About two years ago I facilitated a class that went through each of the parables of Jesus in an effort to refresh our minds and look for more layers of meaning. It was a pretty good class. The participants were able to help me see things I had never recognized before in the text – and they shared how they could apply the parables to their lives.
I’m pretty sure most of you know, but before we go on, it would be a good idea to make sure you know what a parable is. Simply put, a parable is type of analogy where you can get a deeper meaning about something by comparing it to something else: like we are the sheep and Jesus is our shepherd. … or we are a light that shines and we should not cover up the influence we have in the world … or Jesus is like the son of a vineyard owner whose servants have been mistreated by the vineyard workers who plan on killing the vineyard owner’s son so they can keep it for themselves. The parables of Jesus are brilliant uses of symbolism that tell a story with a hidden meaning.
Maybe it never occurred to you, but the Lord’s Supper is also a parable!
Much like the parable class I taught, we need to train ourselves to not stop at the first layer of the onion we are peeling. On the surface, the symbolism of the parable has four very simple parts.
A. One body consumes a meal = Followers of Jesus are unified as one person remembering the death of Jesus.
B. Jesus was killed for a reason = Jesus was a sacrifice for our sins much like the sacrifices of the Old Testament.
C. Unleavened bread is eaten = The body of Jesus was never corrupted with sin.
D. The fruit of the vine is drunk = The blood of Jesus was shed for us.
But, let’s not stop at that first layer. In the 26th chapter of Matthew, Jesus “took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
Have you ever thought about those verses? Why would Jesus want us to figuratively eat His body and drink his blood? On the surface it sounds kind of creepy. But on a symbolic level, it is beautiful. The Old Testament is full of verses telling people to write the words of law onto the tablets of their hearts. But in the New Testament, we internalize the Word Himself, not just what was said or written.
Finally, let’s go a little deeper. In John chapter 6 Jesus says, “Whoever feeds on 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 whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”
Because Jesus is immortal God, we will live forever because Jesus lives in us.
The next time you take communion, maybe you could say a prayer similar to this: Holy God, you had a plan for our salvation before the world was created. Thank you Father. You made us yours through the sacrifice of your only begotten son – Jesus. We are grateful even more than words can say. Please bless this bread and cup that represent the sinless body and redeeming blood of your Son. It is because of that sacrifice that He lives in us. And because He lives in us, we will live with You – Father – forever. It’s in Jesus’ name we pray – amen.