Here’s a hypothetical story to help get us get our minds around it.
Let’s say you wanted to give me something, something big. You looked into it and say you found a way to get me unlimited airline trips to anywhere in the world, anytime, on any airline. It cost you a lot. But hey, I’m worth it.
Now let’s say even though I have unlimited air travel at my disposal, the only time I ever really fly on that voucher is to occasionally fly from Colorado Springs to Denver, maybe a couple times a year at the most.
That would be kind of nuts, wouldn’t it? I mean I could fly to New York to take in a Broadway show, go shopping in London or catch dinner in Paris. I could go see the Pyramids in Egypt, the Great Wall in China or Victoria Falls in Africa. I could have breakfast on a Florida beach as the sun comes up and be eating dinner the same evening watching the sun go down overlooking the California coast.
But instead I just fly every once in a while someplace it would mostly be easier to drive.
Would you say I was enjoying the maximum benefit of that gift?
Now maybe I don’t really understand what I have. Maybe I think I’m limited to flying within the state of Colorado. Or maybe I don’t remember it often, but when I do think, “man, he gave me this gift. I’m supposed to use it. I better take a trip to Denver.”
There could be any number of reasons I don’t use the voucher like I could. But is that honoring you or the gift you gave me? Is it being a wise steward of what I’ve been given?
Of course not. But sometimes we might have a tendency to treat communion the same way. There’s a lot here and we don’t always appreciate all Jesus gave us when we partake in it.
When Jesus shared the first communion with his disciples on the night before his death he shared the bread and the wine. He said that these represented his body and his blood.
Have you ever thought about why there are two elements?
If the whole purpose of Jesus’ death on our behalf was to fix the sin problem so that we now have direct access to the Father, wouldn’t his blood been enough? Honestly in most of my Christian life that’s pretty much all I heard about at communion time. Mostly pastors only spoke about the wine and the blood and the reason for that.
But Jesus said there are two elements. It is important that we remember both of them.
There is a very real danger when we fixate on Jesus’ blood and neglect his body.
Three of the four Gospel accounts relate Jesus instituting communion.
All three say that the wine represents Jesus’ blood of the new covenant. Luke says Jesus blood was shed for you. Mark says it was shed for many. Matthew adds that it was shed to deal with the sin issue.
But when it comes to the bread, Matthew and Mark simply record Jesus saying, “Take, eat; this is My body.” Luke expands on that a little and records Jesus saying this: “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”
So we are to remember Jesus’ body which is given for us. Keep that in mind.
Problems in Corinth
The church in Corinth had lots of issues. Paul wrote 1 Corinthians to confront a whole bunch of things the people in the church were doing wrong.
One of the things he had to sort out was their whole approach to the Lord’s Supper. Apparently there was a broad cross section of society in that church. They way they were doing it when they celebrated communion was that everyone brought their own. As a result, very poor people would come and not have anything while the vary rich would pig out and even get themselves drunk on the wine.
In chapter 11 of 1 Corinthians Paul points out how messed up that is. He then explains the institution of the Lord’s Supper that he received directly from Jesus.
Paul then goes on to explain the consequences of taking communion without right understanding.
Listen to what he says.
For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. — 1 Corinthians 11:29-30
By sleep, Paul means many people in the Corinthian church had died for this reason. That’s pretty serious.
Discerning the Lord’s Body
Now here’s the way I’ve always heard this passage explained.
Paul was addressing their behavior in Corinthian church. The wealthy people had turned the Lord’s Supper into drunken gluttony while the poor people had little or nothing.
We all know that Jesus compared the Church to his own body. So what Paul is saying here is that these folks were not being mindful of the other members of the church and that’s why folks were sick and dying.
While it is true that the Church is an extension of the Body of Jesus today, and yes, we should be loving towards each other here in the church sharing when we have the ability, That is part of the law of love. Jesus commanded us to love one another as he has loved us. Even so, that’s not really what Paul is getting at here.
Remember, when Jesus first instituted his Lord’s Supper he held up the bread and said, “This is my body.” When it comes Communion, the term “body” refers to the second element of the sacrament, the bread, not to the people in the church.
Here is what Paul is really getting at. The church in Corinth mostly understood that they were forgiven. They were discerning Jesus’ blood correctly.
Where they were missing it was with the second element of Communion. They were not discerning the Lord’s body, and many were sick and dying as a result.
Let’s take a look at an Old Testament prophecy about Jesus to see this in scripture.
Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed. — Isaiah 53:4-5
That word that’s translated “griefs” in verse four? 13 times that same Hebrew word appears in scripture it is translated “sick” or “sickness”, 7 times it’s rendered as “disease”, and 4 times it’s translated as “grief”.
The hebrew word that is translated “sorrows” means either physical or emotional pain.
With that in mind, let’s look at the same two verses in the Amplified Bible.
Surely He has borne our griefs (sicknesses, weaknesses, and distresses) and carried our sorrows and pains [of punishment], yet we [ignorantly] considered Him stricken, smitten, and afflicted by God [as if with leprosy].
But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our guilt and iniquities; the chastisement [needful to obtain] peace and well- being for us was upon Him, and with the stripes [that wounded] Him we are healed and made whole. — Isaiah 53:4-5 (AMP)
Notice it says that the physical damage that happened to Jesus’ body is a provision for our own physical healing and being made physically whole.
Just like the shedding of Jesus’ blood is the provision for eradicating the spiritual sin problem in our lives so we can have a right relationship with God, the breaking of Jesus’ body is the provision for eradicating sickness and disease from our own bodies so we can have the energy and stamina to be effective members of God’s Kingdom.
The New Living Translation’s rendering of that passage is good too.
Yet it was our weaknesses he carried;
it was our sorrows that weighed him down.
And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God,
a punishment for his own sins!
But he was pierced for our rebellion,
crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
He was whipped so we could be healed. — Isaiah 53:4-5 (NLT)
Communion is one of many delivery systems that God has provided for us to bring healing into our physical bodies today.
Jesus never told us how frequently to take communion. He left that up to us. Nor is there any requirement that you be at church to participate in the Lord’s Supper.
At the church I’m a part of now we partake in communion once a month. But you can do it once a day, or even multiple times a day if you want.
Doctors prescribe medicine for us to alleviate symptoms of our diseases and they tell us to take it twice a day or every 4 hours.
With Communion we have something that will take away our sickness and diseases, as long as we properly discern the Lord’s body. You can take that medicine as often as you need to.
Partake with Discernment
Paul told us that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “ Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”
In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “ This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”
For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death (and your new life) till He comes. — 1 Corinthians 11:23-26