The continuation of lesson 51 of the Discipleship Making process.
In summary of part two of this lesson, we learned, according to Jesus: 1) A believer abides (dwells) in Jesus when he eats Jesus’ flesh and 2) Jesus abides (dwells) in a believer when the believer drinks Jesus’ blood.
It is here that we pick-up where we left off, many of Jesus’ disciples were offended and repulsed at His suggestion that they needed to eat His body and drink His blood in order to partake of eternal life. The pagans, not Jews, practiced cannibalism. The fact that there was a prohibition against eating blood in the Law of Moses hindered their understanding of the spiritual implications He was giving them.
A working definition of cannibalism is “the practice or process of making strong men.” The ancients would eat the flesh and drink the blood of a dead man to share in his strength, holiness, wisdom and character. The most likely ones to be eaten after their death were warriors, holy men, virgins and parents. The meal consisted of just a small amount of flesh and blood, not the consumption of the entire body. It was also practiced to commune in a holy way with the deceased.
So prevalent were these concepts that many people believed that Christians were cannibalistic because they ate the flesh and blood of their Lord Jesus Christ. And in a spiritual sense they were right. The early church believed by faith that partaking of the Body (bread) and Blood (wine) of Christ did make them spiritually strong. They also believed that they were participating in the strength, holiness, wisdom and character of their Lord. In fact their interconnectedness to Him was through Holy Communion; that by eating His flesh and drinking His blood they were abiding in Him and He in them.
Both their faith and prayer life was strengthened just as Jesus had said, "Abide in Me, and I in you . . .” (John 15:4-8)
Jesus knew what he was telling His disciples to do and why they were offended. The Law of Moses plainly stated that a person would be cut off from the fellowship of Israel and God would be against him if they ate any blood. “For the life of the flesh is in the blood . . . its blood is identified with its life . . . You are not to eat the blood of any flesh, for the life of all flesh is its blood . . .” Leviticus 17:11-14.
Jesus was well aware of what God said: that life was in the blood and that life could be transferred through the eating of the blood. That’s why God made a prohibition against the eating of blood, since men would take on the characteristics imparted by it. However, Jesus is not a bird or beast but the Son of the Living God. He is the Christ; holy and pleasing to His Father in all things, obedient even to death. This is the life He wants to impart to us. Jesus made eating His flesh and drinking His blood an ordinance, knowing that He was imparting spirit and life through the elements. The participants would be taking on the characteristics of His life. Following is an earlier illustrated teaching of Jesus’ on this principle:
Jesus dealt with the spiritual issues of communion at the beginning of His ministry when He turned water to wine at the wedding in Cana (John 2:1-11). It was the first of His signs and He used it to convey the basic concept of an exchanged life (“I have been crucified with Christ [symbolized by baptism - water]; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me [symbolized by communion - wine]; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” Galatians 2:20) by changing water to wine (blood).
- Jesus used six (Six is the number of man) large water pots that were set aside for purification purposes.
- A pot represents a container for something.
- Throughout Scripture, men are referred to as containers. (Vessels, pots, houses, temples, wine skins, white washed sepulchers, etc)
- The container is important but in no way compares to the contents for which the container was designed for and made.
- When a purification pot was filled with water (immersed in or baptized) it became useful for purification of others.
- Jesus however changed the water to wine.
- Wine is a symbol for blood, life, the Holy Spirit and joy (see Wilson’s Dictionary of Bible Types for a full explanation).
- Jesus was indicating that true purification would come by blood, an exchanged life, the infilling of the Holy Spirit and that the outcome would produce great joy.
- The change in the contents of the purification pot indicates a change in the nature of the individual. No longer would water be poured out, but the Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39).
- Wine produces a change in a person’s behavior. Alcoholic beverages are sometimes referred to as “spirits” because of the change it produces in one’s behavior.
- When the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit they were accused of being drunk.
- The purification pots (men) that had been filled (immersed in or baptized) with purification water would be changed inwardly (spirit-filled) and then be poured out to effect change in others.
With that, allow me to leave you with this question to consider, along with a little reading assignment until my next posting:
Why do you think that Jesus wants us to wash one another’s feet?
. . . and the reading assignment . . .
- Transubstantiation - The bread and the wine is transformed into the physical substance of the body and blood of Christ although the actual appearance of bread and wine remain. This is the historic viewpoint of the Church and remained so for the first 1500 years until the Protestant Reformation. It was because of this view that the Romans accused the early Christians of cannibalism.
- Consubstantiation – The bread remains bread, and the wine remains wine, but the body and blood of Jesus is in, with, and under the bread and wine. In other words the bread, wine, body, and blood are co-mingled together. (Introduced by Martin Luther in 1519 AD).
- Memorial Only - The bread and wine are merely symbols; based on the phrase, “Do this in remembrance of Me.” Ulrich Zwingli originated this view about 1520 AD in response to some of his contemporaries who found the idea of eating flesh and drinking blood offensive.
- There are three requirements for participation in receiving communion.
- A life conformed to the will of Jesus Christ. This is usually accomplished through self-reflection and confession of one’s sins (1 Corinthians 11:26-34).
- Originally communion was served daily (Acts 2:46Acts 2:46). The Catholic Church still offers it morning and evening seven days a week.
Until next time . . . Godspeed!