Every church practices it a little differently, but all evangelical Christian churches (and many others) offer communion at some point. Whether your church has the traditional cracker and ½ oz communion cup, or the less formal loaf to dip in a cup, I’m sure you have seen and even participated in communion, and have probably heard the traditional passages read aloud, either from the gospels when Jesus gave the Last Supper or from 1 Corinthians where Paul describes how to take communion. Each passage talks about Christ’s body and blood, but obviously you don’t eat real flesh and blood, so what does that mean? Do you really have to “partake of His flesh and blood”?
The references to His flesh and blood are significant.
Isaiah 53:5 NASB
But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.
John 19:1-3 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
Pilate then took Jesus and scourged Him. 2 And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and put a purple robe on Him; 3 and they began to come up to Him and say, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and to give Him slaps in the face.
The whip used had several strands of leather attached to a wooden handle, but on the ends of the strips were sharp bits of metal or bone. The flesh was torn from the back, exposing and tearing muscles and even the internal organs. It was often fatal in itself and rendered the victim unrecognizable as a human. On top of that, they beat a crown of sharp thorns into His head and mocked Him, pretending to honor Him as king when really they believed He was an imposter. The purple robe they placed on Him was later taken off after the blood began to dry, reopening the wounds which increased the bleeding. As if all this was not enough, He had to carry His own cross from one end of the city to the other and outside the city walls up a long hill. The soldiers would often whip the criminals to make them walk faster. They then drove nails into His hands and ankles, and left Him to hang by those nails for hours. It usually took several days for the victims to finally suffocate to death. If the soldiers grew impatient they would often break the legs so that they could no longer “stand up” in order to draw breath.
The Romans would hang a sign on each cross listing the sins for which that criminal was being punished. Along with the sign they hung on the cross that said “Jesus of
King of the Jews” was an unwritten sign that listed your sins for which He
died. He willingly endured all of that pain and torment in order to pay the
debt incurred by your sins. We could each write down a long list of our own
sins past and present, and if those were the only sins ever committed in the
world, they would be reason enough for Him to die. He valued your place with
God above His own, to the point that He chose to die so that you could return
to God and be saved from eternal separation from Him. It wasn’t the weight of
all the sins of the world that drove Him to the cross; it was a desire for a
personal relationship with you and you alone. We each are responsible for it.
Communion is a remembrance of that sacrifice. It is remembering that horrible torment He suffered for your sake. By taking the bread, you are symbolically taking His body that was broken and beaten and torn for you. By taking the cup, you are symbolically taking His blood that poured from His open, gaping wounds as He hung on the cross. That is why Paul cautions us not to take it unworthily. He urges any who partake to first examine their lives and repent of any sin because if we eat and drink while there is still sin in our lives, we are guilty of the very death of Christ. We are taking the judgment on ourselves that has also been placed on those who were physically responsible for His death.
So when you partake of communion, remember what it represents, remember why He went to the cross, remember your debt that He paid. Reject the sin that He paid for, repent of your wrongs. Partake with humility and gratitude.