutral and makes them to give glory to God. But I guess that is a whole nuther can of worms.