This Thursday many of us will gather around our various family tables to feast with family and friends and give thanks to God for all that He has given us. It makes sense, then, that at our church this morning we began this Thanksgiving Week gathered around another family table, the Lord’s Table, feasting on Jesus as He is offered to us in the gospel, and giving thanks to God the Father for the “indescribable gift” of His Son (2 Corinthians 9:15 NIV).
Among Christians there are various names given to the meal we shared this morning. Many of us have heard it called “The Lord’s Supper” or “Holy Communion” or even just “Communion.” These names come from Paul’s description of the meal in 1 Corinthians 10 and 11.
The term Communion comes from the King James Version’s translation of 1 Corinthians 10:16: “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?” It means fellowship with or participation in the body and blood of Christ. The phrase The Lord’s Supper comes from 1 Corinthians 11:20 where Paul refers to this meal as “the Lord’s Supper” in order to set it apart from any other regular meal.
But if, like me, you were not raised in a Catholic, Anglican, or Episcopal Church you may be unfamiliar with another name for this meal, The Eucharist. Eucharist is a transliteration of the Greek word that means “give thanks,” a word that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Paul all use to describe how Jesus blessed the bread and the cup before He shared them with His disciples. Some of you may not have heard the Lord’s Supper called the Eucharist before because as D. A. Carson has noted: “Some Protestants have avoided the term because of its associations with the traditional Roman Catholic mass, but the term itself is surely not objectionable.” I don’t find the term objectionable at all, but rather feel that it is most appropriate and God-honoring to call this meal above all others “The Great Thanksgiving.”
But what I’d like us to think about briefly is this: For what does Jesus want us to give thanks as we come to His table to feast with Him? I want to suggest that the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist, motivates us to offer four “thank You’s” to God, one of which will be harder to thank Him for than the others. Let’s look at several passages from the Gospels to find them, and as we do, notice that I have emphasized the following words in each passage: took, blessed or gave thanks, broke, gave.
26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
22 And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” 23 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. 24 And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many
19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.
28 So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, 29 but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” 33 And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34 saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.