Communion (ke myün yen) 1. An action or situation involving sharing: a. possession in common b. a function performed jointly; an interdependent working together....
Old Testament Communion: Within Webster’s definition of communion resides an allusion to the Old Testament ritual known as ‘the cutting of a covenant’ (Genesis 15:9; Jeremiah 34:18-19). In the cutting of a covenant, a sacrificial animal was slaughtered, cut in half and separated. The parties to the covenant would walk between the pieces reciting the oath, ‘May it be done to me if I do not keep my oath and pledge.’ Then the covenant sacrifice would be roasted and eaten completely, thus making the covenant part of their very bodies. Any leftovers had to be burned––nothing could be left. After the meal, the parties would seal the covenant by drinking the blood of the sacrificial animal, signifying that the blood of the animal was on them if their oath was broken (i.e. they would die). The ‘blood of grapes’ was substituted since Jews were forbidden to drink actual blood (Lev. 17:11). Covenant-keepers were bound by oath to jointly perform the terms of an agreement, making the parties interdependent, sharing in the responsibilities.
In ‘the cutting of the covenant’ with Abraham (as outlined in Genesis 15), Abraham did not ‘walk through the pieces, reciting the oath’. He, therefore, was not responsible for any ‘performance’ in the covenant; yet he and his ancestors were party to it, nevertheless. The “burning lamp”, an emblem of the Divine presence, was the witness between G-d and Abraham.
The New Testament Communion: The Old Testament alludes to leaven (yeast) as being spiritually equivalent to sin. G-d states: “You shall not offer the blood of My sacrifice with leaven” (Ex. 23:18, also Lev. 2:11). In fact, a strict prohibition against anything baked with leaven was enforced by G-d during Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Exodus 12:19).
This prohibition existed for ‘bread’ offered with sacrifices and ‘bread’ eaten during the Passover Feast of Unleavened Bread because the bread in both of those situations represented Jesus, the sinless Passover sacrifice who described Himself as the true bread from heaven (John 6:32-33, 50).
The Greek language does not have a word for ‘unleavened bread’. The word ‘bread’ in Greek means ‘leavened loaf’. In each instance where the Feast of Unleavened Bread is mentioned in the New Testament, the Greek says only “Feast of Unleavened” (Matt. 26:17; Mark 14:1, 12; Luke 22:1, 7; Acts 12:3, 20:6; 1 Cor. 5:8). The word ‘bread’ was inserted by translators but does not exist in the original text.
Jesus said the bread that He would give was His flesh:
“I am the living bread which came down from heaven....the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world....unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you....He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him....As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me...He who eats this bread will live forever.” (John 6:51, 53, 56- 58b)
While none of His followers understood at that time, Jesus was hinting at the terms of a blood covenant: eating the flesh and drinking the blood of the sacrifice. Eating the flesh of the sacrifice made the covenant part of their bodies, drinking its blood made the parties responsible unto death for its performance. That is why the apostle Paul, understanding the seriousness of breaking a blood covenant, instructs:
“...let a man examine himself, and [then] let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the L-rd’s body. For this reason, many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep [die]. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged.” (1 Cor. 11:27-31)
During the first evening of the Passover (when all yeast had been removed from the house (Exodus 12:15), Jesus took bread and He broke it [as was done to the sacrifice in the ‘cutting of a covenant’]. He said:
“Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” (1 Cor. 11:24)
After they ate the [covenant] meal, He took the cup saying:
“This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it in remembrance of Me. For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the L-rd’s death till He comes.” (1 Cor. 11:25, 26)
Proclaiming His death, is a proclamation of the new covenant (the Holy Spirit) at work in the life of the believer. The covenant-keeper, in declaring Jesus’ death, declares his own:
“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of G-d, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Gal. 2:20)
The Purpose of Communion: In both the Old Testament Communion (Covenant Meal) and the New Testament Communion (Covenant Meal), the purpose was the same: G-d desired that mankind should be brought back into an intimate relationship with Him.
The Spirit of G-d lived with Adam and Eve (G-d is Spirit - John 4:24); but departed when sin entered in because G-d would not dwell with unclean vessels. In order to maintain fellowship with man, G-d allowed the sacrifice of ‘clean’ animals to substitute for man’s deserved death for sin. But the sacrificial system was incomplete and only temporary (Heb. 10:4). It existed expressly to point the way to the once-for-all sacrifice of G-d Himself [Jesus] that made it possible for the Spirit of G-d to again dwell with man.
When Jesus died, He took the punishment for Adam’s sin, thus removing man’s sins as well as his inherited sin-nature. This act on Jesus’ part had to be accomplished before the new covenant could be put in force, The Covenant Of The Holy Spirit Residing With Mankind.
“For where there is a testament (will), there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament (will) is in force after men are dead, since it has no power at all while the testator lives.” (Hebrews 9:16, 17)
Jesus Himself spoke to His disciples about the results His death would produce:
“...It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you....when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you in all truth....” (John 16:7, 13)
Being a party to Jesus’ ‘blood covenant’ requires an interdependent working together, jointly laboring to accomplish the purposes for which the covenant was established. The Spirit of G-d abiding in the believer reunites him to his Source; and the Spirit of G-d abiding in the believer will bring about the ultimate defeat of Satan. Jesus said:
“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”
“....the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control...” (Galatians 5:22, 23)
Barukh HaShem (Blessed is the name of the L-rd)