The Lord’s Supper – or breakfast?

I wrote the following sarcastic paraphrase:

Luke 22:14 And when the hour came that they woke up, he sat the table, and the apostles with him. 15 And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to do this ceremony with you before I suffer; 16 for I tell you I shall not do it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17 And he poured juice into small cups, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and pass it around; 18 for I tell you that from now on I shall not drink this juice until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 And he took a cracker, and when he had given thanks he snapped 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 small cups after breakfast, saying, “The juice in these cups which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”

Well, not quite. It was a supper, not a breakfast. It was consuming a meal together. The meal was initiated by breaking the bread. They dipped the bread in a dish and ate. The wine came after the meal.

Here are a few verses that mention dipping:

Matt 26:23 He answered, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me, will betray me.

Mark 14:20 He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the dish with me.

John 13:26 Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I shall give this morsel when I have dipped it.

The last verse makes it clear that the bread was dipped – perhaps in some sort of sauce or liquid. The gospels are silent about what was in the dish. I have seen Middle-Eastern people dipping bread into olive oil. It was considered a delicacy.

Here is a verse that shows that breaking bread initiated a meal:

Acts 27:35 And when he had said this, he took bread, and giving thanks to God in the presence of all he broke it and began to eat. 36 Then they all were encouraged and ate some food themselves.

They drank the wine after the meal as we see in the following verse:

Luke 22:20 And likewise the cup after supper, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

So what’s the big idea? The Lord’s supper is about sharing a meal together as a family while waiting for the coming Lord. It was a supper, NOT A BREAKFAST. They met in the evening, not in the morning.

Sunday was not a public holiday in the Roman Empire at the time of Paul. It was a work day. Only the Jews enjoyed a day off, the Sabbath day, Gentiles didn’t have such a privilege. If the disciples wanted to meet on the first day of the week, they could only do it on the night after the Sabbath, that is, on Saturday night after 6 pm. Sunday night was already the second day of the week.

Acts 20:7 On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the morrow; and he prolonged his speech until midnight. 8 There were many lights in the upper chamber where we were gathered. 9 And a young man named Eu’tychus was sitting in the window. He sank into a deep sleep as Paul talked still longer; and being overcome by sleep, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead.

What happened here? They gathered after work, when they were already tired. Verse 20 provides a framework for the story, it gives a reason for the accident. The story itself starts with verse 8. They gathered at night, not in the morning, and Paul spoke until midnight. The people were already tired, Eu’tychus fell asleep and he fell to his death.

The Family Circle Jewish Recipes says this about the Sabbath night meal (p. 2):

“The Shabbat (Sabbath) or Day of Rest lasts from just before sunset on Friday to after sunset on Saturday. Shabbat dinner is an occasion for the entire family to get together to pray, break bread, drink wine and eat their fill.”

Similarly to the Sabbath night meal, the Lord’s supper was also a meal shared as a family by the disciples at night. It wasn’t simply a ceremony.

Finally, we need to deal with the passage in 1Corinthians. What was the problem there?

1Cor 11:33 So then, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another — 34 if any one is hungry, let him eat at home — lest you come together to be condemned.

People gathered at the place of meeting after work. Some arrived soon after 6 pm, others, such as slaves came much later, perhaps 8 or 9, as they would have worked longer hours. They were also too poor to bring food on their own. By the time they arrived the food others brought was already eaten.

What is Paul’s instruction? Wait for one another! And if one is hungry and cannot wait, he or she should eat at home enough to keep him going until all others arrived. For the Lord’s supper is a meal spent together as one family.

Therefore, what churches have been doing over the centuries has nothing to do with the intent of the Lord’s supper. It is not even the Lord’s breakfast.


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