Among the various acts of Christian worship is a meaningful ceremony celebrating the sacrificial death of Jesus.
- The bread represents the body Jesus sacrificed for us.
- The wine or the fruit of the vine represents the blood shed for our sins.
The New Testament calls this ceremony various names. It’s frequently called communion. Jesus instituted this memorial with his disciples. They ate the meal together. They communed with one another as they ate. Scripture calls it communion because it is a meal shared by the community of believers, in fellowship with one another and Christ.
“The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?” (1 Corinthians 10:16)
The Lord’s Table and the Lord’s Supper
A few verses later, Paul urges the Corinthians to forsake the eating of foods offered to idols. He says, “you cannot partake of the Lord’s table and the table of demons” (1 Corinthians 10:21). Early disciples also knew communion as the Lord’s Table.
In the next chapter, Paul calls communion the Lord’s Supper,
“Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper.” (1 Corinthians 11:20) W
hen Jesus ate communion with His disciples for the first time, He did so in the evening. The early disciples imitated the example of Jesus by eating it in the evening.
The Breaking of Bread
In Luke 22:19, Jesus blessed the bread and broke it – He divided the bread into smaller pieces and distributed them to the disciples. To “break bread” became synonymous with communion among the first century Christians:
“Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight” (Acts 20:7).
What is Communion?
- It is the meal of bread and wine Jesus shared with His disciples the night before His crucifixion.
- First-century disciples also called communion the Lord’s Supper, the Lord’s table, and the breaking of bread.
- It’s a meal a community of believers eats together to remember the body Jesus sacrificed on our behalf and the blood He shed for our sins.
Why did Jesus Use Bread?
Ancient farmers in the Fertile Crescent domesticated wheat very early in their agricultural revolution, making bread a staple in this region for thousands of years. By choosing bread to symbolize His body, Jesus teaches us we depend on Him and His sacrifice completely: he foreshadows this in John 6:51,
“I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.”
As I said a moment ago, this part of the ancient world considered bread necessary for survival. One ate bread to sustain life. Jesus says if we want to live forever, we must consume Him. He is the nourishment we need to survive. The sacrifice of His body sustains us for eternal life, and so we eat bread as a representation of that nourishment.
Why did Jesus Use Wine?
Jesus also chose the wine or the fruit of the vine for a specific purpose. Scripture connects blood with the juice of grapes.
- When blessing his son Judah, Jacob foretells his son’s abundance as his descendants would “(wash their) garments in wine, And (their) clothes in the blood of grapes.” (Genesis 49:11)
- God depicts the conquering of His enemies as a treading of the winepress: Revelation 14:20, “And the winepress was trampled outside the city, and blood came out of the winepress….”
Scripture establishes a long-standing symbolic connection between grape juice and blood.
When Jesus described the blood of the grape as “the blood of the New Covenant, which is shed for many for the forgiveness of sins,” He drew upon a deep reservoir of Biblical symbolism. From the metaphor of the “blood of the grape” to the “winepress of God,” grape juice or wine had long been associated with blood.
How Often Should We Eat Communion?
The churches I attend eat the Lord’s Supper every Sunday based on Acts 20:7,
“Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight.”
The disciples in Troas gathered together “to break bread.” Or, to put it another way, they met for the express purpose of eating the Lord’s Supper together. They did so on the “first day of the week”:
- The day Jesus rose from the dead
- The day Peter first preached about Jesus rising from the dead (Acts 2)
- The day the Apostle John calls the Lord’s Day (Revelation 1:10)
This appears to be a regular practice of the first-century church. They gathered every first day of the week to remember the death of Jesus by eating bread and drinking the fruit of the vine.
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