Communion: Digesting the Bread of Life

At some point, during the meal referred to as the Last Supper, as depicted in the painting by Leonardo DaVinci, Jesus instituted what has become know as Holy Communion. Most are familiar with the bread and the wine components; but perhaps not all are sure of their purpose. For some it is an annual observance, for others a weekly sacrament and still for others, communion is a rite of passage for joining a denomination.

Let’s begin in Matthew, chapter 26, to see point-by-point what happened during this meal Jesus had with his disciples, to shape the meaning of what he did.

Verse 26:

And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.

This verse has three key words: bread, this and body. In the Greek, nouns are assigned a gender: masculine, feminine and neuter. Bread is masculine, while this and body are neuter.

A figure of speech, Metaphor of Transference appears in verse 26. Figures of speech are governed by the rules of language. Random House Dictionary of the English Language defines a figure of speech as the application of a word or phrase to an object or concept, which it does not literally denote, in order to suggest comparison with another object.

I could hold up a photo of my mother and say, This is my mother. The photograph is not literally my mother, but it represents her. In verse 26, this refers to the bread Jesus was holding. Since this and body agree in gender, it confirms the representation is transference as figurative rather than a literal truth. Using the word this implies that the bread he was holding compares figuratively with his body. His body is put for his life.

John 6:35:

And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.

His instruction was to, Take, eat; this is my body. What does this mean? After we eat, our digestive system extracts the nourishment and imparts vitality to our physical bodies. Biblically, the process of eating and digesting is often likened to acquiring spiritual knowledge and understanding, as seen in Ezekiel, chapter two.

Verses 9 & 10:

And when I looked, behold, an hand was sent unto me; and, lo, a roll of a book [a scroll] was therein;

And he spread it before me; and it was written within and without: and there was written therein lamentations, and mourning, and woe.

Continuing in chapter 3,

Verses 1-3:

Moreover he said unto me, Son of man, eat that thou findest [more specific, that which is written in the scroll]; eat this roll, and go speak unto the house of Israel.

So I opened my mouth, and he caused me to eat that roll.

And he said unto me, Son of man, cause thy belly to eat, and fill thy bowels with this roll that I give thee. Then did I eat it; and it was in my mouth as honey for sweetness.

God wanted whatever was written on that scroll to become a very part of Ezekiel.

Verse 4:

And he said unto me, Son of man, go, get thee unto the house of Israel, and speak with my words unto them.

Once the contents of the scroll were a very part of Ezekiel, he could go unto the house of Israel and speak God’s words unto them. He would not need to adlib or paraphrase a line of it, because those words had already penetrated his innermost being.

When you sit down to a steak dinner, you slice off a piece of the meat, and you chew and swallow. The digestive process takes place and that meat becomes a part of you. There are no scientists or surgeons who could ever find or recover that piece of steak. Why…because it has now quite literally become a very part of you.

So it is with eating and digesting Scripture. These very terms are used today in assimilating knowledge. We refer to thinking over a point as chewing on it. Understanding a written work may be referred to as digesting it. Perhaps, when enjoying a novel, one might say they are savoring every word. At the least it is food for thought.

These terms communicate that what you have read or heard affected you and joined your repertoire of thoughts, concepts, logic and even beliefs. We can see clearly God desires that His words become a very part of each of us. In Hebrews 5, elders are reproved for lacking knowledge and experience in what had been available to them for years:

Verses 12-14:

For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.

For every one that useth milk is unskillful [or inexperienced] in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.

But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age [or mature], even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

Paul admonished these believers of Hebrew background. They had been around the Scriptures a long time and should have had extraordinary knowledge. They should have been producing abundant fruit in their lives; but they hardly recognized the distinctions between good and evil. Since they hadn’t digested much, they were spiritually like babies still in need of milk.

The disciples, who sat around the table for the meal with Jesus, had walked with him on journeys and personally saw the signs and wonders; even performing signs and wonders themselves. It’s no surprise that Jesus would initiate the first communion with these disciples.

In John, chapter 6, after feeding the 5000 with five loaves and two fish, the following day the people sought to track Jesus down. Upon finding him, they wanted some more food. Jesus had greater sustenance to feed them upon heeding his words. He would feed them the bread that would impart eternal life.

Verses 51-54:

I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.

The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat?

Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.

Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.

For people in this Eastern culture, what Jesus said should not have been difficult to comprehend. Jesus was and is the bread of life.

John 1:14:

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

To eat his flesh is to digest the word pertaining to Christ, as the savior of the world. So, the eating of the bread in the Communion service represents digesting the knowledge of Jesus Christ as the savior of the world, as the agent of eternal life. Jesus is the bread of life—he is the full loaf.

There is another aspect to consider in regard to the phrase eat my flesh. Before the final plague and before Moses led the children of Israel out of the land of bondage, the children of Israel were told to do two things:

Exodus 12: 3, 7 & 8:

Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house:

And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it.

And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it.

The blood on the side posts and the upper posts would protect them from the angel of death. However, they were also, in that same night, to eat the flesh of the lamb. In their exodus from Egypt, Psalms 105:37 proclaims:

He brought them forth also with silver and gold: and there was not one feeble person among their tribes.

