The sharing of a meal. The breaking of bread and the passing of a cup of juice or wine. A table where people are gathered as equals in the presence of Jesus. At this table, disciples gather to receive not just the bread that nourishes the body and drink that quenches their thirst, but rather more symbolically and spiritually they receive the Word that nourishes their soul and the cleansing of their spirits from sin. They partake of a meal that frees them from guilt and shame and disconnectedness from God.
The story of the Last Supper, is not just the story of the breaking of bread on Jesus’ last night of freedom before trial and later crucifixion. It is the story of a great forgiveness and a great covenant offered to all Mankind. It is a new Passover that is being commemorated as well. Instead of commemorating the night where the Hand of God went sweeping over a land to kill the first born of Egypt while the loyal and obedient Israelites are spared, the Last Supper, which had occurred on Passover, is establishing an event where God is sacrificing Jesus for the sake of all Mankind’s forgiveness. In the place of sacrificial lambs for the Passover feast and instead of the wrath of God sweeping over to take the firstborn children of Pharaoh, we have Jesus offering himself up as that sacrifice in payment for God withholding His wrath and instead offering a hand of mercy.
But who is eligible to receive communion with Jesus? Who is worthy enough to accept the “food” that nourishes the soul and the “drink” that cleanses one of sin? Who is worthy of God’s mercy? Who is invited to sit at the table of communion with Jesus?
The answer: EVERYONE. In all the Gospels, Jesus had never turned down anyone who came to him for healing, for forgiveness of sin, for wisdom or understanding, or for redemption. He actually sought the company of the so-called “undesirables”– the lepers, the poor, the disabled, the tax collectors, the foreigners, the mentally or emotionally troubled, and so on. Whether they were Greek, Roman, Palestinian, Samarian, Judean, Israeli, free or slave, male or female, young, old, or middle-aged, or Ethiopian or Pharisee or Philistine… Jesus was willing to welcome anyone who came seeking him out. And he was in plain sight and open about what he was offering.
He denied no one and he forgave everyone of all their sins in exchange for their belief in him and their trust in him. And that forgiveness and that openness to all was throughout his ministry. The Last Supper or Holy Communion became a sacrament or ordinance or memorial rite for all Christians to continue and follow in remembrance of that openness and forgiveness– so that we remember what Jesus offered and sacrificed for us– but also to remind us to be open and forgiving to others as well.