By Dick Wamsley
In an article in Worship Leader from 1993, Robert Webber wrote, “In early Christian worship . . . the giving of thanks was not a sober recall of the death of Jesus, but a joyous response to the presence of the resurrected Christ.”
He cited the experiences of the earliest Christians when they came together to “break bread” (Acts 2:42), connecting those experiences with the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus recorded in Luke 24 and John 21.
Luke records the appearance of Jesus to Cleopas and another disciple on the road to Emmaus. Even though Jesus walked with them some distance, they did not recognize him until he ate with them. At the very moment, when “he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them . . . their eyes were opened and they recognized him” (Luke 24:30, 31). They returned to Jerusalem and reported their experience to other disciples. While they were talking about it, Jesus appeared to them and asked, “Do you have anything here to eat?” (Luke 24:41). They gave him a piece of broiled fish and he ate it in their presence.
In John 21, Jesus appeared again to some of his disciples who were fishing by the Sea of Galilee. He told them to throw their nets on the other side of their boat. When they did, they brought in a large number of fish. By the time they got to shore, Jesus was already preparing them a meal of fish and bread over a fire, and he said to them, “Come and have breakfast” (John 21:12).
In his article, Webber offered this insight: “When the early Christians gathered at the breaking of the bread they experienced the presence of the resurrected Christ. Just as Jesus was present on the road to Emmaus, in the upper room, and by the Sea of Galilee, so the resurrected Jesus became present at the breaking of bread.”
Is it possible that when we come together to share the Lord’s Supper, we “proclaim the Lord’s death,” as Paul indicates in 1 Corinthians 11:26, and then forget that he also adds these words, “until he comes”? For just as we are drawn to the foot of the cross during those sacred moments, we are also brought to the empty tomb to remember his resurrection and our own future resurrections.
At the Lord’s Table, we reflect on the precious blood of Christ shed for the forgiveness of sins, and we celebrate the promise of a new life in Christ made complete when he comes again.
Dick Wamsley served as senior minister at Taylorville (Illinois) Christian Church for more than 27 years and with Nebraska Christian College for 14 years. He is retired from full-time ministry but continues to serve in interim ministries for churches in central Illinois.