23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” (1 Cor. 11:23,24)
Now these words were not found in the midst of a manual on church order. No, instead they were found essentially in the middle of a weighty rebuke to the Corinthian church for their blatant disregard for the Lord’s Supper. Instead of demonstrating Christ-centered unity, their love feasts – the meal which comprised the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper – manifested division (1 Cor. 11:18b), selfishness (vs.21a), insensitivity (cf. vs.21b), and drunkenness (vs.21c). They had essentially and practically forgotten the purpose for which Jesus instituted this ordinance. So here, in the midst of a rebuke, Paul reminded them.
But you could also say that, first, he reassured them of the ordinance’s origin, as well as the historical backdrop of its establishment. He wrote, “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you…” (vs.23a). Here we see that (a) Paul received the revelation of this commemoration, most likely, through direct revelation from the Lord Jesus Christ; this wasn’t a Christological invention of Paul’s devising, it was an institution established by the Son of God Himself; and (b) the Corinthians had heard this before; note Paul’s language: “which I also delivered to you…” They knew the details of this ordinance; Paul had instructed them about the symbolic meaning of the bread and the wine, as well as the astonishing treachery that took place that night. But since we have short memories, and are in constant need of reminders, Paul reminded them that Jesus instituted this ordinance in the night in which He was betrayed.
Jesus knew full well that He would be on the receiving end of treachery (cf. Mt. 26:20-25; Lk. 22:21). In fact, according to Luke’s literary presentation, after depicting amazing grace to His disciples through the symbolism of the bread and the wine, He called their attention to astonishing infidelity saying, “Behold, the hand of My betrayer is with Me on the table” (Lk. 22:21).
The disciples knew the religious leaders wanted Jesus dead, and they knew that Jesus had to avoid being in places where He was an easy target; hence, He taught publicly in the temple, chose a clandestine location for the Passover meal, and stood at night in the Mount of Olives; but to think that someone who was going to betray Him had already infiltrated the group and was sitting in a place of intimacy with odious intentions was doubtlessly startling.
This idea was even stressed in Jesus’ words – “the hand of My betrayer is with Me on the table” (vs.21b emphasis added). The table was a place where a meal was shared by those gathered around the table. Table fellowship carried with it some sense of relational intimacy. Even as David wrote, “Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me” (Ps. 41:9). The fact that the betrayer shared bread with the one whom he betrayed made the betrayal all the more heinous. And although the hand of a betrayer was with Jesus that night at the Last Supper, someone who had an appearance of loving Jesus but really had a heart that loved money, as we come to the Lord’s Table, or even the Lord’s worship, may it not be with concrete intentions of betraying Him when they leave. Be careful that you do not worship Jesus with your lips while your heart is far from Him and near to things it ought not to be. Be careful that appearance does not become a greater priority than repentance. And one of the best ways to do that is to begin by not only beholding the reality of infidelity that took place at the table that night but by remembering the great fidelity represented by bread and the wine. Judas would be betray Jesus, but Jesus would not forsake His own – His commitment to them, and to all of His new covenant people, is sealed in His blood. Beholding Jesus’ fidelity to you, is a great way to fan the flame of your fidelity to Him.