For the Communion meal, Jesus chose bread and wine, two easily accessible items. He didn’t select a marble or brass monument. He didn’t say Communion had to be in a certain place. He made it simple, so it can be done every single day in your own home.
- Bread—The Bible doesn’t specify the type of bread to use. Many believers choose unleavened bread because that’s what Jesus would have had in the Passover meal. You can use any type of bread, matzo (unleavened bread) or crackers. If you like to bake bread, try making a flatbread you use only for Communion.
- Wine—Scripture refers to “the fruit of the vine” (Matthew 26:29), which means wine. Many believers use grape juice instead. Pray and ask the Lord for direction. He will guide you by His Holy Spirit.
When Did Communion Start?
Jesus established the first Communion on the night before He died. His last supper was part of a Jewish celebration known as Passover, which is one of God’s holy feasts (Exodus 12:14–17). Passover commemorates how God delivered the Israelites from the death angel and the 10th plague He set upon the Egyptians (Exodus 12:12–13) for worshipping false gods and disobeying God (Exodus 1–12).
The 10th plague was the killing of every firstborn child and firstborn animal in Egypt. When Almighty God sent the angel of death to Egypt, it passed over houses of the Hebrew people because they had obeyed God’s command to paint each of their doorposts with the blood of a spotless lamb (Exodus 12:1–30). Throughout history, the Jewish people have continued to observe and celebrate Passover, the night the Most High God spared the firstborn children of Israel. The night before Jesus was crucified was the time designated that year to celebrate Passover (Luke 22:7–15).
Jesus changed part of the Passover meal’s ritual to what Christ followers take as Communion today. During the part of the meal known as the third cup or the cup of blessing, Jesus picked up bread, broke it and gave it to His disciples, telling them, “This is My body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:19 ESV).
Next Jesus took a cup of wine and said, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood” (Luke 22:20 ESV). The blood of a spotless lamb had protected the Hebrew people from the 10th plague. Using the Passover bread and wine, Jesus showed He was the new Passover Lamb, giving His life so others—like us—could escape spiritual death. It is only through the blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus (John 1:29), that we overcome death (Revelation 5:9–10).
In Communion, we realize anew that Christianity is rooted in historical facts. It’s not New–Agey spirituality, channeling or getting in touch with your inner being. Christianity is real. Jesus lived as a man. His heart pumped blood, and His skin bled when it was broken. He died very publicly on a Roman cross as a substitute for sin, so anyone who believes in Him can be rescued from God’s judgment. Communion drives us squarely into history, where we encounter Jesus’ body and blood and His execution and death. The holy meal showcases the reality of the Cross.
According to the Bible, Communion serves several purposes:
- Remembrance—Communion commemorates or remembers the death of Jesus. He said, “Do this in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:19 NIV).
- Demonstration—Communion demonstrates the new covenant the Most High God made with humanity through the death of Jesus, who died for our sins. Jesus said, “This cup [of wine] is the new covenant in My blood, which is poured out for you” (Luke 22:20 NIV). This new covenant makes the fullness of divine life available to anyone who believes in Jesus Christ. How? By the Holy Spirit who comes to live in believers.
- Proclamation—The Apostle Paul wrote, “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26 NIV). When we take Communion, we declare the reality of Jesus’ death. It’s a hands-on sermon that proclaims the sin-atoning work of Christ on our behalf.
- Celebration—During Communion, we remember the reality of Jesus’ death but also celebrate His Resurrection. He is no longer on the Cross but on the throne at the right hand of God the Father, where He rules and reigns in power and authority (1 Peter 3:22, Hebrews 12:2).
- Prediction—As we, through Communion, “proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26 NIV), we also declare He is returning and will make all things new. Communion foreshadows the wedding feast of the Lamb (Revelation 19:7), where all believers will share a great feast with Jesus Christ (Isaiah 25:6–9).
The Symbols: Bread and Wine
The Passover meal is full of symbols, so it’s no surprise that Jesus took two of those symbols—bread and wine—and gave them new meaning for Communion. The bread symbolizes Jesus’ body. When we eat Communion bread, we’re not eating Jesus. It symbolizes that we agree with Him, that we believe in Him by faith and that we accept that His broken body brings us forgiveness of sins and eternal life (John 6:47).
In John 6:35, Jesus said “I am the bread of life” (NIV). He continued in verse 51: “I am the living bread that came down from Heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world” (NIV). He went on to say, “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day … Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood remains in Me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent Me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on Me will live because of Me” (John 6:54, 56–57 NIV).
Jesus clearly states that “eating” His flesh and “drinking” His blood is an act of faith, or believing. When we eat the bread and drink the wine, we declare our faith in Christ Jesus as the Son of God, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29 NIV).
Who Can Take Communion?
Communion is reserved for those who believe in Jesus. Unbelievers can be present and observe, but they are not to partake. Believers who are living in sin—have sin in their lives but choose to ignore it—are not to take Communion. When Paul wrote to the Corinthian church about taking Communion, his instruction included a warning: “Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves” (1 Corinthians 11:27–29 NIV).
Other Names for Communion
- The Last Supper
- The Eucharist (or Giving of Thanks)
- The Cup of Blessing
- Holy Communion
- Love Feast
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