Communion Meditation: The Taste of Faith

CommunionImagine that you’re walking the roads of Jerusalem in First Century Palestine. It hasn’t rained in weeks, and the roads are so dusty that when the wind picks up, you can barely breathe. It’s the spring, so the days are getting longer and the sun is getting hotter. And you’re a disciple of a rabbi whom the Romans and Jewish leaders believe ought to be kiiled.

It’s dinner time and the Passover, and you’re hungry, thirsty, and scared.

Amazingly, the rabbi had earlier pointed his followers to a room where Passover could be served — a place where’d you’d be safe for at least this night.

As you and your fellow disciples enter, you can smell the bread being baked in a brick oven. It’s unleavened bread, but the owner’s wife is piling up stacks of the soft, flat bread to serve her visitors.

As you sit at the meal, the rabbi takes a loaf of bread — round, flat, soft, nearly too hot to touch, and smelling to a hungry man like heaven on earth. The rabbi says a blessing, breaks off a piece, and passes you the bread to be shared with the other disciples in the Jewish manner. He says,

Take and eat; this is my body.

Most Jews would rebel at such a statement, but you had learned many months ago that to eat your rabbi’s body means to have faith in him. And as you eat, you delight in the flavor and texture and warmth of the bread. Faith tastes good and relieves hunger. Faith sustains. Faith strengthens.

Then, the rabbi pours wine into a cup, says another blessing and then says,

Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

You didn’t struggle to understand the bread, but the cup is something else altogether. As you drink thirstily from it, you taste the sweetness and smell the aroma of the wine. You know that drinking Jesus’ blood also means to have faith in him, and you savor the refreshing, flavorful drink. Faith refreshes. Faith is a delight.

But this idea of “blood of the covenant” is a tougher saying. But three years with the rabbi and being good a Jew you know that God had had Moses seal God’s covenant made in the Torah with blood, called the “blood of the covenant.” And you know that Jeremiah had promised a new covenant when the Messiah comes. And the rabbi is the Messiah. Praise the Lord of Hosts! The prophecies are being fulfilled, and God is keeping his promises!

But what is this about the rabbi’s blood being poured out for forgiveness of sins? Is he saying he’s about to die? How can the Messiah — God’s anointed king of the Jews — die before he even begins to reign? Surely he means something else!

And slowly it dawns on you. You’d been so intently listening to the rabbi’s words that only now had you realized — he hadn’t said the traditional works for a Passover. He had dared to invent a new kind of Passover, a Passover about faith in the rabbi and a new (and surely better!) covenant.

Something as big as Mt. Sinai itself is happening here. And you sit in stunned silence, savoring these minutes alone with Jesus, enjoying the pleasures of faith and his presence, and yet dreading whatever might happen next.

There are many lessons in the Lord’s Supper. But one we rarely get is the flavor of the bread and wine. You see, the bread we serve is dry and flavorless, and we expect our members to take tiny bites. It’s so symbolic, it’s hardly bread at all.

And the fruit of the vine is served in tiny plastic cups that has so little drink that it’s not even a real drink at all. It’s just a symbolic drink.

And by turning the bread and the cup into mere symbols of the bread and cup, we fail to experience real bread and a real drink. But on a hot, dry, dusty spring day in Jerusalem, a day spent on your feet, climbing up and down the steps to the temple and walking the steep, narrow streets of the city, the bread would taste like life itself. And the cup — to a man who’d just eaten a large piece of bread and who would have been already very thirsty before — well, the cup would taste like a resurrection.

(John 6:47-50, 55)  I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. 48 I am the bread of life. … 50 But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. … For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.

Imagine, as you take these tokens of faith, that they are real bread and real drink. Imagine that you return home filled and quenched. Imagine that there’s enough here to sustain you. Because these emblems symbolize our faith, and real faith is real food that fills, and quenches, and sustains for eternity.

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About Jay Guin

I am an elder, a Sunday school teacher, a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a lawyer. I live in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, home of the Alabama Crimson Tide. I’m a member of the University Church of Christ. I grew up in Russellville, Alabama and graduated from David Lipscomb College (now Lipscomb University). I received my law degree from the University of Alabama. I met my wife Denise at Lipscomb, and we have four sons, two of whom are married, and I have a grandson and granddaughter.
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13 Responses to Communion Meditation: The Taste of Faith

  1. Ray Downen says:

    We find no Biblical record of the Lord's Supper ever consisting only of bread and wine. It was a meal which INCLUDED bread and wine, wasn't it?

  2. Bob Salisar says:

    We find no record of it being anything but a reinterpretation of Passover for Jewish Christians. Acts 20:7's "breaking bread" is probably not even a reference to the Lord's Supper nor even to a "worship service."

    And since John 6 comes before the Lord's Supper which also is skipped entirely in John it clearly has no reference to he Lord's Supper, or John living past 70 AD knows that since the temple is destroyed the Lord's Supper is no longer to be observed since it was just to keep the Jewish Christians from Judaizing and sacrificing in the temple but in its place we eat the flesh and drink the blood of Jesus by faith alone.

  3. Bob – all due respect to you and your interpretations – but how can you be so sure of these things?

    Are you trying to say that our communion time can't / doesn't / shouldn't have meaning for Gentile Christians today? That the Lord is not present when we celebrate it because it was only to tide His Jewish followers over through the destruction of the temple? That it had no significance even to Gentile Christians of century one?

    These implications require a good deal more proof than simple assertions, my friend.

