For a long time, Communion has been something that freaks me out a little. It happens at regular intervals within the Gentile church experience, and it scares me mostly because of how somberly I usually see it performed.
Typically, I hear lots of emphasis on the need to have a right heart before God. One of my earlier memories, either in elementary school or junior high, was of hearing that whoever didn’t partake with the right heart was heaping condemnation on himself. (Yes, I know this is in the Bible. And yes, it still scared me.) We were supposed to focus on the weight of Christ’s sacrifice, which also meant focusing on sin. So it was a scary, guilt-making experience for me.
Then on top of that, I could see lots of people around me clearly taking it more seriously than me. I could never work myself up to cry like them, and felt guilty about that, as well.
(DISCLAIMER: In no way do I mean that others were “working themselves up.” I’m simply trying to convey my experiences, which, unfortunately, often stemmed from comparisons.)
Over the past few years, my mom and I have begun embracing the Jewish roots we never knew we had. That has really helped me to experience what Jesus had in mind during the Last Supper. When He shared the cup with His disciples, He wasn’t making up something new. In fact, He wasn’t even doing something that only happened during Passover.
Every Sabbath, the Jews would perform Kiddush and Hamotzi, blessing the Maker of the grain (bread) and the vine (wine). These ceremonial blessings were one part of ushering in a holy time before God, accepting His invitation to rest, and welcoming His presence in His Sabbath. When Jesus connected Himself to the bread and the wine, He was not introducing powerful symbols to His disciples’ faith. Rather, He was adding another layer of meaning to their understanding– perfectly consistent with existing custom. It was a very personal invitation to enter into the presence, indeed the very being, of the Maker of the grain and the vine.
“This is My body.” I find this phrase striking, given the prevalent marriage metaphor that runs throughout our Scripture. Indeed, the first marriage takes place in the second chapter of Genesis, and one of the last verses in the Bible refers to “the Spirit and the Bride.” So we see throughout Scripture a story arc, beginning with the first human couple, transitioning to the reality that God considers His people His bride, and concluding with victorious Jesus redeeming and rescuing His wife.
In this light, that phrase “This is my body,” takes on new meaning. Jesus invites His followers into a oneness with His body. His believers, in consuming His flesh and blood, take His body into theirs… “and the two… become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24).
We see, therefore, a powerful representation of the marriage between Christ and His body, a definite oneness paralleling the physical unity between man and wife. And, of course, Paul also remarks that Christ is the “head of the Church, His body” (Eph. 5:23). Once again, the same unity we see between man and wife is reflected in the relationship between Jesus and His Bride. Communion, like earthly marriage, is a physical reminder of this reality.
And it’s an invitation. An earnest welcoming into union with Him. “The Spirit and the Bride say come…”