The following is an adaptation from a Maundy Thursday service meditation on communion delivered by the blog writer at Ashland Brethren in Christ Church on April 6, 2023.
14 When the time came, Jesus and the apostles sat down together at the table. 15 Jesus said, “I have been very eager to eat this Passover meal with you before my suffering begins. 16 For I tell you now that I won’t eat this meal again until its meaning is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God.” 17 Then he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. Then he said, “Take this and share it among yourselves. 18 For I will not drink wine again until the Kingdom of God has come.” 19 He took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me." 20 After supper he took another cup of wine and said, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood, which is poured out as a sacrifice for you.”
Luke 22:14-20 New Living Translation
In our passage, Jesus tells his disciples, and us, that we are to take the bread and the cup in remembrance of him.
Remembrance – the act of remembering, commemorating, or performing a ritual that has great significance. Remembrance can also mean the action of remembering the dead, especially in a ceremony or a memory or recollection.
As I was preparing for this talk, I was trying to find a particular book that I wanted to reference. I looked everywhere in our house – I have books strung out in just about every room. I couldn’t find it, but I did find a book that I bought a couple of years ago – Bread of Life; Savoring the All-Satisfying Goodness of Jesus Through the Art of Bread Making. As I flipped through the pages, it started to bring back a memory of my mother and what I’m pretty sure was her first attempt at making bread from scratch. We lived in the country at the time, and because of that, I think my mom thought she had to try to do what she thought country folk did – bake, and grow and can vegetables, to name a couple of those things. I don’t remember many of the details, except that this particular recipe called for coating the bread dough with corn meal. And my mom burnt it – it smelled up the entire house. I tried to escape to the attic, but the aroma of burnt cornmeal wafted up through the rafters, and the house reeked of her burnt offering for days.
But getting back to the book - I caught this paragraph at the end of one of the devotionals interspersed with the recipes throughout the book.
Author April Dodds says that “Discipleship is often not a straight line. We walk with people, we teach them what we know of God’s word and ways, we bring the presence of the Lord to bear in their everyday moments, and sometimes they receive it and other times they don’t. . . From the sermon to the car ride home, from baptism to washing the car, from the Lord’s Supper to lunch at the ball game—the bread of the presence is Jesus, and there’s never a time when he is not with us.”
The bread of the presence is Jesus. In the intro to the book, she says that it is primarily spiritual yet has recipes in it. She describes, “It is a book about hunger, bread, the word of God, and Jesus.”
I hope you can forgive me for going on the proverbial rabbit trail, but this got me to contemplating Jesus as the bread of life.
In John 6:35 (ESV), Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” And in John 6:51, He says, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
The imagery and symbolism of bread throughout the Bible is very rich, but the paradox of the breaking of bread with Jesus’ body breaking – his death – from which we receive eternal life – the bread of life – is beyond compare.
For people of the Jewish faith, bread serves as a symbol of the way God feeds our souls. When Jewish people eat challah, a special bread made of dough braided into loaves and served on the Sabbath and at many holiday meals, they think about how they are connected to God.
In the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13), Jesus says that we should pray “Give us this day our daily bread,” which we have interpreted to mean praying for our daily needs – food, etc. But perhaps it can also mean praying for the bread of life – the presence of Jesus, the Word of God.
My latest Bible purchase – the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, talks about the importance of a father or the head of the household giving thanks for the elements of the meal. The first-century practice was that thanks was given first for the wine and then the bread. However, at Passover, thanksgiving (or the prayer of blessing) was given for the bread first. The significance of the unleavened bread would be explained as they remembered the first Passover and the release of bondage from the Egyptians. But in our passage, Jesus gave a new meaning for the bread as he speaks about redemption – his body being given for us. After the meal, Jesus took another cup of wine and talked about the new covenant, in his blood, poured out for us. Again, this is another reminder or remembrance of the blood that was spattered on the door frames so that the angel of Death would “pass over” those who obeyed the instructions that were given to them by God.
Some would suggest that as we give thanks for the provision of food, we should be giving thanks for the sacrifice that Christ made by offering his own body, symbolized by the bread (or meal) that we partake of each day. As food is necessary to maintain our physical health, so is the Bread of Life crucial for our spiritual health.
In case you’re wondering, I didn’t find the book that I was originally looking for, but I was able to find the quote by the author that I wanted to use. I had originally meant to do a study as to the different terms that we use to describe communion and how remembrance is an important part of Jewish life and rituals. So I want to leave us with Ann Voskamp’s wonderful explanation for the term Eucharist. In the original language, “He (meaning Jesus) gave thanks” reads “eucharisteo.” The root word of eucharisteo is charis, meaning “grace.” Jesus took the bread and saw it as grace and gave thanks.” Ann also says that “Eucharisteo means 'to give thanks,' and give is a verb, something that we do. God calls me to do thanks, to give the thanks away. That thanks-giving might literally become “thanks-living.” That our lives become the very blessings we have received.”
Isn’t it time that we purpose to give thanks every day for the gift of eternal life, the bread of the presence of Jesus, the bread of life, and start “thanks-living?”
Opening photo credit: Kate Remmer, Unsplash