The Bread Of Communion.
It can be interesting to look into the background of the rituals and sacraments of the Church to see why they have come down to us in the form that they have and what significance the original events surrounding them may have for us today.
God says that we should "Come Reason With Him", and that those who come to Him for understanding will have their sins cleansed.
Isa 1:18 Come now, and let us reason together, says Jehovah; though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be like wool.
It's often quoted that "Our thoughts are not God's thoughts and God's thoughts are not our thoughts", but this is before conversion! Now as Christians we have Jesus Christ in us. The Holy Spirit in us brings to our mind the things of God!
Seeing God expects us to use our reasoning minds, "it's always good to see what his reasons may have been for the things that he does", or perhaps one should say, "it's good to see what we can understand of the reasons that God has for what he does!"
Now, the origins of Communion go way back in time beyond the death of our Lord Jesus Christ to the time when Israel was a slave race in Egypt. Recent discoveries have shown that there were vast numbers of paid labourers and artisans in the workforces building the pyramids but the bible shows that there were slaves in Egypt also and Israel was amongst the slave class.
There came a time when God decided to rescue Israel from it's plight and on the day before they came out of Egypt a free people, God told the Israelites to kill a lamb and take some of the blood and spread it on their outer doorposts and lintels. This was a sign to preserve the people in the household (and specifically the firstborn as we shall see later) from events about to take place, and twenty-four hours later God led the people out of Egypt triumphantly.
They were to roast and eat the lamb that evening and they were requested to eat it with unleavened bread. They were to eat only unleavened bread the next seven days also. Exo 12:8-15
Exo 12:8-15 And they shall eat the flesh in
that night, roasted with fire, and unleavened bread. They shall
eat it with bitter herbs. Do not eat of it raw, nor
boiled at all with water, but roasted with fire, its head with
its legs, and with its inward parts. And you shall
not let any of it remain until the morning. And that which
remains of it until the morning you shall burn with fire.
And you shall eat of it this way, with your loins girded,
your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you
shall eat it in a hurry. It is Jehovah's passover.
While the people said they would do this, they seem to have promptly forgotten the details of what THEY had to do regarding the bread! Take a look at the events when they left Egypt in Exo 12:29-34.
Exo 12:29-34 And it happened at midnight
Jehovah struck all the first-born in the land of Egypt, from the
first-born of Pharaoh that sat on his throne to the first-born of
the captive that was in the prison; also all the first-born of
cattle. And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he and
all his servants, and all the Egyptians. And there was a great
cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where there was not one
Here they are being forced out of Egypt by the Pharaoh, a day after the Passover and they are still preparing leavened bread. The only reason they ended up eating unleavened bread is that because of events organised by God the bread was not allowed to rise. The bread had yeast in it but God kept them rushing around so much with the bread wrapped up tightly for travel, that it did not rise and so they had to bake it and eat it 'unleavened'!
And this is happening on the day after the Passover; a day when they should have been preparing unleavened bread for all their meals, unlike the Passover day when they could eat leavened bread generally.
One interesting point from this which I hope to bring out later in more detail is that by his actions we see God does not define unleavened bread here simply as bread without a leavening agent. Although that is the normal manner of making it we see that it's purely bread that has not risen; or been allowed to rise, to put it another way!
Now fast forward to the time of Christ. Jesus is keeping the last Passover of his earthy life. Jesus would have known how the day was originally kept and after the Passover meal is over he inaugurates a new sacrament relating to his upcoming death.
As Christ is about to give his disciples new instructions about the new ceremony he washes the disciples feet and puts a break (of considerable time considering there were 22/24 feet to wash), between the Passover and what he is going to do next.
Then he breaks bread and gives it to the disciples to eat as representing his body broken for us. Since the Passover day is NOT a 'DAY of unleavened bread' and this bread is NOT being used for the Passover meal it could have been leavened or unleavened. The type is not specified.
Christ we know lived a sinless life, and leaven is used as a 'type' or representation of sin in the bible. As a result of this many people believe the bread used to represent Jesus' body during the communion service should be unleavened, so as to represent his sinless life. Certainly if it helps one to have a clear picture of Jesus as one takes the communion this can be a good thing.
When Christ died though, although HE was without sin, he took all the sins of the world on himself, past, present and future. With all of our sin in his body his Father 'turns his face away', as one well known hymn puts it, and with our sins, Jesus died.
1Pe 2:24 He Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that dying to sins, we might live to righteousness; by whose stripes you were healed.
Now, if one considers that the bread of the Communion should represent Christ's body as it was on the cross, broken for us, it will therefore not have escaped one that before he died Jesus took all our sins on himself. He died with our sins else otherwise we could not be forgiven. So if we are commemorating his death then leavened bread would appear to be a better representation of his body at the time that he died for us. Thus putting us in remembrance of Christ's willingness to take our sins on himself and allow himself to be tortured and beaten for our healing.
