02 Aug Communion, Part 2: How Did Communion Come Into The Church?
There are many major themes which help weave all of the Bible together. One of them includes significant meals in history which help us understand the role and importance of Christian communion.
M e a l 1 : F o r b i d de n F r u i t
In Genesis 3 our first parents, Adam and Eve, committed the original sin when they ate a meal without God in disobedience to him. Sin, the fall, and the curse came upon us all through the tragic decision of our first parents to eat in friendship with Satan rather than God.
M e a l 2 : P a s s o v e r
Exodus tells the story of God redeeming his people from slavery to the tyrannical pharaoh in Egypt to allow them to worship him freely. God poured out ten plagues on Egypt, with the final plague being the slaughter of the firstborn.
In Exodus 12 God commanded the entire congregation of Israel to take a young, healthy lamb without defect for sacrifice. This lamb pointed to Jesus, who was also young, healthy, and without defect (or sin) and died for the community of his people. John the Baptizer later cried out that Jesus was “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”1 And, John the disciple also writes, “Worthy is the Lamb [Jesus] who was slain.”2
The blood (the symbol of life)3 of the slaughtered lamb was to be put on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the Israelites’ homes. The blood of the lamb, denoting their repentance of sin and faith in God, would be their salvation so that God’s just wrath would literally pass over them.
In fulfillment of the Passover, Jesus was slaughtered for our sin.4 Our salvation was purchased “with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.”5 Indeed, Jesus earned our redemption with his own blood as an unblemished sacrifice.6 Lastly, God commanded the Passover festival be continued every year, which it was until it was eaten by Jesus, whom Paul calls, “Christ, our Passover lamb.”7
M e a l 3: T h e L a s t S u p p e r
Like all Jewish people, Jesus celebrated the Passover meal. Echoing the great themes of the exodus and Passover, Jesus the firstborn Son and sinless Lamb of God sat down with his friends to remember the killing of the firstborn sons, judgment of false gods, shedding of blood for sin, and deliverance from bondage and sin in Egypt. However, in startling alteration of a thousand-year tradition, as they ate the unleavened bread, Jesus announced that the bread was his body.8 The disciples had to be stunned.
As a historical aside, it is amazing to note that for a very long time Jewish people have used matzo as the Passover bread. This special bread is not only unleavened but also striped and pierced. It reminds us of Isaiah’s words: “He was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.”9
Returning to Jesus’ Passover meal, as they took the third cup, the cup of redemption, Jesus identified the wine as his blood to be shed for the new covenant, or forgiveness of sins.10 When the time came for the fourth cup, Jesus told the disciples he would not drink this cup with them until the coming of the kingdom. Then Jesus commanded his people to do the same continually in remembrance of him. Next, Jesus went out to be crucified. Jesus was clearly teaching that the ancient prophecies contained in the Passover meal were being fulfilled in his death.
M e a l 4 : C o m m u n i o n
Immediately following Pentecost, Christians began following Jesus’ command to eat and drink in his memory.11 The Bible gives us a picture of such a meal in 1 Corinthians 10:15–22 and 11:17–34. Paul says that Communion is a meal about Jesus and to be partaken of only by Christians who are singularly devoted to God, repentant of sin, and not partaking in any other religions or spiritualities. He goes on to say that they partook of bread to remember Jesus’ broken body and wine to remember Jesus’ shed blood in their place for their sins. He also states that at Communion all of God’s people are to be treated with equal dignity, and that anyone who does not partake of Communion according to these commands brings God’s judgment upon themselves, which may include death. Ever since, it is to be eaten by God’s people until we are seated at the fifth and final meal.
M e a l 5 : W e d d i n g S u p p e r o f t h e L a m b
Because human history began with a meal eaten without God, it is only fitting that history will end with God’s church, typified as a bride, eating a glorious meal with Jesus Christ, her groom.12 Isaiah 25:6 speaks of this feast, which includes the finest cuts of meats and the choicest wines laid out in honor of Jesus and to be enjoyed by those who have lovingly responded to his love.
At the wedding supper, the effects of sin wrought by the first meal eaten apart from God will be completely eradicated from all creation. Those who through faith in Jesus partook of the second, third, and fourth meals will participate in this meal together as the church. Together forever with Jesus we will eat, drink, laugh, and rejoice as friends reconciled to God and one another through Jesus.
So, when we eat we are to remember that we are preparing for the day we sit at Jesus’ table together forever!
3Lev. 17:11, 14; Deut. 12:23; Ps. 72:14.
42 Cor. 5:21.
51 Pet. 1:19.
71 Cor. 5:7.
10Matt. 26:28, cf. Jer. 31:31–34.
This blog was adapted from previous work by Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears.