As we come into our time of communion, let’s remember how this time points to the amazing nature of our Lord Jesus.
It’s not the bread and the cup that are so strange. In fact, not only are they ordinary things—daily food and drink—but for thousands of years people have used food and drink for religious purposes.
Here’s a Japanese “shinsen” which literally means “god food offering.” This sort of offering of food and drink is still common in the world today, you see it everywhere in Asia, for example. But it was common back in the Ancient Near East, too—the historical context of Abraham and Moses. The purpose of this offering is to attempt to placate or please the Gods, so that they will deliver successful harvests and so on. It is an offering from the human worshiper’s work and effort to feed the God’s desires and appetite.
When God told Moses how to build the tabernacle—the place where Israel could meet with him, he gave Moses the plan for something similar, and yet radically different. Every Sabbath the priests would place twelve fresh loaves of consecrated bread on a special table inside the tabernacle. But unlike the pagan gods, the God of Israel didn’t view these as an offering. Instead the priests ate the week old loaves, and they represented God’s providence, his ongoing care, for the twelve tribes. This bread was a representation of the covenant between Israel and Yahweh—Israel obeyed and worshiped God, and he provided for them.
Jesus took these symbols and gave them an even more radical meaning. In his letter to the Corinthian church, Paul shares this amazing moment:
1 Corinthians 11:23–26 (NLT)
23 ... On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread 24 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.” 25 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.” 26 For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are announcing the Lord’s death until he comes again.
Do you see how completely different this is from any human religion? Rather than us performing some service for god—giving god something we have earned or made—we receive from God something that we can never get for ourselves, and that we cannot live without.
This bread and this cup are not an offering from us, but rather an offering from our infinitely generous and loving God. An offering of redemption—of cleansing from our sin— and transformation—receiving new life. With this offering of his life, Jesus made it possible for us to come directly into God’s presence—something that the High Priest could only do once a year after much ritual and sacrifice. All God asks is that we bring hearts that are open to receive his love.
So, as the ushers come forward to distribute the bread and cup, let us consider our God, who brings us offerings. Let us open our hearts to him.
As you take the elements, eat the bread, which is in the bottom cup, and remember that Jesus’ body was broken for you so that you could live. Once everyone has received the elements, we will drink together.
Now let us drink the cup together, remembering that Jesus blood was spilled to cleanse us from all sin and to bring us directly into God’s presence.