Proclaiming the Lord’s Death

By C. Robert Wetzel

“We believe that Jesus died and rose again” (1 Thessalonians 4:14).

In a very real sense, participating in the Lord’s Supper is preaching. Preaching is proclamation. The apostle Paul tells us, “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26). And thus we are proclaiming to the world what we first confessed when we came to Christ, “I believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

There are at least three ways the Lord’s Supper may be proclamation.

It may be a reaffirmation of our own faith. There are likely times when we come to the Lord’s table with doubts and fears. It may have been one of those weeks in which nothing seemed to go right or make sense. Then we come to the Lord’s table and we hear the words, “This is my body given for you.” And we hear the proclamation anew that first penetrated our hearts when we came to Christ: “God became flesh in Jesus Christ and gave himself for my salvation.” We hear the words, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” Once again we realize that through the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ we are a part of the body of Christ. And then as we eat the bread and drink the cup we affirm anew, “Yes, I do believe that Jesus is the Christ. It is he who makes sense of the difficulties and confusions that confront me.”

There is also proclamation to the body of believers who gather together to participate in the Lord’s Supper. It happens when we hear the words, “Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf” (1 Corinthians 10:17). I am reminded that as much as Communion may be an individual experience between God and me, it is also a community activity; it is an affirmation of my participation in the whole body of Christ. Not only do I believe that Jesus is “my personal Savior,” I believe I am a part of the whole body of Christ, the church, wherever and whenever it gathers.

Nonbelievers have often found the church’s participation in the Lord’s Supper curious if not downright strange. And yet every time the church gathers for this sacred occasion we proclaim to the unbelieving world the message of salvation: “God’s love was revealed to you through the sacrificial death of his Son, Jesus Christ.” We are saying, “We believe! Come join us in this faith that leads to life and life eternal.”

Hence when I say at the Lord’s table, “I believe,” I am saying it to myself, and as a congregation we are saying it to each other, while all the time we are proclaiming our faith to the world.

 

C. Robert Wetzel is chancellor at Emmanuel Christian Seminary, Johnson City, Tennessee. 

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