Oh, it may look somewhat mundane as we sit high upon our perch, looking back over 2000 years of history and Christian tradition! But what about that emotional night when, after a prayer, Jesus said to His small band of followers, “Take, eat, this is my body” (Matthew 26:26)? And a short time later, after offering another prayer, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:27-28).
These men knew their history. They knew that the pagans had gone so far as to offer their children on the altar of their gods by burning them to death as a sacrifice. But even the pagans didn’t believe in eating flesh! The only time that it is conceivable that one would do that is when she/he is surrounded by an enemy, starving to death, and the only way of surviving is to eat the flesh of the dead!
The idea of drinking blood would be out of the question. All their lives the disciples had watched the sacrifices down at the temple and had seen the blood of bulls and goats thrown onto the altar as a sacrifice for sin (Leviticus 16:11-19). That had happened for years… for as long as they could remember. They also knew The Law: not only do you not drink blood; you don’t eat meat that still has the blood in it (Deuteronomy 12:20-25)!
Now the One whom they had been following was saying things like, “Take, eat my body” and, “Drink my blood.” For days now, Jesus had been telling them that He would die after they got to Jerusalem. Yet, they had seen His triumphant entry into the city. And they were eating the Passover feast in a seemingly safe, comfortable room. What was there to fear? But now He is saying that one of them is going to betray Him this very evening and is talking about eating His flesh and drinking His blood. And, further, He is asserting that He would not be doing this again until He shares it with them in His kingdom. How confusing! What could all this mean?
Soon they would have a better understanding. Soon they would be seeing His predictions coming true. In less than two months Peter would be preaching about it. This piece of worship that is commonly called “communion” would become the centerpiece of those who follow the Christ, at that time and throughout the ages. This is because when we eat this bread and drink this cup we look back at what happened as Jesus became a sacrifice that next day, and we proudly proclaim, “He will come again!” We look back at His suffering and we look forward to His coming (I Corinthians 11:26).
Is there anything that could be so incomparable and incomprehensible as the commands to “Eat my flesh” and “Drink my blood?” One has to doubt that the disciples really understood the significance of what Jesus was saying that night or that those partaking today truly comprehend all that it entails. However, we have a wonderful opportunity to participate with Jesus in a unique experience when we participate in the Lord’s Supper when we answer the call to “Eat my flesh” and “Drink my blood.”
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