Before I get to those thoughts… I need to give a little background information. I grew up in a good Bible-believing evangelical church… and I took communion on a regular basis. The symbolism of “taking communion” was always a really hard thing to understand. (I come from a tradition that views communion as a symbolic act. I acknowledge that other traditions within the church apply different understandings.)
Regarding communion, Jesus said that we are supposed to “do this in remembrance” of Him (1 Corinthians 11:23 and following). So, in my adolescence, I would sit, in the pew, with the small plastic cup in my hand (trying not to spill)… and hold the even smaller square of mass-produced “bread” between my two fingers (trying not to drop)… and I would try my hand at “remembrance“.
It went something like this…
“Jesus died… Thank you, Jesus…. His body was broken… His blood was spilled… He died… Jesus died… remember that Jesus died… Thank you… Died.”
Then when everyone else had received their same small cup and bead of bread… the pastor would allow us to eat and drink. I’d lick out the bottom of the cup with my tongue… and put it in the round rubber cup holder in front of me.
I did a lot of “remembering”… but never got much past that. Every time communion was served… I remembered… but it seemed really repetitive. I mean… I never really forgot about Jesus’ death between times.
It was all a little confusing. This confusion followed me into adulthood. Over the past few years… I’ve come to understand more about the body and blood of Christ.
In the original Passover… the one in Egypt… instructions were given to bring a lamb into the house for a few days. At dusk, they were to kill the lamb, apply the blood above the door… and cook the meat for consumption. The people that heard those instructions… and believed God… did as He said. They killed the lamb… applied its blood above the front door of their home… and ate the lamb. These actions were done in faith. Those who didn’t believe… didn’t do those things.
That night, when the angel of death saw the blood applied above the door, he accepted the death of the lamb as an acceptable substitute for the death of the first-born of that house. The application of blood above the door was a physical sign that the people within that house believed God.
At the same time… God knew that the people had a journey ahead of them. This last plague (the killing of the first born) would cause Pharaoh to “let them go” and they would be leaving soon. God knew that those who applied the blood would also need sustenance for their journey out of Egypt. So after the blood was applied… each family took the lamb… and ate it. They had their fill.
The same lamb provided both freedom from the slavery of Egypt… and sustenance for the journey out of Egypt.
Fast forward about 3000 years.
The first Passover was a shadow of what Jesus would do, but Jesus didn’t come for only a few slaves in Egypt. He loved the whole world… and it was John the Baptist’s job to introduce Him. Do you remember what John said?
“Behold… the Lamb of God.”
While humanity, today, is not physically bound in slavery to a Pharaoh in Egypt… we are spiritually bound to the slavery of sin. People who truly believe in God understand that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Passover lamb. God has said that Jesus’ death is an acceptable substitute for the spiritual death that sin causes in each of us.
At the Passover in Egypt, the body and blood served two different functions. At the last supper, Jesus made a distinction between the two. This is my body… this is my blood.
So let’s tie all this together.
When we take communion… we drink the symbol of Christ’s blood. It is a reminder that we, through faith, have applied the blood of the true Passover Lamb to the doorpost of our lives. It’s that blood that saves us from the spiritual death that afflicts the world.
When we take communion… we eat the symbol of Christ’s body. It is a reminder that we, through faith, have begun a journey… and our sustenance for that journey is the body of the Lamb. It is Christ that sustains us along the way.
So… when I take communion now… here’s what I try and “remember”…
Applying the blood of Christ allowed me to begin the journey… and eating the body of Christ sustains me in the journey.