Recently, in a group setting, the question was asked, what does communion mean to you?? I actually gave an answer, part of which included the statement “it is the center of Christian worship.” Which I believe to be true, we’ve been going through the Gospel of Luke, and it seems as though every significant event which occurs in this gospel occurs reclining at table, sharing a meal. Jesus reinforces this image in Luke 13, when as part of an answer to the question “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” Luke 13:23 ESV, he says “And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God.” Luke 13:29 ESV. This is part of an answer Jesus gives in which he also tells us the story of the narrow door. “”Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’” Luke 13:24-27 ESV. So in answer to the same question, Jesus tells us people will come from far and wide and recline at table in his kingdom, yet many who ate and drank in his presence (communion?), and in whose very streets Jesus taught (good church going believers?) will be told Depart from me, all you workers of evil! To which I don’t have much specific to say here, except that we all must be careful of our own certitude with which we go into the world. It seems to me that Jesus is telling those of us who think we have it all figured out (Jesus, God, Heaven, Hell, etc) that maybe we don’t know all that we think we know. We think we know something about who is in or out (mainly that we are in), but when the time comes some of us will be knocking on the door, looking in at all those coming from far and wide, whom we assumed would be out, or at least behind us in line. Sounds like a call to continue to walk in prayerful humility to me.
But this does bring me to my point for today, an answer to the question “what does communion mean to you?” I can answer this question many different ways, communion means many different things. It’s not a one dimensional picture, it’s a many dimensioned picture of Christ, and the way his followers are to go into the world.
I’m going to focus on four key words in relation to communion, from the account in Mark – taken, blessed, broken, given. And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them. This tells us Jesus took the bread, blessed the bread, broke the bread, and gave the bread. Taken, blessed, broken, given. Continuing, Jesus said “Take; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. So, do you see what has happened here? Jesus took the bread, blessed the bread, broke the bread, and gave the bread. He took the bread, blessed the bread, broke it and gave it to them and said, “Take; this is my body.” Jesus is giving his disciples a picture of what is to come over the next 18-24 hours, and we need to realize that Jesus did not just serve the meal, he became the meal. And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. So Jesus takes bread, blessed the bread, but then he does something mindblowing, now all of a sudden it’s not just bread and wine he’s serving, but his own flesh and blood. He goes from serving the meal to becoming the meal.
From the gospel accounts, we can sum up communion in four simple words, taken, blessed, broken, given. Because Jesus doesn’t just serve the meal, he becomes the meal. Jesus laid down his life and was broken and poured out for the sick, the hungry, the broken, the hopeless, the sinners. Jesus was taken, Jesus was blessed, Jesus was broken, Jesus was given for the sake of the world, and we are called to go and do likewise.
Jesus was poured out for all. The Father, the Son, and the Spirit show no partiality. It took Peter a decade or more to figure this out – “So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” Acts 10:34-35 ESV. So come one, come all, And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God.
So who are we, as the church?? Are we not the body of Christ?? What we miss in communion is that this is a picture Jesus gave at his last supper of how his disciples, then and now, are to go into the world. Luke’s account tells us Jesus took bread, and when he had given 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. We are to Do this in remembrance of me. Do what?? Is Jesus just talking simply about sharing a meal together in remembrance of him as a religious ritual. No, that’s not what Jesus is talking about. He’s talking about much more than that. Communion is not just about what we do once a quarter or once a month or even every Sunday. Jesus did not give us a task to do, walk away from, and check our box saying “well, I took communion today!”
We are not washing the dishes or taking out the trash. We don’t come to the table, eat the Lords Supper, and walk away thinking we are finished. No, communion is a picture Jesus gives us of how we are supposed to live life. We modern Christians have a problem. We don’t ever want to finish the meal. Communion is a four course meal. The bread is taken, blessed, broken and given. Christ was taken, blessed, broken and given. We want to stop at the second course.
We love our blessedness, we love to talk about we are taken by God, Amen!!!??? Taken from our addictions, from our sins, from our hurts, habits and hang ups. But to finish the meal, to walk as the body of Christ, to be broken and given, poured out for many, we would rather not eat those two courses of the meal. We would much rather gluttonously revel in our taken-ness and blessedness than to be broken and poured out for the world around us. But that is our call. That is why we Do this in remembrance of me.
We all want to be taken, we all want to be blessed. But do we want to finish the meal? “Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” Matthew 20:22 ESV
Taken. Blessed. Broken. Given. Finish the meal. Go into the world as the taken, blessed, broken, and given body of Christ.
“And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.””
Mark 14:22-25 ESV
“And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” And he took a cup, and when he had given 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.” And he took bread, and when he had given 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 likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!” And they began to question one another, which of them it could be who was going to do this.”
Luke 22:14-23 ESV