“For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup,
you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.”
(1 Corinthians 11:26)
Most people have heard of communion, but many are unfamiliar with either its meaning or significance.
Communion symbolizes and celebrates the most important doctrines of the church and the very essence of the gospel message. Communion is at the heart of what it means to be a Christian.
Jesus instituted communion during the Last Supper, the night before he was crucified. At that time, Jesus explained its meaning. His simply spoken explanation is deeply profound:
Take, eat; this is my body…Drink, for this is my blood of the new covenant…
Several aspects of communion have deep significance for Christians, and, indeed, all of mankind.
Communion is all about our relationship with God.
Jesus expressed his deep desire for a relationship with us on that unforgettable night. Jesus said, “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” (Luke 22:15)
Why? Because he is eager to enter into the lives of his disciples and he wants to share his life with us.
We have a relationship with God because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.
In Matthew’s account of the Last Supper, we read:
And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. For this is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” (Matthew 26:26-28)
The “blood of the new covenant” – Jesus’ blood – was shed “for the remission of sins.” Our sins.
Unless we are cleansed by the blood of Jesus, we have no life. It is through identifying with Jesus’ sacrifice that we enter into a relationship with him. Jesus referred to this as a “covenant.” (A covenant is a binding agreement.)
At the time, the disciples did not grasp the enormity of what had just transpired. Jesus replaced the old covenant of works and obedience with a new covenant of grace and faith. (See Hebrews chapter 8 regarding why the new covenant is a better covenant built on better promises.)
We have a relationship with God through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.
In Luke’s record of the Last Supper, we read:
And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19)
Jesus wants us to remember – to both commemorate and celebrate – his sacrifice for us. It is through his sacrifice that we can approach the throne of God. We do that by coming (figuratively) to the foot of the cross. It is at the cross that we apprehend the body and blood of Christ.
Jesus referred to himself as the “door” (John 10:9) and “the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6). That door – that pathway to God – is the cross. We need to walk through that Door.
Jesus offers us a never-ending relationship with him.
Remember Jesus’ fervent desire “to eat this Passover with you before I suffer”? Jesus’ next words point to our final destination in Paradise.
Jesus continued, “…for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 22:16)
Until what is fulfilled? The salvation of all those who accept the blood of Jesus as atonement for their sins.
Jesus offers each of us eternal life with him in heaven. In Revelation 3:20, Jesus gives us an invitation: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with me.”
Through communion, Jesus offers us the opportunity to dine with him; to partake of the bread and the wine, which symbolize his broken body and shed blood. The time of communion invites us to commemorate Jesus' sacrifice and to remember that our relationship with God is made possible only because of what Jesus did.