“And he took bread, . . . saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ . . . He took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you’ ” (Luke 22:19,20).
Daniel J. Habben
There once was a Portuguese aristocrat who picked his “heirs” out of a phone book. When he died, Luis da Camara’s estate bestowed $2,000 each to 70 astonished people who had never heard of da Camara before.
Maybe you’ve already calculated what you could do with that chunk of change. We’re quick to recognize the value of money and the doors it opens!
We’re not always so quick to cherish the shockingly valuable inheritance that we’ve already received. We claim this inheritance every time we receive Holy Communion, our heavenly Brother’s last will and testament. Instead of fantasizing about what we could do with someone else’s $2,000 windfall, let’s spend a few precious moments dwelling on the doors that are opened by this very real inheritance of grace.
The significance of the inheritance
The first Holy Communion took place the night before Jesus’ death, when he and his disciples were celebrating the Passover. Historically, the Passover was the last meal the Israelites ate before they escaped Egyptian enslavement. God designed the menu, which included unleavened bread and roasted lamb.
The bread without yeast was both practical and symbolic. It was practical because the Israelites were booking it out of Egypt like a business person rushing to catch the last plane home. They didn’t have time to wait for dough to rise before baking it. But the unleavened bread was also a symbol God used to impress on his people. Just as no yeast “contaminated” their bread that night, so no sin was to contaminate their lips, hands, or hearts.
Jesus made out his will and named us sinners his beneficiaries.
Impossible! That flat piece of unleavened bread might as well have been a miniature stone tablet of the Ten Commandments. It upheld an ideal the Israelites couldn’t reach.
That’s why God included roasted lamb on the Passover menu. This was the lamb whose blood was painted on the Israelite doorposts in Egypt. Like a bright red “Do Not Enter” sign, those bloody brushstrokes signaled to the angel of death that he should pass over the home and not claim the firstborn child who lived there.
As the disciples ate the Passover meal the night before Jesus’ crucifixion, they would have been reminded of these truths: God’s desire for them to be pure and God’s bloody plan to save them from their impurity.
An inheritance that matters
And now, his salvation plan was about to be fulfilled. Jesus would soon paint his blood on the cross, and that “doorpost” would shield the world from God’s judgment.
So, Jesus took bread and wine and pronounced them to also be his body and blood, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. Thorns, nails, and cross loomed large on the night he instituted Holy Communion, but Jesus still thought about you and me. Jesus made out his will and named us sinners his beneficiaries.
Many of the people who made it into da Camara’s will thought it was a practical joke. It’s also easy to think that a summons to Holy Communion is a bit of a joke. A bite of bread and a sip of wine—it doesn’t seem like much. But with the bread and wine of Holy Communion, you’ll also receive Jesus’ body and blood for the forgiveness of sins. It’s an inheritance that opens the only door that matters: the door to heaven.
Author: Daniel J. Habben
Volume 107, Number 03
Issue: March 2020