Why do we drink wine and eat bread in remembrance of Christ? Who should do it and how often? What happened at the Last Supper? Let’s see what the Bible says. The meaning and symbolism go DEEP and this will change the way you take the Lord’s Supper!
Communion or the Lord’s Supper is the breaking and eating of bread to symbolize Christ’s body broken for us and drinking wine to remember the blood he shed for our sins.
“While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. (Matt 26:26-28).”
We are practicing ancient traditions of entering a covenant when we observe the Lord’s Supper! We are symbolically intermingling Christ’s blood with our own, sharing a meal together as friends, making him a part of us and us a part of him.
Why do we take communion?
Communion is much more than just eating a piece of bread and taking a sip of wine or juice. It is to…
- Remember Christ our Savior dying on the cross for the sin of humankind
- Proclaim his death
- Give thanks
- Examine our hearts
- Commune with God and fellow believers
- Acknowledge our covenant with him
- Anticipate his return
What a beautiful experience we are able to share in this side of the cross!
MINI DEVOTIONALS: This text was taken from my new faith-based Instagram account, House of Palms. I hope you’ll come join us over on Instagram as we find answers in the Bible, topic by topic! FOLLOW @house.of.palms
When should we take communion?
Jesus commands the we partake in communion, but he doesn’t specify how often. This is in keeping with the New Covenant — when we have faith in Jesus, we receive the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will prompt us and teach us.
No need to wait for a special holiday, you may choose to do this special observance as often as you choose!
“Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes (1 Cor 11:25-26).”
Who should take holy communion?
Communion with God through Jesus Christ should only be observed by believers. If you are not in a covenant with Jesus, do not sin and go through the actions falsely. Instead, decide to put your faith in Jesus! He longs for you to come to him! See what covenants are in this post!
We are all sinners and none of us merit a place at the table, but thanks to Jesus we are forgiven when we confess to God. Hallelujah! That’s why we should approach the elements after self examination, repentance and gratitude.
We should NOT partake if we are (1 Cor 11):
- partaking from hunger
“Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup (1 Cor 11:27).”
And finally, it’s a blessing to partake in the Lord’s Supper TOGETHER as a church body! We are communing with God and we are communing with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Paul says, “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread (1 Cor 10:17).”
What happened at the Last Supper?
WHAT: Jesus washed the disciple’s feet, celebrated Passover and gave new meaning to the meal with a New Covenant ritual, communion.
WHEN: The first Lord’s Supper was in Jerusalem during Passover, the night before Jesus’ death over 2,000 years ago.
WHO: Jesus and his 12 disciples attended the dinner. During the meal Jesus excused Judas to betray him.
WHERE: Jesus and the disciples were in a large upper room in Jerusalem — possibly the same room where Jesus appeared to the disciples after his death and where the Holy Spirit came to the disciples on Pentecost. We don’t know who the owner was, but when Jesus sent Peter and John to prepare the room he was expecting them.
HOW: Passover is the annual celebration of the Israelites’ departure from Egypt.
The Bible tells us that they were reclining at the table, so they were most likely seated on the floor.
We know unleavened bread and wine were on the table, but the Bible does not mention what other food was present.
We don’t know if lamb was on the table as Jesus was the perfect lamb on this special Passover! Swipe to see the parallels of the Passover lamb and Christ.
Ancient Passover rituals include drinking four cups of wine. Each cup has meaning:
- Cup of sanctification
- Cup of plagues
- Cup of redemption
- Cup of praise or blessing
Jesus emphasized the third cup during his Passover meal with the disciples as he declared the New Covenant. This is the cup of redemption. He was referring to this cup as he prayed in the garden “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matt 26:39).
Jesus told the disciples, “I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” This is the fourth cup! The cup of praise and blessing that he will one day share with us in Heaven at the Supper of the Lamb! Isn’t that remarkable?
Side note: Our family has started celebrating Passover dinner over the past few years and it has had an incredible impact on understanding his last night and a sample of what Jewish law must have been like. It brings new meaning to the washing of the feet and communion.
Passover is not a commandment to Christians as it was for Old Testament Jews. It is a free choice to celebrate Christ’s fulfillment of prophesy. If you’d like to know more about hosting a Passover dinner, see this post.
