The Lord’s Supper or Communion is another physical thing the Church does as ordained by the apostles and the Lord Himself.
Communion is supposed to center us on the Lord Jesus Christ and celebrate the unity all believers have in Him.
So, naturally, just like with baptism, church history is filled with arguing, fighting, and even killing each other over this issue.
Fun times. Who saw that coming?
You want to know why God doesn’t have more physical stuff for the church to do? Because we’d all have killed each other off by now if He had.
There aren’t too many verses about Communion. 1 Corinthians 10-11 are the primary instructional verses about it.
The Last Supper was the initiation of it, which ties back to the Passover supper of the OT. Jesus hints at the Lord’s Supper a few times in His poke-in-the-eye style from time to time (eat my flesh!).
And that’s pretty much it. It’s a simple idea representing massive things.
Probably the first passage that touches on the subject is John 6.
The chapter begins with Jesus feeding the hungry multitude. He later leaves the crowd to be by Himself and the crowd chases Him down. He says to them,
“Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you” (John 6:26-27).
Jesus criticizes their loyalty in finding Him. Seems like following Jesus would be good no matter what, Jesus says they are only doing it for the free food. This reminds me of the Health and Wealth Gospel. It also sounds much like Satan’s idea of Job—take away the free stuff and Job will reject God. Satan was wrong about Job, but he’s right about almost everyone else.
The group responds by asking for a sign, our fathers got manna from heaven, what will you do for us?
Note that Jesus is speaking spiritually and people are hearing physical. This is a constant theme in the Gospels. Jesus is speaking on another plain His audience is rarely on.
For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.” Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life” (John 6:33-35).
The literal bread that showed up on the ground to their Fathers in the Wilderness was a type of Jesus Christ. He is the true bread from heaven and if you eat Him you will live forever.
I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world” (John 6:51).
Jesus isn’t literal bread like the manna was. Jesus is a person. Manna was a picture of Him.
The people are shocked and wonder how Jesus can give His flesh to eat. Jesus, already having begun the eye poking, doubles down to poke some more.
“Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day” (John 6:53-54).
He later adds, “This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”
Jesus is better bread that will give better life. He’s talking about getting eternal life; therefore, the bread has to be eternal, spiritual bread and that’s Him.
Jesus is clearly using an illustration, an Old Testament type, to illustrate what faith in Him is all about. Baptism shows us being immersed in Christ—we are in Him. Communion shows Christ being immersed in us—He is in us.
You are what you eat. You take it into your system. You get full.
To take this and say that Jesus means that bread becomes the actual flesh of Jesus and the wine becomes His literal blood is to be on the same physical plain as the audience listening to Jesus in John 6. You don’t want to be like them!
Jesus is talking on a higher plain. Be on His plain.
Instead we stay on the physical level and miss everything He’s saying. This is common throughout the Gospels whenever Jesus speaks. People are still the same.
The irony, of course, is that I read the Bible as literal as possible. I’m a dispensationalist, which is a system of Bible interpretation that emphasizes the simple, literal meaning of words.
Catholics and Lutherans and other non-dispensational types tend to allegorize and spiritualize the text, taking hardly anything literally. Yet right here the allegorizing and spiritualizing types go strictly literal! It is amusing to behold.
Almost makes you wonder if their biblical interpretation isn’t more based on how they can get power rather than any sort of consistent system. If the bread and wine are turned into the literal flesh and blood of Jesus, then you need the church and super-powered church officials to do this for you. Beware any biblical interpretation that makes another person necessary for your direct dealing with God.
If you read the Bible literally, you can literally tell where it’s being figurative. John 6 is clearly figurative.