Communion….the breaking of bread. I have always loved this tradition, though there have been times in my life when it has caused me grief. There are many ways to do it and many traditions, and some that will tell you there is only one way to do it or you are doing it wrong.
One thing I love about Jesus…He wasn’t afraid to do it wrong. Because He knew that tradition and doctrine, while born with good intentions, can begin to consume the true meaning that they were created to defend. I love how Jesus has kind words, forgiveness and acceptance for those sinners who are hurting, who are humble, who have been rejected by society. For those who loved tradition over Truth and lorded it over others He had strong words, parables barbed with painful truth. The one way to life is to accept His gift, to hear His words and know that by grace we are saved, that our striving to reach Him through our own works and laws is destined to fail.
The night before He died for us, Christ sat at the table surrounded by friends and celebrated a traditional supper. Handed down for so many generations, the Seder was woven through with prophesy that only Christ could fulfill. And, in the spirit of Truth (never in rebellion…let us always remember that!) Jesus broke a few traditions during that meal.
During the Passover Seder, tradition holds that the wife of the celebrant is to wash the hands of her husband, Jesus departed from tradition to wash the feet of His disciples. This would have been a job for a servant, a job no self-respecting man of honor would have taken on himself. Jesus showed us…the way to become great is to become like nothing, the way to rise up is to serve those in need, to serve without concern for self. Even having know Him this long, they were shocked at this….Peter said “No, you shall never wash my feet!” And Jesus told him, he must let this happen, Peter must allow Jesus to take this on or he would have no part with Him. We must accept Christ’s sacrifice to share in His glory.
Again, Jesus departed from tradition when He broke the bread. This was no ordinary bread…there were three pieces of unleavened bread (matzo) at the table, placed carefully on a special plate. The on in the middle was called the Afikoman, this piece of bread was tucked between the folds of a linen napkin and held special meaning. The bread was unleavened, to represent its purity. The bread was pierced….as Jesus would be. The bread was striped…as the whip would soon stripe Jesus. The Afikoman would be hidden by the children at supper and later found and given to all, as Jesus would be hidden in the grave and return to save all who would believe in Him. When Jesus broke the bread, it is this that He held up before His friends and said…“This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me“. The tradition of this middle matzo had come to fulfillment there, in the hand of Christ.
At the table, there would have been an empty place. There would be set the plate of Elijah, the one who is to come. Each year, with hope, the Jews set this plate in hopes of the coming messiah. That year, the plate set with good food and the cup filled with wine would come to fruition in the presence of the Lord. The last cup of wine to be poured that night was called the cup of Elijah…this cup was to be poured but not consumed…it was to wait for the messiah himself. And Jesus took this cup, this cup of waiting that was then complete, and said “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”
Jesus was speaking to us…the tradition is fulfilled in Him. The tradition is there to speak of Him, to point to Him, it is there to serve Him and to serve us by leading us to Him. If breaking the tradition serves Him, then let it be broken! What you do, do it to serve and to build and to glorify the One who is worthy of all our love, who is to be first in our hearts. Put no tradition above this…that Christ gave his body and blood to save our broken selves, that He came to seek us and to save us and to offer us hope that can come from no other source.
And so we do this, in remembrance of Him. We eat and drink the Truth and thank the one who transcends all tradition, the One who fulfills all prophesy, who tells us the most important law is to love, the one through whom all things are made right.