When Jesus Missed Communion

10communion1_JNBy Tom Lawson

Have you ever missed Communion?

Since ancient times Christians have not wanted to miss Communion. In ad 152, Justin Martyr, in describing a Christian worship service, noted the deacons took the elements of Communion to those who were too sick to attend.

As unfortunate as it is when we miss Communion, can you imagine how much worse it would be if Jesus decided not to be there? The bread would be there and it would taste no different than usual. Same with the cup. The prayers would sound the same. In fact, an outside observer might notice little difference. But, tragically, it would be a meal in which the host declined to be present.

“Impossible,” you might say. “Jesus would never miss Communion.”

I’m not so sure.

In his last letter dictated to the apostle John, the one written to the church at Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-21), Jesus appears to suggest such was exactly the case. This church, which seemed to have quite a positive image of itself as a congregation, receives the harshest of Jesus’ criticisms in these brief letters (Revelation 2 and 3).

Their central failure was not gross immorality or crass idolatry, but self-satisfied complacency. “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17).

Then Jesus urges them to acknowledge their true condition. If they do, he promises, he will bring healing and renewal. It is in this context that he speaks the familiar appeal that he is standing at the door knocking. “If anyone hears my voice and opens the door I will come in.”

If Jesus’ words ended there, it would be a powerful promise. But carefully read the end of his sentence: “. . . and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20).

Any believer in the ancient church would have understood this as a picture of breaking bread with Jesus. This was the very heart of Communion. The church “at table” with Jesus. These words spoken, not to a wayward sinner, but to a church that had, somehow, managed to close the door and leave Jesus himself on the outside.

“Open the door,” he pleads. “Acknowledge your spiritual poverty and hunger, and I will not miss Communion with you any more.”

Did anyone hear someone knocking?

Tom Lawson is a professor at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Missouri.

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  1. April 19, 2013 at 11:24 am

    Thanks to Tom Lawson for raising this point. It is quite possible for people to “in the building, meeting around the table and proclaiming the word” while Jesus is absent and no one notices. The church at Ephesus was also warned to remember the heights from which it had collectively fallen! If they turned in repentance all would be well. However, if they did not, their lampstand would be removed! The church at Ephesus was still meeting and their sacramental functions were being exercised, but something was missing. Doing IS important, but doing alone is empty. Thanks Tom for reminding us that we need to be listening for the gentle knock and soft sound of sandled feet that belong to Jesus.

  2. April 24, 2013 at 2:17 pm

    Thanks Tom: Your meditation reminded me of Paul’s remarks to the Corinthians when he addressed their manner of practice beginning in I Corinthians 11: 20 “Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper,”.

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