By J. Michael Shannon
In some ways our Communion service seems a strange thing. We know it has its roots in the Passover celebration, but as we would expect from a ceremony instituted by our Lord, it can speak to us of much more.
What is the significance of eating bread and drinking juice? Why does it represent the body and blood of Jesus? Why do we internalize these emblems? All living things, for their survival, depend on other living things to surrender their lives. Whether a person eats meat or is a vegetarian, something that was living surrenders its life to sustain the consumer. This is sometimes called, “the circle of life.”
What is true of physical life is also true of the spiritual life. Jesus died so that we might live. Particularly when we partake of the emblems, we are reminded of that. The bread we hold in our hands was once a living plant that was harvested and then made into flour and baked to become bread. The juice in the cup before us was once a grape that was plucked from the sustenance of the vine to become juice to drink.
But there is an even more solemn truth. The grain not only surrendered its life; it was crushed to be made into the flour. The grape was not only plucked from the vine; it was crushed to become juice. Yes, Jesus died for us. Of that we are painfully aware. But he was also crushed for us. The Son of God died in a most cruel way. He was taken and broken, but he was still blessed. The blessing is a direct result of the surrender.
We must internalize the two great truths. That is why we consume the bread and the juice. We don’t just look at it. I suppose none of this should surprise us. God is known for the way he brings blessings out of brokenness. On November 14, 1940, Coventry Cathedral was bombed into ruins. When the church was rebuilt, the new building was connected to the old. You must walk through the ruins to get into the new cathedral.
Jesus walked through the valley of death to give us new life.
J. Michael Shannon serves as a professor at Johnson University, Knoxville, Tennessee.