In a couple days churches around the world will be remembering Jesus’ death through communion. Frequently this is done on a monthly basis, but there are also many churches that do this on a more or less frequent basis. Because of this there are many messages preached from pulpits relating to communion on a regular basis. Like many of you, having grown up in church I have heard many messages on the subject, but I’ve always felt like there was something more to communion than a piece of bread or cracker and a small cup of juice and remembering what they represent.
In I Corinthians 11 the Apostle Paul writes about communion. In verses 23-26, the Apostle Paul related what Jesus said at the last supper He shared with His disciples. Jesus spoke of the bread symbolizing His body and the cup symbolizing His blood, and that whenever we take of them we are to remember Him. Is there more to this than just partaking of the elements and remembering Christ in the process? I think there is and I want to share that with you.
In the above passage Jesus talks of eating His body and drinking His blood, but was there another occasion other than the last supper when Jesus referred to this? In John 6 Jesus talks about eating His flesh and drinking His blood. This was a message that was too much for most of the people to understand, much less accept, but Jesus said it was imperative if one was to have eternal life. Is it possible that there is a connection between what Jesus told the people in John 6 and what He told them at the last supper? I think there is, and if we can understand that we may have a better understanding of what it means to participate in communion in a worthy manner.
Jesus said that we need to eat His flesh and drink His blood, but what does that mean? Surely He didn’t mean that we are to literally do this, especially for those of us living 2000 years after the fact, so what does He mean by it? We know that by the stripes Jesus bore for us in His body we are healed, and we know that by the shedding of His blood we are forgiven of our sins, but what does this mean to us? I believe eating His flesh and drinking His blood has more to do with our salvation than many may realize, but it conflicts with the thinking of many in this day. Many think that because of the beatings Christ endured for our benefit and the shedding of His blood for the remission of our sins, our lives should be easy and without pain and heartache. But is this correct?
In Galatians 2:20, the Apostle Paul tells us, “I have been crucified with Christ; it no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” We can’t do that unless we heed Jesus’ instructions found in Luke 9:23-26. In this passage we are told that to follow after Him we must die to ourselves and take up our cross daily. A lot can be said about this passage of scripture, and many books have been written on the subject, so I won’t take the time to write about it now, but it does reinforce what I’m about to share. I believe that for us to “eat of His flesh” alludes to us dying to ourselves and being willing and committed to endure whatever persecutions and trials we may encounter for His sake. No, we may not get beaten and scourged as He did for us, but are we willing to endure whatever comes our way for Him? When we give our lives over to Him we are making a commitment, whether or not it is acknowledged, that we will submit to Him and His will over everything and everyone else for His sake. Basically we are saying that we are both willing and committed to suffer in our body for His sake just as He did for us. That is more than some professing Christians signed up for and are willing to accept, but that is a significant part of salvation, and in doing so we are “eating His flesh”. Are you willing to suffer persecution and trials in your body for His sake, or would you prefer to opt for the easy road that goes through the “broad gate”?
So, that is what it means to “eat His body”, but what about drinking His blood? How can we do that? Well, we need to remember that through the shedding of His blood comes the forgiveness of sins, but how does that pertain to us? In Matthew 6 we are told that we are to forgive, and that He will forgive us as we forgive others. Jesus also told Peter that we need to have an attitude of forgiveness towards others without keeping score when He told him that we are to forgive not 7×7, but rather 70×7. We see Jesus’ example of this kind of forgiveness when, while he was hanging on the cross, he forgave the ones that beat, scourged and put Him on the cross. He didn’t forgive them because they asked for forgiveness, much less with sincerity, or that they even expressed some remorse for what they had done. He just simply forgave them because they didn’t know what they were doing, and even asked God on their behalf that He forgive them. Oh, how we so many times withhold forgiveness because someone didn’t ask, or because they didn’t ask with sincerity. Or, how about the times the one that offended or hurt us didn’t care or realize they had hurt us, and perhaps even felt justified in what they said or did. When Jesus took the cup and made reference to it being His blood, not only did He refer to it as a new covenant, but the passing of the cup in this manner often times represented a commitment between two individuals. So, to take the cup and drink His blood is a commitment to Him that we will forgive others with the same attitude and mindset that He had when He shed His blood for the forgiveness of our sins. We are told multiple times that He will forgive us, but if we withhold forgiveness towards another after He’s already forgiven us, then He won’t forgive us. When we enter into this saving relationship with Him we are not only committing to endure whatever hardship comes our way for His sake, but we are also committing to having the same attitude and mindset of forgiveness towards others as He does.
While Paul addressed many things that disqualified many from taking communion in a worthy manner, I suggest to you that eating the bread or cracker for communion without the willingness and commitment to suffer for His sake, or the drinking of the cup while withholding forgiveness towards another, are grounds by which one could be found not taking communion in a worthy manner. The next time you participate in communion, examine yourself and see if your life and the decisions you make regarding suffering for His sake or forgiving another person line up with the commitment you made to Jesus for salvation. If your life and the decisions you make misrepresent your commitment to Him in your life, then I strongly encourage you to repent and make the necessary changes speedily. If you are unwilling to do this, then you should refrain from participating in communion until you make the necessary changes. You don’t want to cut your life short, or experience any other consequences, for not taking communion in a worthy manner. Time is short, and Jesus will be returning for a “bride” without spot or wrinkle, so it is imperative you evaluate yourself and be sure you can take communion in a worthy manner.