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Communion Meditations (2018)


Hard Teaching

Originally scheduled for February 18

The teaching of Jesus Christ in John chapter 6 is among the most difficult in the entire Bible. Perhaps this is one reason it is not frequently cited in communion meditations; it’s hard to understand and is the subject of controversy. But I believe there is one way we can look at it which will help us understand why Christ use these words. Consider the problem, no doubt known to Jesus Christ, of translating the Scriptures into many different languages. There are certain things you cannot say in some languages, simply because there are not methods or grammar to say them. So in this passage Christ proclaims himself to be the bread of life — and we can understand that in three different ways.

·         The first is the one of physical reality. He is the sacrificial lamb, sacrificed at the time prescribed in the Old Testament law, who takes away the sins of the world. Many Christians understand this to mean that the elements of communion are transubstantiated into the physical body and blood of Christ. It’s one way of looking at it, but in any event he is the sacrificial lamb, physically, in reality.

·         Others say communion as worship and symbolic communication – but please, it is not “just a metaphor.” He intended to attach to communion the significance of sacrifice in the Old Testament sense. It is certain that no other meal has nearly such influence over who you become.

·         On the deepest level, you are what you eat. By the taking of communion you feed the Holy Spirit within you, changing you gradually to become more and more a mature Christian. Just like natural growth, there is spiritual growth and you have to feed it. The Holy Spirit grows within you when fed the bread of heaven.

What was the reaction to this? “This is a hard teaching.” It’s a common reaction to blame the teacher for the difficulty of the subject. The reason I flunked the test is that the questions were too hard. But that’s not why this is a hard teaching. In this instance, it’s because the teaching forces a decision: is this man of miracles and obvious sense really who he says he is? He never said he was a great teacher; he said he was God in the flesh. It’s the kind of statement that eliminates the fence you were hoping to sit on. There is no fence. There is no place to sit. There is only room to take a stand.

There is a caution that comes with this. Many churches regulate who is permitted to take communion, but one thing is clear: if you are not a real follower of Jesus the Christ, you should not participate. To do so is to lie to the people around you and more importantly to lie to God. You can deceive the people around you, but it’s not that easy with God.

But if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, don’t worry that the teaching is hard. Rather, be obedient to his commands. Examine yourself before taking communion, making such plans of repentance as might be necessary. Then with all honesty and sincerity, take and eat the bread of life — and grow.

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