Bread & Wine
Good morning everyone,
Our New Testament reading for the day (Mark 14) is one of four records of Jesus' last supper with all of his disciples and the pattern upon which we meet together this first day of the week.
Mark 14:22-26 - And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said, Take, eat: this is my body. And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it. And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many. Verily I say unto you, I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God. And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.
What does this event mean to us? Or, more importantly, what does this event mean in Scriptural terms?
One of the most important things we need to know about the breaking of bread is that it is essential for the life of the believer. I would like us to look at two sets of Scripture which bears this out.
John 6:48-58 - I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever.
Note the words used "ye have no life in you". If we do not partake in the life of Christ in our daily lives, and partake of the emblems regularly we do not have access to eternal life nor to true fellowship with those of like precious faith.
Acts 2:41-42 - Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
The early believers saw the necessity of the breaking of bread and so much so that they did it on a daily basis. They believed the same things and because of that they had fellowship with one another and then they broke bread consistently with each other.
Bread & Wine
Bread is one of the basic elements necessary to sustain life as God tells Adam during his declaration of his punishment:
Genesis 3:19 - In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.
Bread became a symbol of basic hospitality, welcoming a person to ones home and comforting them after their travels.
Genesis 18:1-5 - And the LORD appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day; and he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground, and said, My Lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant: let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree: and I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts; after that ye shall pass on: for therefore are ye come to your servant. And they said, So do, as thou hast said.
Eventually bread became a symbol of fellowship in a religious aspect, even before the Law of Moses.
Genesis 31:54 - Then Jacob offered sacrifice upon the mount, and called his brethren to eat bread: and they did eat bread, and tarried all night in the mount.
Through Scripture when a nation or people are described as having bread or there was bread in a certain place it means that these people or nations had the essentials of life and usually it was in contrast to other areas or peoples that had none. When God chose to punish a nation he removed this staple for life.
Psalm 105:16 - Moreover he called for a famine upon the land: he brake the whole staff of bread.
Wine, like bread was one of the basics for life and while the word wine is often used in a negative context it is balanced out by its frequent use in positive aspects as we see in 1 Samuel.
1 Samuel 1:24 - And when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, with three bullocks, and one ephah of flour, and a bottle of wine, and brought him unto the house of the LORD in Shiloh: and the child was young.
In this case, wine was a gift for either the priest in the sanctuary of Yahweh, or for the drink offering recorded in Leviticus 23:12-13.
In Daniel we find that wine was part of the regular portion of food that king was giving his captives.
Daniel 1:5 - And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king's meat, and of the wine which he drank: so nourishing them three years, that at the end thereof they might stand before the king.
Wine was also something that certain groups of people abstained from, such as the priests while on duty, the Nazarites and Rechabites.
Jeremiah 35:6-10 - But they said, We will drink no wine: for Jonadab the son of Rechab our father commanded us, saying, Ye shall drink no wine, neither ye, nor your sons for ever: neither shall ye build house, nor sow seed, nor plant vineyard, nor have any: but all your days ye shall dwell in tents; that ye may live many days in the land where ye be strangers. Thus have we obeyed the voice of Jonadab the son of Rechab our father in all that he hath charged us, to drink no wine all our days, we, our wives, our sons, nor our daughters; nor to build houses for us to dwell in: neither have we vineyard, nor field, nor seed: but we have dwelt in tents, and have obeyed, and done according to all that Jonadab our father commanded us.
Considering wine was a staple for life in those days this was a very important vow for these people to make.
Bread and Wine Together
Bread and wine are found together more than 20 times in scripture, and one in particular stands out for us in the Bible record.
Genesis 14:14-20 - And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan. And he divided himself against them, he and his servants, by night, and smote them, and pursued them unto Hobah, which is on the left hand of Damascus. And he brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people. And the king of Sodom went out to meet him after his return from the slaughter of Chedorlaomer, and of the kings that were with him, at the valley of Shaveh, which is the king's dale. And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God. And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all.
These two essentials for life, hospitality and fellowship are brought together in a beautiful pattern that does not show up again until the New Testament.
Bread & Wine for Us
What does all this mean in relation to us in the 21st Century? The emblems before us on the memorial table are our basic spiritual diet. This is our absolute minimum spiritual meal needed for our spiritual life to continue existing, which means that this is not a weight gaining diet! The memorials are a means of participation and fellowship with God and His son the Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 10:16 - The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion (participation in) of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion (participation in) of the body of Christ?
Paul was pointing out to the Corinthian believers that the memorials were not merely just bread and wine but the symbolic participation in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He contrasted this solemn ceremony with the horrible events at Sinai when the people of Israel, tired of waiting for Moses, had a religious ceremony in which they "sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play" (v. 7). The symbol of Christ is far more solemn and means so much more.
We meet together on "the first day of the week" like the apostles did (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2) to share an essential meal that represents our commitment in baptism to live a life of self-sacrifice as our Lord did, with people who share the same hope as we do. Sharing in the bread and wine to remember Christ is a serious matter, which causes us to examine ourselves in a sober and honest manner (1 Corinthians 11:27-28). We need to realize that this simple service is essential to our service to our Lord.
What happens when we start skipping this small meal together? Paul comes to our rescue once again with an answer to that:
Hebrews 10:23-29 - Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) and let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?
To forsake the memorials and our regular assemblies is considered a sin and as we see here will bring judgment on us. To forsake the memorials is to forsake fellowship with God and with Jesus Christ and with our fellow believers. Paul terms it "treading under foot the Son of God", and "counting the blood of the covenant... an unholy thing". These may be shocking words, but obviously the apostle wanted all of us to know how serious we should take the breaking of bread and drinking of wine.
Before we take the memorials this morning, let's review our words today.
The bread and wine were given to be symbols of:
Let's conclude with the words on the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 10.
1 Corinthians 10:31 - Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.
Written by Matthew Smith
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