Why do Christians Eat Jesus During Communion?

By Hannah Brzozowski


When I was a youth leader, I noticed one girl leave the room during worship. Concerned, I asked what was the matter. She said she felt sick to her stomach after hearing the song.


I was very confused.


Then, I thought about the lyrics.


They were all about blood... More specifically about the blood of Jesus. But still... the entire song was talking about blood flowing and covering us. If you didn't grow up in church, this is very gruesome. And if you did grow up in church, it's still gruesome -- you just don't think about it long enough.


At the last supper, before he was crucified, Jesus said “Take and eat {the bread}; this is my body.” and “Drink from it {the wine}, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." What a weirdo!


However strange, this practice of eating and drinking Jesus has helped people connect with God for the whole stretch of Christian history. Partaking in communion is one major part of what it means to follow Jesus today.


Unfortunately, too many of us miss out on all the rich meaning in this unusual ritual. If you are like me, communion was either boring or a time to feel really bad for our sins. I never saw it as critical to developing my spiritual life.


Let's take a look at what might be familiar passages for some of you and see what we might discover:


Matthew 26:26-29

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”


Luke 22:18-20

And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.


Mark 14:22-24

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it. “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them. “Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”


1 Corinthians 11:23-30

For I pass on to you what I received from the Lord himself. On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, he took the cup of wine after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood. Do this in remembrance of me as often as you drink it.” For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are announcing the Lord’s death until he comes again. So anyone who eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord unworthily is guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. That is why you should examine yourself before eating the bread and drinking the cup. For if you eat the bread or drink the cup without honoring the body of Christ, you are eating and drinking God’s judgment upon yourself.That is why many of you are weak and sick and some have even died.


After reading these passages, what do you notice?


It's a symbol.

The first communion took place on a significant night for Jews: Passover. Passover meal memorialized the time that God saved the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. It was when God saved their firstborns when they had the blood of the lamb on their doorposts. This holiday and the symbol of life being offered for the preservation of life was more than a symbol. It had come to shape the identity of an entire nation and people group.


When Jesus was sitting at that table, he knew he was about to be killed. But not just killed, he was about to be sacrificed for the sins of the world in order to create a new covenant. He wanted his followers to have a way to remember that important moment. This was the moment when Jesus had replaced the lamb and covered the sins of all people, including you and me.


It's a celebration.

Communion shouldn't be a time of somberness. It should be a time of celebration that we are set free from sin. When Jesus died on the cross and rose again, he paid the price for our sins. No longer are we separated from God. Instead, we are reunited forever with God.


Eucharist, the oldest term referring to this sacrament in the church, means "thanksgiving." We should be thanking God for his sacrifice and celebrating that we are free from sin!


Now, just because we are free from sin, doesn't mean that we don't sin anymore. It's like sin is our old master, but Jesus paid for us so that we would be free to follow him. Through his grace, he is giving us strength and motivation to continue to seek lives of love and joy and peace, instead of being stuck in our selfishness and egos and lust.


It gives us nourishment - spiritually.

Just like when we eat food and drink water, the communion table represents to us the necessities to live a spiritually healthy life.


Jesus referred to himself as the bread of life when he was here on this earth (See John 6). In John 15, Jesus also refers to himself as the vine, with us being the branches.


Are you exhausted or depleted? Yes, you may need more sleep, healthier food or a more intense workout. But, Jesus presents himself as the solution for our spiritual exhaustion. Through him, we have the rich vitamins and nutrients that our soul needs.


Communion both reminds us of that truth -- Jesus is our life source -- while at the same time, we experience his nourishment right then.


It evens the playing field.

Jesus welcomed prostitutes and tax collectors to his table. He stood up for the oppressed and marginalized, confronting the religious leaders.


In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul is correcting disunity in the church. In their practice of communion, they are actually disenfranchising the poor. So, Paul warns the church to examine ourselves, whether we are eating and drinking in a way that honors the body of Christ (the church).


When we look at the communion table, we realize everyone is welcome. Not just those who act like the stereotypical Christian. This is a place for all people to know the forgiveness of the cross.


Literal Body?

Just like just about everything in life, there are different views when it comes to communion. Did Jesus actually mean this was his physical body that we are eating?


Now, there is a long-standing tradition, which does take this to be literal. It's called, transubstantiation, meaning that the bread and wine do turn into the literal body and blood of Jesus in our bodies. Because of this belief, Catholics, in particular, hold the practice of communion in high regard, including a more particular ritual for taking the elements.


Others don't take it that far. Instead, they believe in consubstantiation, which means that the presence of Christ is in the bread and wine, in a more mystical sense.


Personally, I am unconvinced. Jesus constantly used imagery in his teachings. He referred to himself as the good shepherd, even though he didn't have sheep. He talked about himself as the stone that the builders rejected, even though he was clearly not a rock. John said that Jesus was the lamb of God but he was not a four-legged animal. So, I find it easier to believe the bread and cup represent Jesus, metaphorically.


Now, if you are like me in interpreting the elements symbolically, make sure to preserve the significance. Sometimes, a symbolic interpretation tends to imply that it doesn't mean much. But, even in our culture today, we can see how symbols (flags, holidays, etc.) shape how we view the world and ourselves.


Rather than a dividing issue, communion ought to be uniting all Christians together. This is how we all remember his death until Jesus comes again.

24 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All