Then, unexpectedly, my sister and mother showed up at our house. We were excited at that point to have prepared such a large meal of abundance. And we were pleased that someone had come to share it with us.
After the resurrection of Jesus and after he was taken up into heaven the faithful believers continued to meet together as the beginnings of the church we know today. What did they do? What was their attitude?
The love and grace of Jesus Christ did not stop with his death. It continued on among the faithful and still flows today. The early believers would gather together in informal bands of worshipers. As part of their worship there was the sharing of food.
The believers would break bread together – eat – and they did it with glad hearts. They were pleased to be with one another and they were gladdened by the fact that each of them had a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Such should be our attitude as we celebrate Communion in our places of worship. Communion may be a time when we examine ourselves, where we realize that we are not worthy to receive such grace from God. But it should also be a time of celebration and gladness. We should take part in Communion with glad hearts, realizing that although we are unworthy, still Jesus loves us so much that he continues to open himself up to us so that we might be in his loving presence.
Let us rejoice as we take part in Communion. Let us be glad that Jesus loves us. And let us also take the opportunity of Communion to once more invite the Spirit of God to live in our hearts.
DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you be certain to have a glad heart when you take part in Communion?
As adults we know what is best for our children. We know what foods will give them healthier, stronger bodies. But it isn’t always something the child will accept.
When addressing the crowds that followed him Jesus offered a comment on just who he was. What does Jesus say that he is? What is the difference between his bread and the manna the Jews ate in the wilderness? What is special about the “bread” of Christ?
This was a difficult message for people to hear and understand. First, Jesus claimed that he was living bread. He told them that they should eat his flesh (verse 51) and that would provide eternal life.
Additionally, he made a comment about the miracle that the Jews had experienced during the Exodus, a miracle revered by the faithful. He pointed out that even though these people had eaten a gift from God they were still mortal and did eventually die.
The confusion came when people took Jesus literally. During the institution of Communion at the Last Supper Jesus explained that the bread the disciples would eat was his flesh. What he meant was that, like the bread, his body would be broken. Like the bread, the presence of Jesus would give eternal life.
We cannot take these words too literally. We must learn to understand that we must take part in the presence, grace and teaching of Jesus to gain everlasting life. By taking part in Jesus, the way we might take part in a daily meal, we are given a new life, a new way of living and loving and being children of God.
DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you take part in the flesh of Christ?
Many years ago some of the youth group at our church presented a service, part of which involved the taking of Communion. Unfortunately through inexperience, the leader used the passage from Luke 22 for Communion which resulted in everyone drinking of the cup first and then eating the bread.
It is not a horrible thing to have happen, but traditionally the bread is eaten first and then the cup is drunk. This makes it a bit easier to swallow the bread knowing that a small drink follows.
What does Jesus say about his attitude toward this special meal? How many cups does Jesus give to his disciples?
We may wonder why it is that this presentation of the Last Supper differs from those in Matthew and Mark. Jesus offers a cup first, and then the bread. After the bread a second cup is offered. What is going on?
We must first understand that the Last Supper, part of which we mirror in Communion, is a Seder meal. It is a special and symbolic meal to celebrate the Passover – the saving of the Jewish people from the final plague that afflicted the Egyptians.
As part of the meal there are several cups of wine provided, each with its own meaning. The first cup that Jesus uses in verse 17 is likely the second cup of the meal. This cup is the Cup of Deliverance, a reminder that the Jews were spared the final plague.
In using this cup Jesus was showing the disciples that he was the new deliverer for them. He would be saving them from an eternal death.
The next cup that Jesus used was likely the Cup of Redemption. Again, it showed the disciples that he was the one who would redeem them, and in fact all believers. He would remove our sins through the shedding of his blood.
What also stands out is his comment as he reclines at table. Jesus said that he “eagerly desired” to eat the Passover with them. He very much was willing to be a part of the disciples and for them to be a part of him and what he was doing.
We can take comfort in knowing that Jesus eagerly desires that we also receive his salvation, his deliverance, his redemption. His love is so great for each of us that he was willing to die for our salvation.
DAILY CHALLENGE: Are you eager to take part in Christ’s redemption?
So often in our lives and in our work we can accomplish things while functioning on “automatic pilot.” Working at a job a half an hour away from home I drove the same route day in and day out, back and forth from home to work. There were many days when I would get home and realize that I had no recollection of anything that I did on the way home. The entire trip passed without my even noticing.
It can be a scary thought to know that you have been driving without focusing all your attention on what you are doing. But the same scary thought can occur when we realize that we are going through a life of faith with our eyes closed.
As Paul continues with his comments on the Lord’s Supper what does he say about those who take part in Communion in an unworthy manner? What should we do? What does self-examination do for us?
Paul warns against taking part in Holy Communion in “an unworthy manner.” We may not know exactly what that means, although if we look at what Paul has said earlier (1 Corinthians 11:17-22) we can assume he is talking about people who treat this religious act as a social act. Much of this comes from the fact that early worship services involved a full meal.
But we can take Communion in an unworthy manner today, without the presence of a meal. If we do not fully appreciate the gravity and importance of what Communion is all about we are partaking of the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner. If we take part in the sacrament out of duty and habit and not a desire to be in the presence of Jesus, we are taking part in an unworthy manner.
As we approach the sacrament of Communion we must recognize what is going on. We must see that it represents and reminds us of the sacrifice that Jesus made to save our souls. We must see it as an opportunity to enter into an intimate connection with Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and God, the Father. We commune with God, joining our spirit with His. This attitude can be gained through a time of self-examination and spiritual preparation.
DAILY CHALLENGE: What must you do to recognize the importance of Communion?
When I was very young I shared with my brother an incredible story I had heard. He didn’t believe me and he gave me some advice. He said, “Don’t believe anything you hear and only half of what you see.”
It is true that I can sometimes be gullible and believe what others have told me. I need to be more discerning in my judgment, but the cynicism of my brother’s advice was a bit too much for me.
Frequently in matters of faith and the Bible people will ask how it is we know that it is true. For much of our beliefs we must rely completely on faith, trusting that what we believe is actually real and true. But as far as Holy Communion we have some confidence in the tradition.
In his letter to the Corinthians Paul has something to say about the Lord’s Supper. Where did he get this information? What did Jesus do? What are we doing as we take part in Communion?
Paul begins his instructions with the statement that what he is teaching has been passed down from Jesus, through the disciples, to other believers. The tradition and form of the Lord’s Supper was established by Christ himself and then repeated and imitated by his followers.
It is a heartening concept to me to know that what we do during Holy Communion is very much like what happened with Jesus and the disciples on the night Christ was handed over for crucifixion. This sacrament is a re-telling, a re-enacting of what Jesus did, a celebration which has been handed down over the centuries.
As we celebrate Communion in our places of worship we need to realize that, although there may be slight changes and deviations in our traditions, the central act and theme is the same. We are celebrating and proclaiming the sacrifice and love of Jesus Christ.
DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you trust in the truth of Communion?