Since I began following Jesus six-years ago, it has been a strange thing to me that the general practice of the church is to participate in communion weekly through the taking of a small cup (of wine or grape juice) and small cracker or piece of bread. While I am not opposed to this method, per se, it seems not to capture the scope of what Jesus desired communion to be. Whenever I read the account of Jesus with His disciples in the upper room – and the meditation of Paul on this account – I cannot help but feel that the significance and value of Jesus’ instructions on communion has been diminished by the modern practice of communion.
Jesus commanded His disciples to eat of the bread and drink of the cup in the context of prayer filled, relaxed, fellowship with other believers in Jesus and the sharing of a meal with one another.
“[In the upper room] When the hour had come, He reclined at the table, and the disciples with Him. And He said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover [meal] with you before I suffer; for I say to you, I shall never again eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He said, “Take this and share it among yourselves; for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until the kingdom of God comes.” And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood. (Luke 22:14-20)
There is intrinsic spiritual value in believers in Christ gathering together (fellowship). Jesus Himself teaches that the community of believers, the Body of Christ, as it were, is a place where God shows up in a unique way (Matthew 18:20). And Jesus knew that. He knew that those who followed Him were going to, often, share meals with one another. And Jesus wanted this communal gathering to be about more than simple sustenance and friendships.
“When you come together, and share a meal with one another, remember My body broken for you – and My blood shed for you – that you might live apart from your sin and together with Me in the Father’s Kingdom forever.”
The scene in the upper room is merely a reflection of the full inauguration of the Kingdom of God. Matthew 22, Revelation 3, and Revelation 19 display the glory of the disciples of Jesus Christ dining with Him as King in His Kingdom at His second coming.
He came first to dine with us as the suffering servant.
And He will come again to dine with us as the rightful King of all things living.
“As often as you do this (share a meal together), remember that I have given my life for you, and remember that I am coming again soon; and when I come we will eat together in My Kingdom, just as I ate with the disciples in the upper room.” (paraphrase 1 Corinthians 11:23-26)
Communion is as much about being thankful for the Kingdom of God as it is about remembering the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. For Jesus came, died, and rose that the Kingdom of God might be populated with forgiven and redeemed, broken, people. And Jesus promised that He would come again to usher in the full Kingdom of God where evil, death, sadness, and pain will all be wiped away. (Mark 1:5; Revelation 21:1-9)
How much more valuable would communion be if we decided that expressing the remembrance of Jesus in His suffering – and the thankfulness that His return to usher in His kingdom is inevitable – happened in the context of close fellowship with other Christians, thankful prayer, and the sharing of a meal with one another.
However, in whatever way you do it, ensure that Jesus and the Kingdom of God are the main focus, rather than form and obligation.
A prayer: Jesus, thanks that you offer me life. Thank you that you gave yours up, that you did not see equality with God as something to be grasped so that you could humble yourself to the point of death, for me. Thank you that through your resurrection the Kingdom of God broke into the world. And thank you that that Kingdom is full of power. Thank you for who you are and who you have made me to be. Come soon, Lord. I am excited to sit and have a meal with you. Amen.