The Purpose of Communion
It is as a community that we reflect upon our redemption that we have in Jesus Christ. The bread and the juice, act as symbols that represent the body of Jesus Christ that was broken for us, the blood of Jesus Christ that was shed for us, for the forgiveness of sins. The purpose of communion is not only in memory of Him, it also highlights the unity that we share in Jesus Christ as followers and believers.
In Luke 22:17, we read “Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, ‘Take this and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’ Then he took bread, and after giving thanks he broke it and gave it to them saying, ‘This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ And in the same way he took the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.’”
“This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
“This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”
Communion is not intended for us to remember that there was a man named Jesus who lived 2000 years ago, hung out with 12 guys he met while traveling around, who went from place to place and tried to teach people to love each other, offended the ruling class and was punished for perceived crimes against the religious leaders of the day. We are instructed to remember the body sacrificed to spare us the wage of sin. We are instructed to remember the cup poured out to wash away that sin. Not just the body of a man, but the body of a man who was God incarnate, who came specifically for the purpose of our salvation. This fact is best demonstrated in the words of John the Baptist, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
In 1 Corinthians 5:7, Jesus is called the pascha, the Greek word is translated as “the Passover lamb”. The pascha is the lamb that was slaughtered every year in celebration of the Passover. The pascha, the Passover lamb, is who Jesus is…not was. The Passover is the precursor to our celebrating the redemption we have through Jesus Christ. The night before Christ is crucified, Jesus is celebrating the Passover Seder meal with His closest friends. This meal is a Jewish ritual feast typically held on the first night of the Passover. Families and friends gather around the table on the nights of Passover to read the story of the Israelite exodus from Egypt.
The Passover commemorated Israel’s escape from bondage in Egypt. In Exodus, the blood of the Passover lamb was painted on the door frames, causing the plague of the firstborn to pass over their houses sparing the firstborn sons from death. The Last Supper was very significant because Jesus showed His disciples He was about to become the Passover Lamb of God. His blood would open the door to freedom. His followers would exchange slavery to sin and death for eternal life in God’s Kingdom.
In Corinthians 10, from verse 16: “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 partake of the one loaf.” When I take communion, I show my participation in the body of Christ.
In 1 Corinthians 11, from verse 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.” It’s not implied I have a choice to take communion, I am told to “do this”. It should never be held in the context that I “must”, but in the context of I am given the “opportunity”. I am further instructed that I should remember Christ when I take the bread and juice. I need to remember the Passover Lamb, His sacrifice and all that He has done for me in His life, death and resurrection.
In 1 Corinthians 11, from verse 26: “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” This is my statement of faith, I do this because I am waiting for Christ to return while I also declare His death to be my life, the spring of all my comfort and hope. The very reason I am blessed with the life I have today, with all the trials and tribulations as well as the inconceivable blessing of a wife, home and loving community of followers is because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. I openly declare to God and the world that I believe in Jesus.
We are to look deeply into our own lives, our own behavior, our own attitudes, our own beliefs, before we come to the table. Clearly, the table is for believers. 1 Corinthians 11, from verse 27: “For this reason, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself first, and in this way let him eat the bread and drink of the cup. For the one who eats and drinks without careful regard for the body eats and drinks judgment against himself.”
It is not only in the context of our horizontal relationship that we need to be right with God, but also examine yourself with regard to your fellowship and community. Do not eat communion bread or drink of the fruit of the vine (be it juice or wine) while having disregard or disrespect for your brother and sister as they are also the body of Christ. If you do so, you bring judgment against yourself.
This celebration is the clearest symbolic expression of our redemption in Jesus Christ: the body of Christ that was broken for us, and the blood of Christ that was shed for us, giving us the remission of sins. Communion represents the best that Christianity has to offer. Celebrating communion, celebrating the Lord’s Table is our finest hour as Christians.
It is my belief that Christ does not exclude anybody from the invitation to partake in communion, as long as they know why they are participating in this remarkable opportunity for self examination. You do not need to have “all your ducks in a row” before you are ‘allowed’ to take the cup and the loaf, but you are required to know and believe the sacrifice made for you through Christ.
Self examination is never easy for me; I am just a man who has many character defects. There are people in my life I do not have the right heart for; people who may have wronged me in the past. I want to believe they have the same feelings towards me so that I can justify my heart being hardened towards them. It is my pride and stubbornness I examine, I bring that to communion and ask for help. I confess my sin in the relationship and pray for my heart to be changed. I pray for the person I am struggling about, not that they would change so that I can forgive them. I pray that they would be blessed beyond how I have been blessed in this life.
My intention here is to make clear my view of the responsibility to approach the table with the right heart. In this regard, church leadership is similar to a kindergarten teacher telling the kids they are going to practice a fire alarm and not explaining where to line up, how to move or get where they are going safely…kids are going to get lost.