The Passover was a meal to be observed in community. Although it was originally taken as a household, everyone did it at the same time and in the same time (Exodus 12:46-47,6,8). Later when Israel had settled in the land, everyone journeyed to Jerusalem in order to celebrate it as a nation (Deuteronomy 16:1-7). It was a tremendously unifying ceremony that brought to mind not only the deliverance they experienced from their bondage under pharaoh, but that they left Egypt with their families intact as the plague “passed over” their first born sons due to the blood of the lamb on their doorframes. This ritual reminded them their national origin was doubly rooted in the grace of God.
Whatever else is true about the Lord’s Supper, it is also a community meal. The problem that plagued the disciples at Corinth was not that they were taking the Supper at the wrong time or with improper elements, but they were not taking it as community. The Supper in the first century was often taken as it had been instituted by Jesus, as part of a meal. This meal (referred to as a love feast—Jude 12; marginal reading of 2 Peter 2:13), was the equivalent of our pot luck get together only it occurred during the assembly rather than after it as ours do.
What was going on at Corinth was that some were showing up with food and some were not, and those who had were not sharing with those who didn’t have (11:21-22). Then they paused at some point, to take together the Lord’s Supper but Paul assured them that though they were eating bread and drinking grape juice—they were not taking the Supper (v. 20)! They couldn’t refuse to share with each other one moment and then celebrate the selfless sacrifice of Jesus for all the next. They were not “discerning the body of Christ,” (v. 29).
Paul goes on to say in v. 31, “If we were more discerning with regard to ourselves,” indicating that the body of Christ he is referring to was the church rather than the emblems of communion. By refusing to recognize their needy brothers and sisters, they were refusing Christ Himself and invalidating their observance of His unselfish death for others. Paul’s indictment is a powerful statement about the communal nature of the Supper.
To take the Supper in community means recognizing Christ’s death for all and treating each other in a manner consistent with that. It means we are one in Him and the Supper is to reflect this unity (1 Corinthians 1-:16-17). From Israel to the church, from Passover to the Supper, it’s clear that we were made for community.