The bible text does not specify whether the bread was leavened or unleavened though, presumably because the important thing here is Jesus Christ himself.
In the context of the Christian, the days of unleavened bread are also very interesting.
It is sometimes said that the 'Days of Unleavened Bread' are representative of the Christian walk after coming to Christ. A case could perhaps be made for this if we look at the symbolism in the light of the New Covenant.
I've heard people say that these seven days show the Christian gradually coming out of sin, since seven is the number for completion. This concept isn't clearly borne out either by the 'Unleavened Bread' symbolism or the reality of the Christian life though. Looking at the symbols, the bread is unleavened during all of the seven days. It is not partly unleavened at the start; gradually getting more unleavened; until finally it is totally unleavened on the last day. NO! It is fully unleavened throughout the whole of the seven days.
In the same way the Christian is not partially righteous at the start of his walk with God and getting gradually more righteous as time goes on. One is either righteous or un-righteous. Either Jesus' righteousness has been imputed to you or it hasn't. There's no way that Jesus' righteousness could only partially cover/cloak you at the start of your Christian walk and as you work at it and improve and overcome you gradually build up your righteousness quotient so God can say to you - "Well done. You've completed the work that Jesus started in you but had to leave only partly done, and now you've made yourself perfect!"
NO! In reality Jesus' righteousness completely covers us. We underneath have yeast (sin, we have been sinners) but the Holy Spirit of Christ is molding us and guiding us and bringing us to the maturity and stature of Jesus; and Grace is teaching us to say NO to all ungodly things. So in this way God stops us from rising and we are unleavened as Paul says in 1 Cor 5:6-7.
1Co 5:6-7 Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, as you are unleavened. For also Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us.
Since Christ has been sacrificed for us (and we have accepted his sacrifice on our behalf; believed on him, etc.), we are unleavened (spiritually).
Do you understand what Paul is saying? Like the dough on that 'First Day of Unleavened Bread', we are Unleavened (Righteous, having had Christ's righteousness imputed to us) but there is yeast (sin) in us and we are to purge that out. We are to 'grow in grace' in other words!
And as it says in 1 John 3:7-10 -- those who are born of God do not sin.
1Jo 3:7-10 Little children, let no one
deceive you. He who does righteousness is righteous, even
as that One is righteous. He who practices sin is of
the Devil, for the Devil sins from the beginning.
As children of God we have the privilege of re-living with the emblems of bread and wine Jesus' death for us and what it bought - the healing of our bodies and minds, and the forgiving of our sins.
They bring us into remembrance of Jesus and what he did for us, just as he wanted. The bread reminds us of his body broken for us. As we think on this we may also remember that he is the true bread sent from heaven which gives life to the world.
Joh 6:30-33 Therefore they said to Him, What sign do you show then, so that we may see and believe you? What do you work? Our fathers ate the manna in the desert, as it is written, "He gave them bread from Heaven to eat." Then Jesus said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, Moses did not give you that bread from Heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from Heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from Heaven and gives life to the world.
Some like to have the bread made into individual wafers. This reminds them of Christ as the true manna (bread) from heaven as mentioned in Exo 16:31.
Exo 16:31 And the house of Israel called the name of it Manna. And it was like coriander seed, white. And the taste of it was like wafers with honey.
The other thing about the dough that the Israelites made for that first Day of Unleavened Bread is that having been stopped from rising by God arranging events to ensure this (it was wrapped tight for packing and travel), and after being molded into the shape required, it was then baked. And baking kills the yeast so that the bread is then permanently unleavened. In the same way we know that when our time is come and we are changed and given spiritual bodies we will stay in God's house forever, without sin!
All of these things can be valid in helping us, as we eat the Bread of Communion, to keep in remembrance the death of our Lord till he comes again.
1Co 11:26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you show the Lord's death until He shall come.
And what does the Lord's death signify?
It tells of our sins being forgiven. It tells of our being reconciled to God. It tells of Jesus' being beaten and tortured for our healing. By His stripes we are healed. We are to remember all of this and in this way the Communion will not be a ritual. It will be a remembrance of what Christ has done for us in the spiritual realm and a prayer for our healing in the physical, mental and emotional arenas. It would appear from what it says in 1 Cor 11:26-30 that because some lost sight of this (the body of the Lord) on becoming sick they were not made well when they could have been.
1Co 11:26-30 For "as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you show" the Lord's death until He shall come. So that whoever shall eat this bread and drink this cup of the Lord unworthily, he will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup. For he who eats and drinks unworthily eats and drinks condemnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. For this cause many among you are weak and sickly, and many sleep.
Let us therefore remember that just as the Old Covenant
sacraments were a shadow of the things to come and not the
reality, the New Testament sacraments are not the reality either.
They are not an end in themselves and neither are they just rituals
to be observed without thought. They point us to Jesus and what He
has done for us.
The reality though is Jesus Christ; His Death and Resurrection