Bruce is Jewish by birth and a follower of Jesus by the grace of God. Sort of what many of my southern friends say about being born in America and south of the Mason/Dixon line. Several years ago Bruce and I where talking about communion, the celebration of the past supper that Jesus had with the disciples. Bruce reminded me that what they shared was not just the passing of a plastic shot glass with some juice in it and a little nibble of some wheat substance. Rather it was a full out meal, lamb, unleavened bread, bitter herbs, wine and more. It got us talking about what is missing in many celebrations of communion today. What struck me was the thought that most often what is missing is an appreciation of what it means that Jesus is present at that table.
There have been endless debates about what Jesus meant when he said, “This is my body” and “This is my blood”. Between debating if the elements actually change into his body and blood, or if the molecules of bread and flesh are commingled, or if it is somehow just symbolic, we have missed what I think is the main point. Somehow, Jesus makes himself more know to us through this supper than he does at other times. It has always struck me as a fascinating thing that the disciples on the road to Emmaus did not recognize that it was Jesus they were speaking with, until He broke bread with them. I have coupled that fascination with Jesus saying that where two or three are gathered in His name, He is there in the midst. Does that mean that when you are all alone that Jesus is NOT there? Of course not. He promised to always be with us and through the indwelling Holy Spirit He is. Yet when we gather with other Christ followers there is someway in which the presence of Jesus is more readily known and experienced. It is in community with others that we see more of Jesus. I don’t think that it is coincidental that we call gathering at the Lord’s Table, Communion. We should be having a powerful experience of community with Christ as we gather with the rest of the Body, to celebrate the sacrifice of His body for us.
Somehow we need to recapture the mystery of this relationship. Maybe recapture is the wrong word, For if we captured it, that implies that we understand it. And usually when we understand something we try and control it. Maybe that was the problem to begin with. We have tried to quantify and analyze how Jesus is present in communion. In the process we have missed Him, have not recognized Him. He is there at the table with us. He is there in the other followers who are gathered with us. He is there, somehow in a way that can not be explained, because the bread and wine are there. He is there because He promised to be there. I suspect that an even greater part of the mystery is not so much that He is here during communion, but that somehow, when we celebrate at the Lord’s Table, it takes us to a heavenly realm that is only experienced by faith. In that way it may be much like Lewis’ land of Narnia that is always there, just outside our senses, a place of Jesus presence that we go to by faith.