The New Testament Lord's Supper (or Christian Passover), is observed after sundown on the evening beginning the 14th day of the first month on the Hebrew calendar, i.e., the night before the Jewish Passover Seder. This was the night Jesus was betrayed. Observe the Lord's Supper with like-minded Christians, but, if necessary, you can observe it by yourself. If you are ill or "on a journey", you may observe it 30 days later at the "Second Passover".
The New Testament has no "Thus saith the Lord" about precisely when to observe the commemoration. Accordingly we do it on the anniversary of "the night He was betrayed". If you are convinced it should be observed another night, or even whenever you feel like it, there is no Biblical indication that such observance is "wrong". However, this does alter the symbolic meaning of the observance.
The Lord's Supper is an annual reminder of that New Covenant in Christ's Blood into which we entered at Baptism. Christ instructed us to observe this ceremony until He comes. Our observance of it demonstrates that we do expect Him to return, and to drink the new wine with Him in His kingdom.
Go to Observance by yourself
An email asked: Why does your site suggest foot washing for the Lord's Supper along the same lines as breaking of the bread and drinking of the wine? Is it necessary to observe? Or is breaking of the bread and the drinking of Christ's blood all that is really required?
Answer: Your question is thought-provoking. It is difficult to identify what is "really required" in Christianity. But, whatever it is, Christians must do much more than that!
In preparation for the service, only a few things are needed: A towel and basin for each person who will participate in the footwashing service, some unleavened bread (e.g., Matzos), and a small amount of dry-to-medium red wine (or red grape juice). Each participant will also want to have a Bible.
A room should be prepared for the service with adequate seating and room to move around for footwashing. The footwashing can be done in another room if one is available. Prefill the basins with a couple of inches of water. Only enough unleavened bread and wine for the participants should be brought into the room. There should be a small glass for each person with about half an ounce of wine in it. The unleavened bread should be placed, unbroken, on a plate or serving tray. Both bread and wine should be covered with white table napkins before the service begins.
Unlike the Seder, the Lord's Supper is not a meal, but is observed after eating your evening meal. Dress neatly. Men wear shoes and socks. Women shoes on bare feet. When the time is come (usually 7:30 or 8:00 p.m.), everyone should quietly take their seats. This service is a serious (but not dismal) event. Before we start, we traditionally allow each person a few minutes time for reflection, self-examination, and consideration of the tremendous import of God's love as expressed through Christ's sacrifice for us.
The service opens with a spoken prayer. In the opening prayer, we should give thanks to God for His Son, our Passover, sacrificed for us. Some reference to Our Father's love for us, and our desire to one another is important. Also, it is good to mention that we are about to wash one another's feet, and to ask God to instill in us an attitude of service toward those whom God is calling.
Then, the following verses should be read aloud: Luke 22:7-20, I Corinthians 11:17-26.
As Jesus and His disciples reclined at supper, and before He instituted the symbols of His body and blood, Jesus had a lesson of humility and service to convey to the twelve. To introduce the footwashing service, read John 13:1-17 aloud.
Then break for the footwashing service. Footwashing is a symbol of Christ's desire to serve us, and our desire to serve on another. Here our some simple directions:
As people finish the footwashing, they should return quietly to their seats. Remember that this is a time many of your brethren cherish for reflection and self-examination. Have we served our brethren selflessly in the past year?
The symbolism of the Unleavened Bread comes next. Read: John 6:47-58, I Peter 2:19-25, Isaiah 53:1-9, I Corinthians 11:23-24, 27-32. Then uncover the unleavened bread and in a spoken pray, ask God to bless the bread as the symbol of the body of Christ, broken for our sins. Give thanks to God for His power to heal, and for the forgiveness of sins which we have in the Son. "By His stripes, we are healed" - physically, mentally and spiritually.
After the spoken prayer, the speaker breaks the bread into smallish, bite-size pieces and passes it around to those assembled. The bread is still bread, but now it symbolizes Christ's body. It is not transubstantiated or consubstantiated. The bread has no magic power, but has great meaning to us as we eat it and realize that it represents taking Christ, "the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth", into our lives. Wait patiently until everyone has been served and has eaten the bread and had a few minutes to reflect, before proceeding. Remember that "many are sick and some have died" because they do not discern the healing power of Jesus's broken body.