  4. Ray Downen says:

    Our brother who thinks there's no record of Christians eating a meal and honoring Jesus during it may never have read Paul's letter we call first to the Corinthian Christians. Were all Corinthians Jewish Christians? Not likely at all. Were they commended for remembering Jesus as they ate? Yes, they surely were. Those who made a mockery of the meal were roundly condemned. And was it a Passover meal? Obviously not! It was a frequent "feast" of fellowship in Christ. Possibly every first day of the week. Early Christians had no annual celebrations so far as we can tell. But they did apparently try to get together each first day of the week (we call it Sunday). Not as Jews, but as Christians. Not to celebrate Passover, but to encourage one another and share with one another.

  5. Bob Salisar says:

    By the phrase "as oft" I don't understand anything frequent. If this was an every week thing he wouldn't say "as oft" but "every week." Clearly it was a once a year Passover meal.

  6. By the phrase “as oft” I don’t understand anything frequent. If this was an every week thing he wouldn’t say “as oft” but “every week.” Clearly it was a once a year Passover meal.

    If that were so, then we should expect that te first and second century churches would have kept it that way, since it was considered central to the worship. But the fax´ct is, that everywhere from the very beginning (see Didache, around 80 AD), the letters of Ignatius (araund 110 AD, apersonla dispile of John) and with no exception throughout the whole Early Church they celebrated the Lords Supper at least each Sunday, in some places even daily (see Acts 2:46).

    I can understand that it is possible to speculate about the meaning "as oft" and come to that conclusion, but we can avoid such misconclusions by looking into church history.

    Alexander

  7. Jay Guin says:

    "As oft as" is just "as often as." The NIV translates "whenever." It doesn't specify a frequency.

    By the way, it's pretty unlikely that Acts 20:7 is about an actual Passover.

    (Acts 20:6) But we sailed from Philippi after the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and five days later joined the others at Troas, where we stayed seven days.

    The Feast of Unleavened Bread is the week culminating in Passover. Acts 20:7 seems to have been 2 weeks after Passover, assuming a two-day boat trip.

  8. Ray Downen says:

    "we should expect that the first and second century churches would have kept it (the meal of remembrance) that way (annual), since it was considered central to the worship." What's this "the worship" at all? No scriptural passage speaks of any such thing in the early church. And as to something being "central" to it, how can anything be central to what is only being imagined by someone now?

  9. What’s this “the worship” at all? No scriptural passage speaks of any such thing in the early church. And as to something being “central” to it, how can anything be central to what is only being imagined by someone now?

    I try to figure out your motives, Ray: What do you envision? OK, we can discuss the word worship – let's replace it by something more appropriate: Christan Assembly for instance. But I assume it is not the wording, but the concept that disturbs you. What about this verse:

    They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. (Acts 2:42)

    Of course you know this passage. But what does it mean? That is a description of the beginnings of the church, of what they considered essential for church life. This included also community of goods (= sharing possesions with those in need in the church, not communal living as the Hutterites embrace). The frequency of the breaking of bread is described in Acts 2:46 as – DAILY, and obviously combined with a real meal. And they met in their houses.

    So, please, how can you come to the conclusion, the Lord's Supper is not essential (or central) in Christian church life? And again: What is it – besides the correct use of terms – that is bothering you? I think. everybody should understand that in order to give a fitting answer, because otherwise your objections remain on a rather cryptic level, and you yourself will be dissatisfied with the responses.

    Alexander

  10. Ray Downen says:

    "Breaking bread' simply means eating, usually with others. The phrase has no spiritual meaning. It does not imply a religious ceremony. Acts 2:42 says nothing whatever about the Lord's Supper. Nor does Acts 20:7. Paul writes about the Lord's Supper as observed by Christians in Corinth. His corrective was that the gluttons were to eat at home instead of hogging the food at the assembly hall, and that those who drank and became drunk should cease doing so. This does not describe a religious ritual. It describes a shared meal, at which the bread and the drink were to remind God's people of the Savior who died for them.

    As to what is "bothering" me, it's the foolish claim that we should meet together so we can worship, as if we couldn't worship wherever we are. We are exhorted to not forsake assembling–for mutual edification, obviously. That's not what our churches nowadays are doing. No answer is needed. Just reformation!

  11. “Breaking bread’ simply means eating, usually with others.

    Agreed.

    The phrase has no spiritual meaning.

    That's not true since the time Jesus GAVE it a spiritual meaning. He identified His body with the bread that He passed around in the course of the "ordinary" (passah) meal. And He identified the wine with His blood of the covenant. In this the whole meal is sanctified (the term "the Lord's Supper" refers to the foll meal – the term "breaking of bread" now is areminder of the body of the Lord, broken for us)
    From this time on the bread and the wine have a spiritual meaning, as you yourself recognize:

    It describes a shared meal, at which the bread and the drink were to remind God’s people of the Savior who died for them.

    Agreed. The Lord's Supper was meant to be a full meal, not just a token meal.

    As to what is “bothering” me, it’s the foolish claim that we should meet together so we can worship, as if we couldn’t worship wherever we are. We are exhorted to not forsake assembling–for mutual edification, obviously. That’s not what our churches nowadays are doing.

    I think, I understand. You are right. a traditional church service is like coming together for a ritual. In our house church we did the reform you are asking for: We come together for mutual edification, teaching, singing and prayer; as well as for having meal together and fellowship, where we break the bread and share one cup of wine every Sunday.

    This practice was the norm until the mid-second century where they started to separate the "Eucharist" from the "Agape". And that's how we should do it again.
    ;-) Nice side-effect: Most living rooms are too small to allow for a big worship band, and due to a lack of musicians, many assemblies will be naturally a-capella ;-)

  12. Clint Bates says:

    It is so sad that christian’s have to have a need to debate such a beautiful and powerful message as this! Thanks Jay for sharing this. God Loves Us All….

  13. Clint Bates says:

    Jay I sure would like to see more and New Communion Meditations, especially on “Giving”. Thanks Jay.

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