What does the bread represent in communion?
Food is necessary for our flesh and blood bodies to sustain life in physical form, but Jesus says “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God (Matt 4:4).” This means our spirit is more important than our physical bodies. Our spirit lives on for eternity, but our bodies waste away.
By taking the bread, we are acknowledging that we need substance physically, but more importantly we need substance spiritually.
Let’s take look at a few examples of the important role of bread in the Bible:
▪️God commanded the Israelites to eat bread without yeast or leaven during Passover (Deut. 16). It reminds us that the Israelites had to leave Egypt in a hurry, but it also has other symbolism. Yeast and fermentation is associated with corruption (1 Cor 5). Christ said the bread was his body broken for us. His body was without corruption or sin.
▪️God sent manna (bread-like honey wafers) down from heaven for the Israelites in the wilderness. They were to only collect their daily bread and no more — same as he will provide for us day by day when we feed on him. The exception was for the Sabbath when they would collect a double portion (Ex 16). A double portion is also what a firstborn son inherited!
▪️God directed priests to offer him Bread of Presence in the tabernacle — 12 loaves representing each tribe and made from the same dough (Lev 24). It represented the covenant between the Israelites and God. Aaron and his priest sons were to eat it in the holy place. Now we partake in eating bread, representing Christ’s body, as part of the New Covenant.
▪️Israelites were to give a grain offering (Lev 2). Jesus is the bread of life and he covers our sins!
▪️When Jesus taught the disciples how to pray, he included “Give us today our daily bread” (Matt 6).
▪️Jesus fed a crowd of 5,000 with five loaves of bread (Matt 7).
▪️Bethlehem means “house of bread.”
▪️Jesus says he IS “the bread of of life”!
“I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. 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” (John 6:48-51)
What does the wine represent in communion?
Wine in communion represents the blood Jesus shed on the cross to atone for our sins. While this might seem strange at first glance, it is packed full of meaning.
Blood represents life. By partaking in communion we are symbolically intermingling his blood with ours to represent intercommunion and pledge of oneness. We are entering a covenant together.
Let’s take look at a few examples of the important role of wine in the Bible:
▪️Jesus’ first miracle was turning water into wine when the host of a wedding ran out (John 2). Weddings are covenants, as with taking the Lord’s Supper. At the Lord’s supper the wine represents Christ’s blood, so this miracle foreshadows future events. Could it also be symbolic that he was purifying the water as he does with our hearts?
▪️“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:5).”
▪️“Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.” Some interpret the old wineskins as human tradition (like the Pharisees) and the new wineskins as God’s truth. We will burst if we cling to tradition and do not become new in Jesus Christ.
▪️Wine represents Christ’s blood in communion. Why? Because blood signifies life. “And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you’ (Luke 22:19-20).”
▪️Jesus says he will not “drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes” (Luke 22:18).
▪️I feel compelled to mention, as well, that there are at least 79 verses warning followers of God not to become drunk. “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit …” (Ephesians 5:18).
Why did Jesus tell a crowd to drink his blood and eat his flesh?!
After Jesus feeds a crowd 5,000 with a boy’s lunch of two loaves and five fish, a crowd sought him out the next day (John 6). When they found him across the sea in Capernaum, they asked what works he would perform. (Keep in mind they had just seen him feed the 5,000!) They said, “Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”
As Jesus talks to them, he says “I am the bread of life.” So the Jews grumbled and said “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”
Jesus continues to explain that God sent him and he will raise up those who follow him on the last day. Then he drops a bomb. He tells them “And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
“The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me’” (John 6:52-57).
Why would he say this? Of course he’s not saying they should actually eat him, he’s telling them to enter into covenant with him! Ancient covenant rituals often included shedding of blood (life), intermingling it and breaking bread. And keep in mind this is possibly even a year before he introduced the Lord’s Supper.
Clay Trumbull explains in his book Blood Covenant: “The words of Jesus were not understood by those who heard him. … But this was not because the Jews had never heard of eating the flesh of a sacrificial victim, and of drinking blood in a sacred covenant: it was, rather because they did not realize the Jesus was to be the crowning sacrifice for the human race …”
This bold statement weeded out fickle followers. He knew which ones would betray him and many deserted Jesus. “He requires acceptance as Savior and Lord. This means his agenda must become his followers’ agenda. And that is unacceptable to many would-be disciples,” says Quest Bible Study Bible commentary. Jesus doesn’t fit in your box.
