Communion is a symbolic event Jesus left for us as a reminder of His love.
Symbols point beyond themselves to something deeper. So it is with communion … Jesus’ very special three-part symbol of love. The meaning is deeper than simple elements … washing feet, eating the meal and breaking the bread and drinking the cup.
It symbolizes Jesus saying, “I love you,” to the Church. It’s meant to cause us to worship … to love Him more in return. It reminds us of His daily cleansing in our lives, the celebration awaiting us in Heaven and the price He paid so we could have eternal life.
This first part of communion reminds us of our need for daily cleansing from sin. It’s a time of introspection and self-examination.
Jesus wants us to remember that even though believers have been forgiven for all sin … past, present and future … we must claim His cleansing power and forgiveness on a daily basis.
Theologians call it “present, progressive sanctification.” Present: it’s happening now; progressive: it will continue throughout our lives on earth; sanctification: it is the process by which Christ sets us apart for the special treatment of being transformed into His likeness (Romans 8:29).
Washing feet as a symbol of this isn’t something thought of by the Church or the Apostles. Jesus asked us to do it. “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14).
When Jesus washed His disciples’ feet, He gave an example. It was an example to be followed in practice, not merely known (John 13:12-17).
There’s more to this symbol than at first appears.
It is more than a custom. Jesus said “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later, you will understand” (John 13:7). The custom they did understand, the new meaning they did not.
It is more than an example of humility.
When Peter said no to feet washing, Jesus gave a curious response: “Unless I wash you, you have no part with Me .. a person who has had a bath needs only to was his feet, his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you”. (John 13:8, 10).
There is a cleansing of feet and there is a bath. The disciples had the bath, but needed their feet washed. They were “saved”, but not clean from the contamination of daily sin.
It is more than an outward cleansing.
Scripture presents water and cleansing as word pictures of true cleansing by the Word (Ephesians 5:26). Feet washing is a symbol of love. It’s a statement a church makes together, as they have communion, that Jesus is the one who does the real cleansing on the inside. He does that constantly, as we claim His forgiveness. At a church communion service, we picture this in a meaningful, Christ-like way.
The Love Feast
The Love Feast is the second part of the communion service. It reminds us that Jesus will welcome us to His celebration in Heaven without sin, and that we are now, as a group of His believers, His loved ones … His future bride.
Theologians call it “glorification”, seeking and sharing the glory of Christ (1 John 3:2). This part is future. When it happens, God’s special plans for us will be brought to completion (Romans 8:29-30).
It’s appropriate that a meal, shared in Christian fellowship, be one of the symbols Jesus left behind. Scripture promises a special future occasion, the ultimate love feast, with Jesus Himself as host (Revelation 19:7-9).
We practice the love feast because Jesus included it in the “communion service” He had with His disciples (John 13) and because the early church continued to practice it (1 Corinthians 11:17-34, Jude 12). The meal is a fellowship time characterized by His love.
The Bread and The Cup
Sometimes called the Eucharist, the Greek word for “thanks”, the bread and the cup is about remembering the price Jesus paid to secure eternal life for us.
Because of His broken body and shed blood, God declares us righteous. Theologians call it “justification”.
The broken body; the shed blood and the grotesque death they represent, was endured by God’s perfect Son. Because of that, when people become Christians, a great exchange takes place. First, God considers our sins paid for by Jesus’ death and, second, God considers the righteousness of Jesus to be ours (2 Corinthians 5:21).
The bread and the cup also picture a unique way of relating to God. No more animal sacrifices. No more priests to intercede. Instead, we have direct communication with the Creator.
He asks us to keep observing this symbol of love until He returns (1 Corinthians 11:25-26). This is so we don’t forget.
The symbols of communion are solemn and holy, yet joyful and peaceful. They are so serious that the Bible warns us to examine our own lives and thoughts before we participate in communion. We need to make sure we are in fellowship with God (1 Corinthians 11:27-30).
Communion means fellowship, sharing and having something in common. For Christians, it’s a special time of worship where we remember Jesus’ great love. Anyone who shares our faith in Christ is welcome to attend.