Most people who call themselves Christians assemble to eat bread and drink wine. Many do it once a week. Some do it more often and some less often… Some put more emphasis on it and others less, but all believe that when they partake of the bread and the wine they are obeying the instructions of Jesus himself. He instituted the ceremony as something to be observed faithfully until he returned. Let us begin this study by thinking about how it all began…
It was the Passover that Jesus was celebrating with his disciples the night before he died. Thousands of other people around town in Jerusalem were doing the same thing. This is the context of and background to his well-known words, ‘Do this whenever you do it in remembrance of me.’
The church has taken this occasion and these words as the institution of its most important ceremony. Millions, if not billions, of people have been taught that Jesus was giving the church a ritual to be kept by all its members for all time. Is this true?
‘Do this in remembrance of me.’ What did these words of Jesus mean to their first hearers? They must have sounded like blasphemy. Jesus was taking their most important national and religious festival that commemorated their incredible and dramatic deliverance from Egypt, and totally changing its meaning. “Forget all that about coming out of the land Egypt,” he was effectively saying. “I am doing something more important than that. The deliverance that I am bringing will put Moses into the shadow! From now on, as long as you go on keeping the Passover and taking the bread and the wine, do it in remembrance of me instead”. Today’s religious world would hardly be more shocked if a man stood up on Christmas day, and asked everyone to treat it as his birthday from now on!
The shock and thrill of his words must have shaken his disciples to their bones. What a claim! What was he saying? How would you have reacted if all your national aspirations and traditions were being turned upside down by someone whose claims implied that he was more important than everyone and everything that had gone before? Yet deep inside themselves they knew his words were right and true. This humble man with whom they had spent the last three years was greater even than Moses – was more than all that had gone before…A shadow is a two dimensional thing of no substance. It is, however, a perfect replica of some three dimensional object. It is the three dimensional object that has reality and value. That is the relationship of the old covenant to the new. The old covenant was good as a perfect indicator and foreshadowing of what was to come. The new covenant is infinitely better, as it alone is the reality. Jesus was introducing the spiritual reality of which the Jewish Passover festival was no more than the shadow…Jesus, and Jesus only, is the bread of life. We must feed on him. How do we feed on Jesus? I can give you no formula.
Jesus is spiritual food, and the spiritual realm is higher than the realm of the mind. It can never be reduced to a set of rules. Isaiah expressed this truth for us in words that are not too well understood: ‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts’ (ch 55: 8,9). The spirit is on a higher plain than the mind, just as the mind is on a higher plain than the body. Spirit understands spirit. Spiritual understanding comes by revelation from God, not by application of the mind…The new birth gives you an initial spiritual understanding. If you then feed on the right food you grow, as Jesus did, in wisdom and understanding. You grow from infancy through childhood and adolescence to mature manhood. You progress from spiritual milk to spiritual meat. Spiritual maturity is not an unobtainable ideal. It is not total sinless perfection. Rather it is normal spiritual adulthood. We should expect to reach it as much as we expect to reach physical maturity…The blood of Jesus was the blood of the new covenant. It was to be applied in a completely new way. Jesus told his disciples to drink it. He did not tell his disciples to wash themselves in his blood, but to drink it. There is a big difference between sprinkling and drinking. Sprinkling is external and drinking is internal. The blood of Jesus represents his life, which he poured out for us when he gave himself for us on Calvary. He poured it out, and we must drink it in. This is of course a spiritual drinking, not a physical drinking. We are receiving into ourselves his perfect life.
When we truly drink the blood of Jesus we are internally made clean from sin. The perfect sinless life of Jesus enters us and drives out the old self made in Adam’s likeness. We become part of the new creation in Jesus.
You can live in one of two ways. You can set your eyes on the visible and follow your natural mind and walk in the flesh. Or you can set your heart to see the invisible and walk in the spirit. The first of these is the way of the old covenant. The second is the way of the new covenant.
The living bread is not something that man can give you by a ceremony or a set of rules or techniques. It is Jesus himself, and you can only know him in the spirit and feed on him by faith.
The wine of the spirit is the life of Jesus poured out for us to drink and drink and be satisfied.