Communion: A Declaration of Love
When Jesus gave bread and wine to His disciples at the “Last Supper,” He made a loud and clear declaration of the depth of His love for them!
When He took the bread and gave it to the disciples, He said, “Take and eat; this is My body.” The bread that He likens to his own body was made without leaven, to symbolize that it was without sin—like Jesus Himself. The particular bread they ate that night is still referred to in the Passover tradition as the “bread of affliction,” representing the hardships the Jewish people went through during their years of slavery in Egypt. It consisted of stripes and holes. Jesus claimed that this striped and pierced bread was His own body, which would soon be “striped” by the flogging He would receive and “pierced” by the nails that would be driven into His hands and feet. Even today, the custom during the Passover meal is to break the bread into three pieces (which speaks to me of the three members of the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). The middle piece (which could represent Jesus) is wrapped in a napkin (reminiscent of His burial cloth), and hidden from the children (like His burial in a sealed tomb). The children run off to find the missing piece (like the women who hurried to the tomb on Easter morning). When they find the piece they rejoice (like those who rejoiced at Jesus’ resurrection). The piece is then returned to its place with the others (which sounds a lot like Jesus’ ascension back to heaven).
Jesus declared that bread to be His own body, and He told His disciples to take it and eat it. Every time we join in this meal, we recall the depth of love Jesus extended to us. Brennan Manning put it this way: “I heard Jesus say, ‘For the love of you I left My Father’s side. I came to you who ran from Me, who fled from Me, who did not want to hear My name. For love of you I was covered with spit, punched and beaten, and fixed to the wood to the cross.’”
The cup Jesus shared with the disciples, declaring “This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins,” is referred to in the Passover Meal as “the Cup of Redemption.” It is the cup that has to do with restoration of our relationship with God. And the beauty of its symbolism goes even further: In Jewish culture of that time, when a man wanted to ask a woman to marry him, he would go to her home with his father and a flask of wine. In the presence of her family and of his own father, he would pour a cup of wine and offer it to the one he hoped to marry. Wine was symbolic of life, so as he offered her a cup of wine, proposing marriage to her, he was offering his life as a gift to her. With the offer of wine, he was saying to her, in essence, “As this wine is poured into the cup, so will I pour out my life for you. As I offer this cup to you, so do I offer my life to you.”
Once the wine was poured and offered to her, she had a choice. She could receive the cup or she could refuse it. To refuse it would be to turn down his proposal. She would be announcing, “No, I am not interested in you pouring out your life for me. I do not want to merge my life with yours.” But if she wanted to accept his proposal, she would reach out her hand and take the cup. By doing so, she would be saying, “I accept the gift of your life and your love.” In putting the cup to her lips and drinking from it, she would be announcing, “I take your love into myself; I welcome you into my life!”
That same proposal is made whenever the Lord’s Supper is celebrated. When the cup is offered, it is as though Jesus is standing there, saying to us, “As the wine is poured into the cup, so I pour out My life for you. In offering this cup to you, I offer My life to you.”
When the offer is made, we have a choice: We can turn down the “proposal,” or we can accept it. But make no mistake about it: The cup that is offered is not merely a nice little religious ritual; it is an invitation to take Christ’s love into ourselves; it is a proposal to join our life with His.