Communion

My pastor asked me if I would do a communion meditation, and I knew right away what theme I wanted to explore, the setting aside of doubt and the restoration of grace. I’ll begin with a favorite verse of mine. Paul wrote in Romans 5:8,

“God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

It’s the heart of the Gospel. We’re not saved by our worthiness or works, but by the sacrifice of one who is worthy… Jesus Christ. Communion is a remembrance of that same Jesus, so it ought to be a time of celebration. Nevertheless, as a young Christian I was taught another side of communion. Yes, it was a remembrance of Jesus. But communion was also a time of reflection; to examine ourselves to determine if we were worthy to participate. The apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 11:27,

“…whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But a man must examine himself.”

It’s a perfectly good thing for Paul to say to the Corinthians, and we should want to reflect and repent when we need to. Self-examination is a good thing, but it becomes a bad thing when we judge ourselves and retreat from worshipping the Lord. Let’s consider some verses about the worthiness of man.

Isaiah 64:6 “…we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.”

Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;”

In light of those scriptures, it isn’t surprising that when we examine ourselves, we conclude we are not worthy at all. It’s no wonder we have reservations when we turn from remembering Jesus to worrying about our sense of self-worth. Therefore, I would like to take a few moments to restore the life-affirming power of the communion message. The most complete description I found was in Luke 22 starting in verse 7:

“Then came the first day of unleavened bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed.”

The context of the first communion celebration, referred to as the Last Supper, was Jesus and his close friends celebrating Passover. Passover really was a celebration for the Jews because, for a very legalistic religious people, it was an example of God’s grace in delivering the Hebrew slaves from Egypt. God decreed death for the first born of Egypt but instructed the Jews to sacrifice a lamb, mark their doorways with blood, and the plague of death would pass over any home marked with the blood. Passover had nothing to do with the people in each household being individually righteous. It was the blood of sacrifice that made them worthy.

Now let’s continue in Luke 22:15:

“Jesus said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you I shall never eat it again until it is fulfilled.”

Jesus was telling his friends that the Passover Jews had celebrated for centuries was merely a foreshadowing of Jesus fulfilling it with another act of God’s grace. Jesus would be the Passover lamb and His blood would be the permanent covering for our sins. Here is how Jesus said it:

“And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.”

What we are celebrating in communion is the unmerited favor God has given us through Jesus regardless of our personal unworthiness. So if anyone is hesitant about communion because you feel unworthy, I encourage you to refocus on God’s grace. If your walk with the Lord isn’t what you want it to be or if you have struggled with sin, all you need to do is repent and receive forgiveness. Then share communion with your focus on how worthy Jesus is and how deserving he is of celebration and worship.

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