This week at Mars Hill, I preached on the sacrament of Communion. Communion is a time the church gathers together to eat bread and drink wine or juice (depending on conscience) in response to Jesus’ command and remembrance of his death upon our behalf. When we participate in Communion, we recognize the benefits of Jesus’ sacrifice, which include communion with God and other Christians.
Interestingly, Communion is one of five extremely important meals that are sprinkled through the biblical narrative of creation, fall, and redemption. I find it’s helpful to understand Communion in the context of these five meals.
Meal 1: Forbidden Fruit
In Genesis 3, our first parents, Adam and Eve, committed the original sin when they ate a meal without God and in disobedience to him. Sin, the fall, and the curse came upon us all through the tragic decision of our first parents to eat in friendship with Satan rather than with God.
Meal 2: Passover
Exodus tells the story of God redeeming his people from slavery to the tyrannical pharaoh in Egypt to allow them to worship him freely. God poured out ten plagues on Egypt, with the final plague being the slaughter of the firstborn.
In Exodus 12, God commanded the entire congregation of Israel to take a young, healthy lamb without defect and sacrifice it. The blood of the sacrificed lamb was to be put on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the Israelites’ homes and would be their salvation, as God’s wrath would literally pass over all homes that followed this procedure.
In fulfillment of the Passover, Jesus is “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29; cf. 1 Cor. 5:7; Rev. 5:12). Jesus was crucified for our sin (2 Cor. 5:21). He earned our redemption with his own blood as an unblemished sacrifice (Heb. 9:12–14).
Meal 3: The Last Supper
Like all Jewish people, Jesus celebrated the Passover meal. However, in startling alteration of a thousand-year tradition, as he and the disciples ate the unleavened bread, Jesus announced that the bread was his body (Matt. 26:26).
As Jesus and his disciples drank of the wine, Jesus identified it as his blood to be shed for the new covenant, or forgiveness of sins (Matt. 26:28, cf. Jer. 31:31–34).
Soon after the Passover meal, Jesus was crucified. He was clearly teaching that the ancient prophecies contained in the Passover meal were being fulfilled in his death.
Meal 4: Communion
Immediately following Pentecost, Christians began following Jesus’ command to eat and drink in his memory (Acts 2:42; cf. 1 Cor. 10:15–22; 11:17–34).
Paul says Communion is a meal about Jesus and to be participated in only by Christians who are singularly devoted to God, repentant of sin, and not partaking in any other religions or spiritualties.
He also states that at Communion, all of God’s people are to be treated with equal dignity, and that anyone who does not partake of Communion according to these commands brings God’s judgment upon him or herself (1 Cor. 11:27–34).
Communion is to be administered and participated in until we enjoy the final meal with Jesus.
Meal 5: Wedding Supper of the Lamb
Human history began with a meal eaten without God. For Christians, it will end with eating a meal with Jesus Christ (Rev. 19:6–9).
Those who, through faith in Jesus, partook of the second, third, and fourth meals will participate in this meal together as the church. Together forever with Jesus, we will eat, drink, laugh, and rejoice as friends reconciled to God and one another through Jesus.