Why do we take communion? What did Jesus mean by “eat my flesh” and “drink my blood”?

Why communion?

Posted by danieljkoren on March 25, 2013 in Viewpoints |

Why do we take communion? Also, what did Jesus mean by “eat my flesh” and “drink my blood”? Around passover, Good Friday, and Easter, Christians often partake of the Lord’s Supper. But why? Are we not cannibals if we eat His flesh and drink His blood? While many Christians just accept these things as common practice, some, like me, have to understand the logic.

Roasted sacrifices pointed to Jesus

To understand all these complex ideas, let us start with the simple basics. First, who is the most important person ever? Jesus Christ. What is the most important event in history? Jesus’ death. So, it is a no-brainer that we should do something to remember this.

Everything between God and us builds on the death of Jesus Christ. This story started with the first family in history. Abel killed a lamb and roasted it on an altar. So did Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and many other heroes of the faith. Each animal killed was a sermon about how Jesus would come one day and shed His blood for our sins. We get that.

The part we often miss is that these sacrifices were barbeques. The people who brought these would share the meat with the priests and they would eat in celebration of the blessings of God. No wonder more men were involved in Judaism than women, you got to have a barbeque every time you went to church!

So why do we take the communion?

Those sacrifices which preached Jesus were not just about His death, but also about how we would feast on Him. The Lord’s supper takes the place of animal sacrifice. Before Christ, people were reminded of His coming sacrifice by the killing and eating of an animal. Now that He has come, partaking of bread and wine (fruit of the vine) reminds us that He has come and given His body and blood for us. More than just remember it, as we could do just as well with a picture or song, we interact with His sacrifice by the very personal experience of eating and drinking.

Just as old covenant believers became personally involved in the sacrifice by eating it, we become personally involved in the memory of Jesus. Eating reminds us that we are to feed on Him. Just as we get physical strength by physical food, so we get spiritual strength by spiritual food.

Jesus is our spiritual food. Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh feeds us. You are what you eat. We need to feast on the Word of God. If you are going to get the most of spiritual things, if you want to go to church and get fed, and if you want to grow spiritually, first you must do something: worship and praise the Lord.

What did Jesus mean by “eating His flesh” and “drinking His blood”?

On the Day of Atonement, priests under the Law of Moses offered the most important sacrifice of the year because it took care of everyone’s sins. This offering, however, they did not get to eat. It has to be taken outside the camp and burned. This was symbolic of Jesus Christ. They could not take part of His offering. Only under this new covenant do we have a right to eat from this altar (Hebrews 13:10).

Jesus said,

This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.” (John 6:5-51)

Does that sound weird? That’s what others thought, too. They said,

How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?” (John 6:52)

Jesus explained,

Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. (John 6:53-57)

So, feasting on Christ means partaking of eternal life. Taking communion or just partaking of the bread and wine does not give us eternal life. However, this action reminds us of whom we have taken part. Only by the shed blood of Jesus and His life-giving Spirit can we live forever.

Am I worthy to take communion?

No one is worthy of Jesus. We are only worthy because He has made us worthy. However, the scriptures warn us not to partake of the Lord’s table in an unworthy manner:

Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. (I Corinthians 11:27)

In short, if you are in conflict and strife with others in the body of Christ, do not take communion! Get your heart right and then you can feast on Jesus. Sin will separate you and poison you spiritually.

Under the old covenant, If the meat was rotten or the animal had an infection, you could not offer it to God and you could not eat it. We should not come to God with an infection of pride or bitterness against a brother or sister. If your heart is not right with your fellow believers, then go to God and humble yourself. Then go to them and humble yourself. Then come and take communion. Some people get sick and even die because they symbolically take the Lord’s body but reject the body of Christ, His church.

Can I take communion by myself?

No. Taking the Lord’s Supper is something we do with others, not alone. You cannot be part of the body by yourself. You cannot fellowship alone. This is a fellowship meal. It is to bring us together at one common point of identity. Those who have the name of Jesus in baptism and the Spirit of Christ within them are members of His body. We need to share together in the remembrance of this unity we have.

So, why do we take the communion/Lord’s Supper? As a form of worship and to remind us that we abide in Christ. What did Jesus mean by “eat my flesh” and “drink my blood”? Only by Him can we live eternally, not by anything in this life. Feast on Him by worship and devouring the Word.

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