Mysteries of the Kingdom

            in awe of scripture, viewing it through the lens of the kingship of Jesus





Pondering the Eucharist / Communion

    As Christians, many of us habitually "say grace" before every single meal, but do we mean what Paul meant about eating with "thanksgiving?"

    Three times Paul said all food was acceptable so long as it is eaten "with thanksgiving" (Romans 14:6; 1Corinthians 10:16, 30; and 1Timothy 4:3-5). Taken in context, Paul wrote about what we call communion or "Eucharist." In Romans 14 and 1Corinthians 10, Paul contrasted "thanksgiving" (which is what Eucharist means) for food as the opposite of eating meat which had been sacrificed to idols. It appears that Paul recognized every meal as the Eucharist (also called communion), a celebration of the Sacrifice who offered Himself for the glory of the Father and the life of believers.

". . . the one eating unto the Master, he is eating because he is eucharistei unto God, and the one not eating unto the Master, he is not eating because he is eucharistei unto God." (Rom 14:6)1

"The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a fellowship of the blood of the Anointed? The bread which we break, is it not a fellowship of the body of the Anointed? . . . For if by generosity, I partake, why am I insulted for the sake of what I eucharisto?"
(1Cor 10:16, 30)2

    In John 17:1-2, Romans 5:19, and Philippians 2:8; Jesus offered the sacrifice of His obedient death, bringing the Adamic lineage of rebels to completion and establishing the Christian lineage of obeyers instead of rebels. Since Paul contrasted food sacrificed to idols with thanksgiving meals (Eucharist), then Romans 14:6 and 1Corinthians 10:30 apparently should prompt Christians to treat all foods as the body of our Lord and all drinks as His blood. To do so would transform the way we eat and would help us live in more constant thought of Him.


FOOD AS IDENTITY
    The Old Covenant Law brilliantly reminds Jews every time they eat that they are Jews through dietary restrictions. Every time Muslims eat, they too remember that their are Muslim because of their dietary restrictions. In both cases, food reinforces identity. Under the law of Christ (the Anointed), all foods are now clean (Mark 7:19), a distinction which potentially removes the power of food to shape one's spiritual identity. Christian tradition has long treated the Eucharist as a group event with priestly or pastoral oversight; yet Jesus said, "Do this as often as you drink, in remembrance of Me" (1Cor 11:25).

    Context #1: The Jewish "Passover" serves as one context for the Christian Eucharist. Both Passover and Eucharist involve a death that empowered freedom from slavery. Jesus chose the Passover dinner as the occasion to instute the Eucharist. The annual Passover dinner strongly reinforced Jewish identity by reminding all of Israel of their national freedom. The Jewish epic "My Glorious Brothers," beats with the rhythm of "We were slaves once in Egypt," because that identity bound Jews together and colored their lives. As a Jewish group event, Passover is an appropriate context for group meals in which Christians can give thanks (Eucharist) and identify themselves as the "Israel of God"(Gal 6:16) whom Jesus has ransomed from the slavery of sin.

    Context #2: Jesus also applied the context of manna to the Eucharist. In direct relation to the manna, Jesus hauntingly said in John 6:56, "... unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you." Our Master taught us to think about the Eucharist like manna.


FOOD AS MEDICINE
    Manna was the heavenly medicine which kept Israel from death in Exodus chapter 16. Jesus pointed out however, that it was an ineffective medicine: ". . . your fathers ate the manna, and are dead" (John 6:58) Their medicine was only temporary, so they had to keep eating it several times a day, day after day.

    How does eating the eternal Bread of Life apply to me medicinally? Disobedience is death (Gen 2:17), and separation from God is death (Gen 3:8). Perhaps I should eat every food as the body of Jesus ("having given thanks") medicinally and drink every beverage as His blood ("as often as you drink") medicinally for the purpose of keeping me from death, that is, keeping me from disobedience and separation. Notice that Jesus said, "He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him." In John 15, abiding is something we already do, but is something which we are also commanded to actively do as well. We take the Eucharist in memory of what we already do (we have life in Him), but perhaps we can also take the Eucharist in obedience to the command to abide in Him.

    Abiding in the True Vine (John 15:4) is the opposite of separation from Him. When I am not cognizant of His powerful presence, there is a degree of separation which Jesus calls us to actively resist. In the context of John 6:56, perhaps eating every meal as the True Manna can offer real power for an abiding lifestyle. Ignatius of Antioch, whom the Apostle John personally discipled, said the Eucharist is "the medicine of immortality and the antidote to prevent us from dying."


EUCHARIST TRADITION
    Church tradition does not support the idea of taking every meal as the body and blood of our Lord. Very soon after the apostles died, Christians across Europe, Asia, and Africa all adopted the pattern of a congregational Eucharist, implemented by priests. If the Apostle Paul meant what I believe he meant here, then a powerful practice of Scripture quickly faded everywhere from Christian use. Paul Pavao documented the early church practiced Eucharist as a group meal, quoting Justin Martyr, Tertullian, and the Didache.2

    On the other hand, we would not have to claim the gates of hell prevailed against Christianity if a solitary practice fell out of use. Roman Catholicism offers Mass to its adherents every day. Perhaps it should be an everyday practice for Protestants too who claim Solus Christus (no need for a priest) in all things. For more thoughts on the "abiding" lifestyle, <click here.>


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1. Author's translation
2. Ibid
3. www.ancient-faith.com/2014/11/27/the-christian-thanksgiving-meal

All scripture quotations are from the New King James Version except where otherwise noted.
"Every Meal as a Sacrifice" by Matthew Bryan was first published at www.matthewbryan.net
May 20th, 2015. All rights are reserved.