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Some Thoughts on the Lord’s Supper

September 30, 2006

I noticed something in Jeremiah this time around, something I have missed before. At 16:7, “…neither shall men break bread for them in mourning, to comfort them for the dead; neither shall men give them the cup of consolation to drink for their father or their mother.” Normally I read a reference-free KJV or NKJV, but happened this time to be reading my ASV with cross-references, so I tracked the links: Ez 24:17, “make no mourning for the dead…eat not the bread of men.” Ho 9:4, “They shall pour out wine-offering to Jehovah, neither shall they be pleasing unto him: their sacrifices shall be unto them as the bread of mourners; all that eat thereof shall be polluted; for their bread shall come from appetite; it shall not come into the house of Jehovah. De 26:14, “I have not eaten thereof in my mourning, neither have I put away thereof, being unclean…”

What did the breaking of bread have to do with mourning? Certainly the “cup of consolation” following the broken bread in Jeremiah is suggestive of the bread and wine of Christian communion.

Calvin notes among the Jews the custom of funeral feasts. It was considered inhuman not to mourn the dead with great, conspicuous sorrow and vigor, with much exaggerated gesticulation and wailing. The “grieving” would often become a pretext to extend the “cup of consolation,” degenerating, presumably, into funerary winebibbery. This reminds me of the conduct for which Paul admonishes the Corinthians at 1Cor 11:20-22, with the caveat, of course, that the Corinthians were not Jews.

The prophets seem to be warning of a judgment that will come when men will not break the bread and take the cup of consolation in mourning–when there will be no funeral feasts; when the dead will not be mourned…a judgment perhaps as severe as that which God metes out when mothers will boil and eat their children. He will suspend the humanity of his people until they repent.

Perhaps the Old Testament texts of funeral bread and wine suggest, if obliquely, a funeral feast at the final Passover the Lord Jesus Christ celebrated with his disciples. A pure and simple one, of course, devoid of exploitive mourning. I do not know how intact Israelite funeral feasts remained among the Jews by the time of Christ. It would not be atypical for his disciples to miss the point, if the Lord were making one, of the portent of his death. Would they not have wondered what was going on–if it was a funeral, where was the body? But he said, “This is my body.”

Or, if he was hosting his own funeral feast, perhaps he protected them, giving them unknowing minds, just like a loving parent….

Certainly the bread and wine represent the body and blood of Christ: The Lord himself tells us so. His body is broken for us, his blood his shed for us, his “active and passive obedience” complete. But I am intrigued by the possible suggestion of a funeral feast as well. Has anyone looked into this?

4 comments:

HZ said…
Lauren, ‘for as often as we eat this bread and drink this cup, we show the Lord’s death til He comes.’This reminded me of something Ruben was saying the other night, about how it is not so much the sacraments that we see everywhere (the grain offering, the passover, etc)– symbols of symbols– as another symbol of that which the sacraments symbolize, which is Christ. He is the true bread and wine. It is fascinating to think of that aspect of the Lord’s Supper as inherent in Christ Himself– of death not only being conquered, but properly, humanly, mourned.
8:29 AM  
Mrs. B said…
Hmmm…I’m not sure I’m getting your intended meaning, Heidi, when you refer to Christ as a symbol. Christ is very man and very God and absolute reality; all else is a shadow or symbol of him.We continue to mourn death; all creation groans until our ultimate redemption in glory, when all creation will be redeemed.Vic had a thought about Christ’s words when he shares the last supper with his disciples, when he says he will not drink of the fruit of the vine again until he drinks with them in his kingdom. This is the kingdom, which would mean that when we remember Christ’s death in the symbols of himself, he is actually with us. (But not, of course, transmutated in us.)

9:36 AM  
HZ said…
Lauren, no I did not mean to refer to Christ as a symbol– my point was precisely what you said more precisely, that Christ is very man and very God and absolute reality, and that the symbols are all of Him, not of other symbols.
11:20 AM  
Mrs. B said…
We are studying the Trinity right now in our study of the London Baptist Confession of 1689 in church. Not easy stuff! One subsistence, one begetting, two proceedings, three personal relations, one unity….But the triune is the one true and only real God.I was sure you weren’t an Arian, Heidi, not to worry!
11:41 AM  
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