Now comes the symbolism of the Wine (or Grape Juice). Read: I Peter 1:18-21, I Corinthians 11:25. When you have read the scriptures, uncover the wine and in a spoken prayer, ask God to bless the wine as a symbol of the shed blood of His Son Jesus Christ. The prayer should include thanksgiving to God for His Son who shed His blood and died in our place, and an acknowledgment that we are sinners who can hope only in His mercy - to be washed clean by the blood of the Lamb. The wine is still wine, it has not changed in any way. But it symbolizes Christ's blood, shed for many for the remission of sins. Give each person a small glass of the "fruit of the vine". Wait while they drink it and meditate for a minute or two about it and the "New Covenant in His blood". Then collect the empty glasses.
After supper, Jesus comforted his disciples. We imitate this by reading aloud Jesus's words in John 14 through John 17. Have a different person read each chapter, if possible.
After the evening was over, Matthew tell us that they sang a hymn (psalm) and then went out. So, we do not close in prayer, but we do sing a hymn together. There is no closing prayer because the New Covenant that we have symbolized in this service has no end. There are many appropriate modern hymns including "Amazing Grace". A well-known Psalm that Jesus might have sung is Psalm 23, "The Lord is my Shepherd".
After the hymn, the group leader should announce that the service is concluded. Any leftover bread and wine which was blessed but not used during the Passover service should be discarded. The water from the basins should be poured away.
Thank you for joining with millions of other members of the body of Christ who have observed this annual ceremony every year since it was instituted by Jesus "on the night he was betrayed".
Jesus observed His famous "Last Supper" on the "night he was betrayed", in the evening hours of Nisan 14, from just after sunset through the hours before midnight. As you commemorate that evening (or the "Second Passover", 30 days later), you will want to read the scriptures to refresh your memory and to really appreciate the full meaning of that night. Read chapters 26 though 28 of Matthew; these recount a step-by-step chronicle of events. Then read chapters 22 and 23 of Luke and chapters 13 through 17 of John. Read also I Corinthians 11. These rich Bible chapters will give you a picture of what happened on that night of Christ's Last Supper.
As you observe the Christian Passover, at some time in the evening (probably at or around 7:30 or 8:00 p.m., preferably after your own evening meal), you will want to provide yourself with a small piece of unleavened bread (Matzos) and a small glass of wine (preferably a dry, red, natural wine - but if there are compelling circumstances, grape juice may be substituted for wine). You will also want to re-enact the foot-washing ceremony, for which you will need a basin of water and a towel.
For the foot-washing, remind yourself that Jesus, though a God- level individual, came among us as a servant, setting us an example that we should walk in His steps. Then pair up with another person, and each of you solemnly, but symbolically, wash the other's feet. Just wetting them and drying them is all that is necessary. If you are alone, symbolically wash your own feet.
Take a complete piece of Matzos. Remind yourself of the meaning of the Bread, depicting Christ's body broken for our physical and spiritual healing. Ask God's blessing over the bread, then break it and eat a small piece of it. [Unused broken bread can be disposed of later.]
Pick up the small glass of wine. Remind yourself of the meaning of the "fruit of the vine", depicting Christ's blood shed for you, for the remission of your sins. Ask God's blessing over "the cup" and drink it.
Read Psalm 22. This chapter contains some of the very thoughts of Jesus Christ as he died. Read John 20 and 21 and Matthew 28. These scriptures will help you realize that only three days and three nights later Jesus Christ was resurrected from His grave to become your living High Priest and your soon-coming King.
Close your observance by singing a verse from a hymn, just as Jesus and the disciples concluded by singing a psalm.
May God, our Father, bless you in observing the true Christian Passover. We look forward to the day when all of us shall be together with Jesus, and drink the fruit of the vine with Him new in our Father's Kingdom!
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