And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me... John 12:32
Communion, Eucharist, The Love Meal, the Bread & the Wine is central to Christianity. The partaking of it is a command. One that most denominations follow though our understanding of what it means, the how & the when, may differ & the denomination I most closely affiliate with does not practise it.
The practise of communion, by whatever name it goes by, has always fascinated me. What is it about this humble meal of bread & wine that Jesus had in mind at that final Passover meal? It was then, as they shared the final cup, the cup of the Kingdom, that Jesus ended the old covenant, at least symbolically. I know, it gets strange when a Lit major takes to religion, doesn't it? The bread & the wine was never going to just be the bread & the wine. How could it? This is symbolism that goes all the way back to Abraham & Melchizedek.
This simple meal holds so much rich symbolism I am unlikely to cover it all so I will just touch on a few of the more pertinent points here.
Firstly: I have mentioned this is a covenant meal. You will find a fuller explanation of covenant here. There are 2 elements to covenant: flesh & blood. The flesh is broken; the blood is poured out because For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul. Oh. My. Even way back in Leviticus!
Jesus names the elements: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me...
Ever since whatever is used to represent Jesus body, whether it is a wafer, flatbread, unleavened bread or ordinary bakehouse bread, it is broken in two ~ & it is broken in two so that the one making the covenant may pass between the pieces. I don't think there is any mistake about what Jesus is doing here. He is making covenant, which would be sealed on the cross & fulfilled at His resurrection.
Now the bread that Jesus would have used would have been unleavened Passover bread such as this:
Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed....1 Peter 2:24
As you can see matzeo bread is striped ~ & punctured. Jesus would have known he was about to be whipped bloody, have a crown of thorns pushed down on His head & nails driven between the fine bones of His wrists & ankles as He took this bread & tore it in two. For centuries the Jews celebrated this meal with this bread not knowing Christ was represented there.
Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you....Luke 22:20
I am going to say outright that while I have read & understand the arguments for the *wine* being grape juice & non~alcoholic I do not believe they are valid & I will tell you why. Firstly, the custom, as it still is in many of these regions where wine is drunk routinely, was to water the wine: one measure of wine to 2 of water. This is because the water is contaminated & full of germs. The wine, being antiseptic, acted as a purifier ~ I'm sure you can make the analogy! It is Jesus blood that purifies us!
Now there is one final point I would like to make because I think this is central to the taking of communion, to life in Christ, to walking out our faith.
What we are meant to do in communion is both to recognise Christ's sacrifice for us & to exalt him. The word used in John 12:32 is ὑψόω (hypsoō) & means to exalt, not simply to *lift up*. We are to exalt our Lord & Saviour. When we do this He is able to draw us with Him into the abundant life in God that we are meant to share.
As we prepare for communion & enter into he fellowship of believers who are in covenant relationship with Christ, we are meant to exalt His Holy name & what He has done for us. Then we can lay claim to all the promises Christ's sacrifice bought us: healing, blessing, grace, abundance, joy, peace ~ all this in the midst of trouble & turmoil because we have not been taken out of the world. We are in the world but we are no longer meant to be of it. In the partaking of the communion meal we recognise we are in a new covenant, a people called out, set apart, a holy priesthood, a peculiar people, salt & light in a world that knows not its saviour.