Jesus was also testing and training the Twelve for what was to come. All would be martyred except John.
“So Jesus said to the twelve, ‘Do you want to go away as well?’ Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.’ Jesus answered them, ‘Did I not choose you, the twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.’ He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray him.“
To the disciples it sounded like Jesus was proposing marriage during the Last Supper!
Let’s look at the Last Supper through the disciples’ eyes.
An ancient Jewish marriage proposal included:
▪️Groom makes a payment to his potential bride’s father to buy a chance to marry her.
▪️Then the family and relatives would gather and witness the groom pass the bride a cup of wine. He would say, “This is my covenant with you. Will you take and drink it?”
▪️If she accepts, she drinks it and that is essentially saying “I do.”
▪️She was then called “one who was bought with a price.”
▪️The groom would go back to his town and the two didn’t talk during the engagement period except the best man who would relay messages.
▪️The groom spent this time building a mansion. It wasn’t our idea of a mansion though! It was a room built onto his father’s house.
▪️The father decided when the “mansion” was done.
▪️When it was finished the groom and groomsmen would march into the bride’s town. She doesn’t know the day nor the hour. The men blow their horns to announce they have arrived.
Jesus told the disciples:
▪️Drink of the wine, representing my blood shed for you. This is the New Covenant.
▪️We’re not going to see each other or awhile. But the Holy Spirit will relay messages.
▪️You don’t know when I’m coming back, but you are referred to as “one who was bought with a price.”
▪️I’m going to my Father, who has many mansions. I will prepare a place for you.
▪️When the Father says it is time, I will bring my angels and sound the trumpets.
▪️I will bring you home to Heaven for the Marriage Supper of the Lamb!
Will you take and drink the cup?
What is the Supper of the Lamb?
There will be a day when we commune with Jesus face to face! There will no longer be a need for the Lord’s Supper or communion — to remember him and look forward to his coming — because we will be WITH our Bridegroom! And when that day comes we will be seated at a new table, at the Supper of the Lamb.
“Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready;” (Rev 19:7)
WHAT: The long awaited marriage (or covenant) fulfilled between God and his followers through Jesus Christ. Hebrew weddings occurred in three parts: 1) a betrothal, 2) the groom comes to claim his bride (the church in this metaphor) and 3) the marriage, a feast lasting several days.
WHEN: At the end of the age, but of course there are varying views. Premillennialists believe the supper occurs between the rapture and the second coming. Amillennialists, who think believers will be raptured at the same time as the second coming, think the supper takes place after Jesus’ return, possibly before the Earth is made new.
I enjoy studying with the Bible has to say, but who can know God’s plans? What is of upmost importance is that we are invited!
WHO: All those who put their faith in Jesus Christ during their time on Earth.
WHERE: In the Heavenlies.
HOW: This banquet will be one of absolute joy and abounding love! There will be no more tears or anger or fear, no sin or shame or addiction. We will be dressed in white linen, washed clean, and receive the greatest blessing ever known — to be in the presence of God.
Here is something curious. The four gospel accounts of the Last Supper don’t mention Jesus drinking the the fourth cup of the Passover dinner — the cup of restoration. Jesus said, “For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes” (Luke 22:18).
Could it be that he will drink this cup with us at the Lamb’s supper, when he is finally with all his disciples?
“And the angel said to me, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’ And he said to me, ‘These are the true words of God’ (Rev 19:-9).”
Everyone is invited, you only need to accept the invitation.
- ESV Single Column Journaling Bible
- Quest Study Bible
- The Blood Covenant, H. Clay Trumbull
- Concise Theology, J.I. Packer
- The Marriage Supper of the Lamb, Charles Spurgeon
- Rose Book of Bible Charts, Maps, and Time Lines
- 40 Days Through Revelation, Ron Rhodes
- Beloved: The Last Supper by Mike Donehey
- Ancient Jewish Wedding Customs and Yeshua’s Second Coming
- Ancient Jewish Marriage