Have you ever felt hungry? I mean really, really hungry. With that big growling feeling in your tummy, maybe feeling light-headed, and totally fixated on when you can next eat. Do you know the kind of hunger that I mean?
There’s another kind of hunger like that. Not a physical hunger in your tummy, but a spiritual hunger in your heart. A type of inner emptiness that goes beyond mere words. A passionate desire to feel a deep connection to a higher power; something greater than anything physically found here on earth.
Do you know that kind of hunger? You wouldn’t be here right now reading these words if you have never experienced that hunger before. Knowing that spiritual hunger, you can really get the full sense of what Jesus said in John 6:35: “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.”
When Jesus is talking about going hungry and being thirsty, he isn’t talking about eating food and drinking liquids. He is talking about having a deep spiritual hunger to find answers to the questions we carry around inside us, a passion to find meaning and purpose in our lives. Food is a great analogy because everyone understands it. We need to eat and drink at regular daily intervals to stay alive. We need to eat good food to be healthy and fit.
It’s the same thing for our spiritual lives. Since Jesus is our bread of life, then presumably we need to feed off Him regularly, figuratively speaking of course. We can’t simply read our bibles once in a while or just go to church every Sunday then go on living as before. That’s not enough. If you are doing that you are starving yourself spiritually.
Do you eat food more often than once a month? How about more than once a week? You eat daily right? Hopefully multiple times a day. What shape would you be in if you only ate once a week? Eventually you’d be dead. Just like we need regular meals where we eat and drink good healthy food on a daily basis, so we also need regular times every day where we can eat good spiritual food; like studying the Bible, praying, getting to know Jesus and spending personal quality time with God.
Jesus understood this concept very well. That’s why he said the most curious thing while eating his last Passover supper with his disciples. He was mentally preparing himself to suffer horribly and die on the cross. He also had to prepare his disciples for what they were about to experience by watching him go through it.
Matthew 26: 26-28 reads, “While they were eating [the Passover dinner, AKA the last supper], Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, 'Take and eat; this is my body.' [The parallel verse in Luke 22:19 adds, “this do in remembrance of me”.] Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered 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.'”
These verses have caused so much confusion and dissension among the church because Jesus was speaking metaphorically. Did you know that early 1st and 2nd century Christians were feared and persecuted because they were thought to be cannibals? Paraphrasing the verses Jesus says to “eat my body and drink my blood”.
Taken out of context it’s easy to see how people can get the wrong idea. Of course that’s not what the bible says really happens. The bread and wine are figurative examples of a spiritual concept. That’s all. Sadly most Christian denominations miss the main point entirely.
We are to think of Christ every time we eat or drink anything! That’s what Jesus said.
The Apostle Paul elaborated on this in point 1 Cor 11:23-26
23) “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread;
24) and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, 'This is My body, which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.'
25) In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.'
26) For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.”
“This do ye as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me”; of his soul's being poured out unto death; of his blood being shed for the remission of sins; and of his great love in giving himself as an atoning sacrifice to divine justice, and laying such a foundation for solid peace and joy in the hearts of his people.
Don’t we still use a similar figure of speech today? Absolutely. What might you say to describe a listener’s attention to a speech? “He’s eating it up” or “He’s really drinking it in.” We understand those figures of speech because of what eating and drinking are all about.
For example, it is not “eating” if you miss your mouth and stick the food on your forehead. Likewise, it is not “drinking it in” if the listener is ignoring you. The key is taking something into oneself. When you eat something you are making a total commitment to make that food a part of you. Once it’s digested, you can’t un-eat it, can you? No, it merges with your cells and becomes part of you.
Did the disciples at Christ’s last supper understand the analogy between eating and drinking and believing the words of Jesus? Yes! There’s no text showing that they questioned it.
In keeping with that metaphor, what did Jesus say when he broke the bread? “This bread is [metaphorically – it “represents”] my body given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” Do what? Eat. And likewise the cup: “Drink in remembrance of me.” Essentially he was telling them to make his words their own, and to partake in the blood covenant with him. And that every time they eat and every time they drink, they are to think of him, remember what he did for them and remember his greatest promise to them. The blood covenant that was about to happen between himself and God for the benefit of all mankind.
Back to Part 1 - Holy Communion History - Where it All Began
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