In Communion we eat bread remembering Jesus’ body broken on the cross, and we drink wine remembering His blood poured out to bring us into a new relationship with God. Communion is a participation ceremony of the church. It is an action indicating that the person participates with Christ and His people. It is receiving from the Lord, in terms of His sacrifice on the cross, and His nurture for us as the bread of life.
Why Communion – The Cross
Jesus Himself started us off with communion at the last supper. The last supper was a Jewish Passover celebration. At Passover the Jewish people remember the time when the Lord took the people of Israel out from slavery in the land of Egypt. It is associated with an animal sacrifice, which points to the ultimate and complete sacrifice of Jesus. Within the Passover meal, there are specific points at which bread and wine are distributed. Here is Matthew’s version in Matthew 26
Matthew 26:26-29 26 As they were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take this and eat it, for this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them and said, “Each of you drink from it, 28 for this is my blood, which confirms the covenant* between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many.29 Mark my words—I will not drink wine again until the day I drink it new with you in my Father’s Kingdom.”
- What did Jesus equate the bread and wine to?
- What is important about Jesus’ body and blood that He makes this point?
Why Communion – Remembrance
Paul also gives teaching about communion. He focuses on remembering Jesus and testifying to his death on the cross which sealed a covenant or agreement between God and us. 1 Corinthians 11
1 Corinthians 11 23 For I pass on to you what I received from the Lord himself. On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread24 and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and said, “This is my body, which is given for you.* Do this to remember me.”25 In the same way, he took the cup of wine after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood. Do this to remember me as often as you drink it.”26 For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are announcing the Lord’s death until he comes again.
- Why would the bread and wine help us to remember Jesus?
- What spiritual significance is indicated in the bread and wine?
Communion as a sacrament
A sacrament is a physical action that is linked to a spiritual reality. The most readily understandable sacrament is marriage. Through promises made before witnesses, a couple become one person before God. In the same way, Communion has a spiritual impact. It is saying “I receive You Lord Jesus.” There is something absolute about eating. Though it is a crumb, or a drop, I have either eaten or I have not eaten. There is no half measure. A sacrament asks a question – Are you in or out? 1 Corinthians 10.
1 Corinthians 1016-22 16 When we bless the cup at the Lord’s Table, aren’t we sharing in the blood of Christ? And when we break the bread, aren’t we sharing in the body of Christ?17 And though we are many, we all eat from one loaf of bread, showing that we are one body.18 Think about the people of Israel. Weren’t they united by eating the sacrifices at the altar? 19 What am I trying to say? Am I saying that food offered to idols has some significance, or that idols are real gods?20 No, not at all. I am saying that these sacrifices are offered to demons, not to God. And I don’t want you to participate with demons.21 You cannot drink from the cup of the Lord and from the cup of demons, too. You cannot eat at the Lord’s Table and at the table of demons, too.22 What? Do we dare to rouse the Lord’s jealousy? Do you think we are stronger than he is?
- What does it mean to participate in something?
- The blood of Christ?
- How has this spiritual participation made us one?
- Why would participation in what is not of God arouse His jealousy?
- What is the significance of participation in forms of worship of other religions?