What is it that we should digest when it comes to the “lamb of God” as we eat the bread representing the body of Christ? Included in our remembrance of him, should be digesting God’s promise of health and prosperity?

3 John 2:

Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.

How about the very clear record in 1 Peter, chapter 2?

Verse 24:

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.

In partaking of the bread of the communion, it is in remembrance of what God’s word says Jesus Christ accomplished for us through the sacrifice of his earthly life.

The other part of the communion is the cup. It is in remembrance of the accomplishments of Christ; to represent the victory of eternal life and the remission of sins through his precious blood.

Matthew 26:27 & 28:

And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it;

For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.

The cup represents judgment. However, a judgment can be good or bad, depending on what is in the cup. In Revelation, it is the cup of wrath. But the cup of communion is the cup of blessing.

1 Corinthians 10:16:

The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ?

The contents of the cup of blessing represents the blood of Christ. Blood is indicative of atonement and redemption. The cup is the Lord’s and communion is to share fully. We share fully in our Lord’s atonement and redemption through his precious blood.

Wine is often used to represent the spirit of God. At the Last Supper, they would have been drinking new wine, symbolizing the new birth. As a new testament or new covenant; it would mean putting new wine in new bottles.

Matthew 9:17:

Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved.

As shared in a previous newsletter, the bottles are actually goatskins. New goatskins are flexible and pliable to adjust to the expansion from fermentation. The gift of eternal life spirit in people would be new and dynamic, enabling them to fulfill their calling in the Great Commissioning (Mark 16). How exciting it is to partake of the communion with all it implies.

There is much to be remembered in the communion; but there is also great rejoicing.  Jesus Christ is the complete savior! Partaking of the bread and the cup of the communion of Christ far exceeds an annual observance, a weekly sacrament or a rite of passage. No mater how often we partake of the bread and the cup in remembrance of him, acknowledge all we have in Christ and all we are as believing ones.

1 John 1:2-4:

(For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;)

That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.

And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be 

What joy to call to our remembrance all we have in Christ in our communion with him and with one another! In the communion we are to, take; eat, regarding the bread and drink all of it, in reference to the cup.

Of further interest, eating and drinking in the Biblical culture carried greater significance than just having a meal. The host did not typically eat with his guests. To partake of a meal while seated with the host, indicated great honor and trust. 

Eating and drinking is associated with the celebration of a great victory or achievement; an opportunity to share in the triumph. The focus is to remember and rejoice in the conquest, around the food.

At events of this nature, we may use such terms as taste the victory or savor the moment.  Although celebrated with food and drink, when we go home; it’s not the taste of the steak or the refreshment of the champagne toast we recall. Rather, we pleasure in the memory of the celebration—of the unity and success of the achievement.

Jesus brake the bread and gave to his disciples and shared his cup with them.  They all partook of the very same ingredients. In communion, we eat the bread and drink of the Lord’s cup of blessing. We digest the fulfillment of his life and the effects of his redeeming blood.

We are not partaking of the physical body or the actual blood of Jesus Christ, but are digesting and being refreshed by what they represent—eternal life and fellowship with the Father. We are to taste the victory and savor the moment.

In setting forth the communion for the church at Corinth, the Apostle Paul instructs them:

1 Corinthians 11:20-22:

When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s supper.

For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken.

What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not. 

When perceiving spiritual truths is limited to mankind’s earthly reasoning, it is understandable how they could take something godly and wrongly apply it within traditions familiar to them. The Corinthians were accustomed to drunken feasts that were a big part of their former pagan traditions. They devoured the victory and chugged the moment. (Much like some victory celebrations in our society today: Super Bowl World Series, etc.) Because of previous experience, they could not discern the Lord’s body to celebrate the spiritual understanding of in remembrance of him.

Verses 23-26:

For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread:

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.

After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.

For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.

Yes, truly it is a great victory Christ gained for us. This remembrance should be tempered by its cost—the life and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Partake of the Communion service with thankfulness and dignity.

Verses 27-30:

Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.

But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.

For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.

For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep [die prematurely].

Unworthily means to be out of equilibrium.  The Corinthians were out of balance because they had not digested the spiritual knowledge of what the Lord accomplished for them. Sickness and weakness pervaded the Corinthian churches. Held captive by previous teaching and erroneous practice, they could not discern the Lord’s body nor understand and recognize the physical wholeness Jesus achieved for them in his broken body. Although they participated in the eating and drinking; they did not digest their communion with him. They had not digested the sweet words prophesied by Isaiah.

Isaiah 53:4 & 5:

Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

The prophecy looking forward, we are healed. In fulfillment, looking back, we were healed.

1 Peter 2:24:

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.

Determine that you will exercise your spiritual maturity to fully digest Jesus’ accomplishments according to the Scriptures. When eating of that bread (the spiritual meat) of his life and drinking of that cup (of victory), do it with full understanding in remembrance of him.

Taste the victory and savor the moment in the bread and cup of the communion of Christ. ~