We live in a day when we build doctrines around experiences rather than around the truth of God’s word. Somebody testifies about an experience they had and their experience becomes ‘gospel’. A popular one going around now is that because after giving God some expression of worship, a miracle occurred or an answer to prayer came, worship is now a tool to get a miracle or an answer to prayer. This particular issue will be addressed in another blog but the principle is what I am highlighting here.
In the same vein, because miracles have occurred after some folks took the communion, the communion has now become a key to receiving a miracle or an answer to prayer. At the other extreme, the communion is just another religious rite that is performed in church. The question, though, is who instituted the communion and why?
Who instituted the communion?
If we read John 6:30-59, we see Jesus talking about His disciples ‘eating His flesh’ and ‘drinking His blood’ as a way to stay connected deeply to Him.
“For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me.” (vs. 55-57)
For those He spoke these words to way back then, it was tough to accept. I must confess that even to me now, it is a bit weird. Yet we know He didn’t actually mean that His followers would become cannibals and start eating human flesh and drinking human blood because at no point did this happen. What actually comes to mind when I think about these words is the analogy Jesus made of Himself as the Vine and we, His followers, as the branches that need to stay attached to Him, dependent completely on Him to really live and to be fruitful (bearing His fruit). It seems to me that because “This bread is (His) flesh, which (He gave) for the life of the world” (the latter part of verse 51 rephrased), the practical way to ‘eat His flesh and drink His blood’ is to accept His gift/sacrifice as our Saviour and then submit our lives to Him as our Lord continuously, taking up our cross daily and following Him, as it were (Luke 9:23). In so doing, He takes up residence in us by His Spirit and we become one – we in Him and He in us.
What is most interesting, though, is that this act of ‘eating His flesh and drinking His blood’ is symbolized by the communion that we take.
And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.
(Luke 22:19-20 NIV)
For I received from the Lord Himself that which I passed on to you [it was given to me personally], that the Lord Jesus on the night when He was treacherously delivered up and while His betrayal was in progress took bread, And when He had given thanks, He broke [it] and said, Take, eat. This is My body, which is broken for you. Do this to call Me [affectionately] to remembrance. Similarly when supper was ended, He took the cup also, saying, This cup is the new covenant [ratified and established] in My blood. Do this, as often as you drink [it], to call Me [affectionately] to remembrance. For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are representing and signifying and proclaiming the fact of the Lord’s death until He comes [again].
(1 Corinthians 11:23-26 AMPC)
So why did Jesus institute what we refer to as the Holy Communion?
1. As an occasion/opportunity to remember Him (with affection).
2. As an occasion/opportunity to rehearse and restate the foundation of our faith – His death (and resurrection).
Every time you eat this bread and drink this cup you are telling others about the Lord’s death until he comes. (v.26 NCV)
There is one other importance of the communion seen in Paul’s words:
Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf.
(1 Corinthians 10:16-17 NIV)
When we take the communion in our groups, whether large local assemblies or small house cells, we are reminded that as different as we might be in outward appearance, temperament, likes and dislikes, we are all members of one body – the household of God, our Father.
How often should we partake of the communion?
Jesus didn’t say. Paul only admonished us to do it with the right motives as often as we do it.
Can miracles occur when we partake of the communion? Sure, just as miracles can occur at any other time. However, it would be folly to now make the purpose of the communion the receiving of miracles when Jesus made clear what the purpose is. When, in obedience, we use the opportunity to ‘eat of his flesh’ and ‘drink of his blood’ (figuratively) to remember what He did on the cross, our faith and commitment are renewed and God can do anything He desires because our hearts are in the right place.
So, next time you partake of the communion, will you take your mind off yourself and your many needs and think about the cross – what Jesus did for you and how much He loves you?