To proclaim the substitutionary death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is the purpose and function of the church. And there is no more simple yet graphic way to do so than participating in the memorial service of communion; which had, has and always should have a central place and primary focus in our churches. With this routine practice can come a sense of complacency and even disrespect, which was one reason Paul directed his letter to the Corinthians. (See 1 Corinthians 11:17-34) But this can be and often is true of anything of importance. That doesn’t mean, however, that we should be equally disrespectful by avoiding and/or forgetting what’s truly important by distancing ourselves from those people or observances that keep us in touch emotionally and grounded spiritually. The argument sometimes being made that the less something is done – the more meaningful it becomes, while the reality is often that the less we are reminded, the more we forget.
Paul compared partaking of the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper to virtual participation in His sacrificial death. Not that the loaf and cup miraculously turn to real flesh and blood during communion, as Catholics believe (a similar error made by Christ’s inquisitors of John 6), but that in communing with Christ, we take on a bit of his being, sharing his purpose, realizing his intent both for himself and us. (1 Corinthians 10:16) This virtual reality concept of sharing in the body and purpose of Christ is graphically addressed by Jesus. (John 6:25-64) John recording a conversation branded a “hard teaching” even by Jesus’ disciples (see vs. 60 & 66), in which Jesus likened himself to the manna provided the Jewish nation in their wilderness wandering. Declaring that, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” To which they at first asked for this bread and drink that would satisfy their need for sustenance – until they realized he was speaking literally – of himself. Then they began to grumble. Jesus responding by merely reasserting that, “I am the bread of life… bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread… This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” At this point some of his listeners became irate. Was he advocating cannibalism? If not, what was he saying? Jesus pressed on, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat 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… For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.” What in the world was he saying?
First of all, it’s important to understand that Middle Eastern peoples, Jews included, have a personality and language that lends itself to hyperbole; an extremely allegorical, “word picture” style of expression; often using parables (as points of application) to illustrate a philosophical or theological point. Jesus further telling them, “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.” John 6:63 What was his point then? Get to know me – consume the essence of who I am – making me a part of your very being. As, “…the image of the invisible God,…” Colossians 1:5 “…and the exact representation of his being,…” Hebrews 1:3, he is reliable and worthy of our attention and emulation. John describing Jesus as the Word of God, the essence of the Father’s being, the proclamation of His will in the flesh. John providentially declaring, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God …The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen…” him! John 1:1 & 14
The Word of God, no longer robed in flesh but contained in our Bible – still gives an accurate revelation of his essence and proclaims his will for our lives. The call to commune with him, to consume him and thus become one with him is still essential to our purpose and being. We must feed on his Word, on Christ himself; making him a part of our minds, bodies and souls and thus allowing him to define who we are and how we live. (Matthew 5:6)
How important is it to commune with Christ? How often should we celebrate his birth, life, death and resurrection? At least once a week – wouldn’t you think? (Acts 20:7)
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