On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”
So he sent two of his disciples, telling them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. Say to the owner of the house he enters, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.”
The disciples left, went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.
When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me.”
They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, “Surely you don’t mean me?”
“It is one of the Twelve,” he replied, “one who dips bread into the bowl with me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”
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.”
When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives
I want us to look again at the communion meal again... for the first time.
The first thing that you'll notice is just how common the elements are. We are told that Jesus and the twelve had met in the upper room to celebrate the Passover, specifically the feast of unleavened bread but these two elements, the bread and wine, aren't necessarily special components of that celebration. In looking at this, I reread all four accounts in the gospels and came to the conclusion that it isn't even specified what sort of bread is used (even though this was done during the feast of unleavened bread) and it also isn't specified what was in the cup. We can assume that it was wine, because Jesus says in verse 25 that "I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine " but that's it.
The important thing to note is that Bread and wine even back then, were commonly available and most importantly, were cheap. They still are.
I ran some calculations and worked out that if you wanted to, you could hold communion for one hundred people and it would cost less than ten dollars all up. That's less than ten cents per person.
If this sounds shocking and even trivial, I put it to you that I think that this was a stroke of genius on Jesus' part. If something is so cheap to perform, and the elements so commonly available, then it means that the act of communion itself is accessible.
That accessibility would be very important after Jesus returned to his father in heaven because he left behind eleven scared individuals who faced a massive task. If this was to be one of the things which Jesus had commanded, it needed to be able to be done by people of limited means.
That accessibility would be important as the early church grew and faced considerable opposition from the Romans. When Christians were meeting in people's houses and faced with the very real threat of the sword and death, then Christ's simple memorial meal, which can be performed anywhere, would have very much been a reminder of had happened in the upper room and the events to follow over the next three days.
When Christians meet today, still, often in the shadow of hostile governments and opposition, they too can perform communion, just as their sisters and brothers have done for centuries; precisely because the elements themselves are so cheap and so commonly available.
Not only are there no qualifications about what sort of bread is to be used, or what is to be in the cup, there are also no qualifications about the method that communion is to be performed in, nor are there qualifications about who is to lead it either, or even that it needs anyone specifically to lead it. These things are all matters of practicality and so of course communion will be different in a church of three people meeting in someone's house to a massive cathedral or arena where three of thirty thousand might meet. All will be equally valid and all achieve the same purpose – to do this as a memorial of what Christ has done.
One of the reasons why I think that the elements which were are chosen, are so cheap and so easily accessible is to provide an obvious contrast with the message that they're trying to convey. Whilst salvation is freely available to all and accessible to all, the actual expense and inaccessibility of what Christ has done and what he went through is utterly immense.
“Take it; this is my body.”
This is Christ who said this. Through him, by him and for him, all things were made. God the Son, Immanuel, God with us, who left the glory of heaven to be born as a baby, who grew up in the household of a tradie, then became an itinerant preacher and teacher, to be bashed, beaten, having nails tonne driven through his hands and his feet with no anaesthetic whatsoever, nailed to two pieces of wood, hoisted into the air in a place of public spectacle and humiliation and left to slowly suffocate to death for six hours.
“This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.”
The old covenant which the people at Mt. Sinai agreed to, included a promise to obey all the laws in Exodus 20, 21, 22 and 23. That same covenant would go on to include regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary. It also included instructions for the altar, how the Levitical priests were to conduct themselves and proscribed how animal sacrifices and burnt offerings were to be performed. It was laborious and could only ever be a signpost for what was to follow. The old covenant was ratified, or officially approved by the shedding of blood.
When Christ died, we’re told in Matthew’s gospel that the temple curtain which was about eighteen meters tall torn in two from top to bottom. When that happened, the old covenant was also torn up and a new covenant, was written and ratified, by the shedding of blood.
A covenant isn’t just a simple contract. If I enter a lease contract with a car rental company, I get the use of a car but the company doesn’t own me; not do I own the company.
While it is absolutely true that God has the right to do anything He wants, through Christ He has chosen to “bind himself” to us through a blood covenant. Christ is bound to us by a covenant, as weird as this sounds He actually isn't free to do “anything” he wants; he must fulfil the obligations of the blood covenant. By being bound in a blood covenant, Christ not only owns us, we also own him.
God the Father sees that the penalty for sin and death has been paid and Christ’s payment is now credited to us as righteousness. Instead of being bound to sin which would kill us, Christ has now bound us to himself, this same Christ who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.
Yet again we see, even in the act of communion itself, God choosing the foolish things of the world to shame the wise. These
, stand in stark contrast and in fact point to the single most expensive event in history. God the father spent his own son, in order to buy us back and redeem us from sin.