The Pursuit of God

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Why Christians Shouldn’t Celebrate Communion (aka The Eucharist)

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Holy Communion.  The Holy Eucharist.  The Lord’s Supper.  These are all names that Christians use to refer to a religious sacrament which involves a group of believers coming together and sampling two edible elements: some kind of bread product, and some grape related liquid.  Sometimes a loaf of bread is passed around and everyone rips a bite sized piece off of it.  Or sometimes a plate of small crackers are passed around like an offering plate and each person takes one.  Sometimes the liquid element is actual wine, other times it’s just grape juice. 

Different denominations attach different levels of significance to the sacrament.  Baptists call the ritual Communion or the Lord’s Supper, and many view it as a way of remembering and appreciating the fact that Jesus died for their sins.  Some Baptists also try to make the sacrament a time when believers privately confess any outstanding sins and make sure their hearts are in the right place before they partake of the elements.  Catholics count their Eucharist as one of seven special sacraments which they say are essential for salvation.  Catholics treat the special seven like divine entities, in that they say each sacrament possesses supernatural power which it uses independently of the person ministering it.  They say the Eucharist elements literally morph into the actual body, blood, soul and Divinity of Christ.  As believers swallow the elements, it’s like starting a replay of Christ’s death on a cross.  As a result, believers get their venial sins taken away (venial sins are ones which the Catholic Church categorizes as not super bad), they get united to the Catholic Church (which considers itself to be the only true Church), and it increases people’s union with Christ.  So then, some Christians treat this sacrament like a simple memorial of Christ, while others have turned it into some magical talisman which we can use to control Christ.  Simply down that bread and wine, and you can summon a crucified Christ like you might try to summon a ghost of your dead aunt Martha, and you can make Christ cancel out your lesser sins—lesser, that is, according to the ever changing rules that the Catholic Church comes up with.  What a bunch of superstitious hooey.

So then, since the Catholics are up to their necks in sorcery, does that mean the Baptists are the better role models for how to handle Communion?  No, they’re not.  In this post, we’re going to prove why the modern Christian sacrament of Communion is a totally useless and unjustified practice for Christians which should have never been invented.  While your leaders today are telling you that Communion is a reenactment of certain events that occurred during Jesus’ Last Supper with His disciples, we’re going to show you why this is a complete crock.  We’re going to explain to you what was really going on when Jesus made His famous comments about drinking from a cup and eating bread, and we’re going to challenge you to stop hanging onto to meaningless rituals.

UNDERSTANDING THE LAST SUPPER

You can’t properly interpret Jesus without considering His words in their original context.  Understanding context has several aspects to it.  First, you need to understand who Jesus was originally speaking to.  Second, you need to understand what else was going on at the time.  For example, is the verse you’re looking at just one part of a longer speech Jesus is making?  If so, then you need to read the whole speech before you can have any hope of accurately understanding what He meant.  Also, you need to consider what has prompted Jesus to speak in the first place.  Has someone asked Him a question?  Is He in the middle of doing a specific activity?

When we check out the context of the Last Supper, we discover some very interesting facts.  First, Jesus is having this meal in the upstairs room of a private house.  This isn’t one of His hillside sermons where He’s preaching to large masses of folks.  This is a private event that’s limited to Jesus and His core group of twelve disciples.  In other words, this is a Jewish event.  The twelve disciples were all ethnic Jews who grew up practicing a very mangled version of Judaism,  a religion which Yahweh invented in the Old Testament.  New Testament Judaism was much like modern Christianity: it was a far cry from the real deal.  It was a mess of carnal practices and useless extras which religious leaders had invented for their own selfish gain.  But New Testament Judaism still had many echoes of original Judaism, meaning that the Jews were still going through the motions of celebrating certain holidays that Yahweh commanded all of His followers to celebrate in the Torah.  One of those holidays was the Passover, and this was what the Last Supper really was.

To say the Last Supper simply means “the last meal Jesus had with His disciples.”  When this is the only label we use, we totally forget that it was really the Passover which was being celebrated, and this is how the modern mess of Communion was born.  You see, you can’t separate the bread and wine elements from the Passover or they lose all meaning, and the Christian sacrament of Communion has nothing to do with the Old Covenant Passover holiday.  If we’re going to have any hope of understanding the significance of Jesus’ actions during the Last Supper, we need to get educated about what the Passover was.

UNDERSTANDING PASSOVER

Passover was entirely Yahweh’s invention.  Its purpose was to celebrate the last of Yahweh’s ten horrifying plagues on Egypt—the one in which He killed all firstborn males among both humans and livestock at midnight.  Yahweh graciously warned people ahead of time about what He was going to do.  He then made them a very generous offer of mercy: if people were willing to obey specific instructions He gave them, then He promised to spare their family and animals on the night that the plague struck.   But without obedience, there would be no mercy.

So what was it that people had to do to get Yahweh’s wrath to “pass over” their households?  There were several things, but the most important one was the sacrificing of a one-year-old male sheep or goat who had no defects or health problems.  Each family had to choose one animal to kill for the Passover night.  A family that was too small to eat a whole animal by themselves could share an animal with another family.  The idea was that the animal chosen should be enough to feed the group of folks who were associated with it.

At twilight on the fourteenth day of a certain month, everyone was to slaughter their chosen sacrifice.  They were to take some of the blood from the animal and smear it on the sides and top of the doorframes of their houses where they will eat the animals.  So if you’re sharing an animal with your neighbor Jack, then you go to Jack’s house on Passover night, and you just smear the blood on Jack’s doorframe.  You then eat the meal the way Yahweh tells you to, and you stay hunkered down in Jack’s place for the night while Yahweh carries out His terrifying plague.  You stay in Jack’s blood smeared house while you hear the sound of people screaming outside and you don’t dare to leave until the next morning.

Now during the very first Passover, Yahweh told the Hebrew slaves to be packed up and ready to leave Egypt before they started the meal.  So they spent the night ready to go, and the next day they did their famous mass exodus from the land where their people had been living for four centuries (ever since the time of Joseph).

After the first Passover, Yahweh commanded His followers to continue reenacting that terrifying night every year after that.  He was so into the Passover concept, that He declared the month that He performed that final plague to be the first month of the Jewish lunar calendar (see Exodus 12:2).  The original purpose of Passover was to glorify Yahweh.  While the Jews all went through the Passover reenactment, they were supposed to be reflecting on what an awesome, sovereign, undefeatable God the magnificent Yahweh is.  They were supposed to reflect on those ten terrible plagues, which were all specifically designed to demonstrate Yahweh’s superiority over the Egyptian gods.  But wait—the Egyptian gods weren’t real, so why did Yahweh make such a huge deal about grinding them into the dirt?  Because the Hebrews who lived in Egypt had fully converted to Egyptian religions.  The Jews who Yahweh hauled out of Egypt worshiped Egyptian gods. In fact, they were so devoted to those gods that they brought statues of them with them as they left Egypt.  All through the forty years of wandering in the wilderness, the Jews were worshiping Egyptian gods in their tents.  Read through Joshua’s famous speech about “Choose this day who you will serve,” and you’ll find that he’s talking about people choosing between serving Yahweh, serving the false gods being worshiped by the natives of the Promised Land, or continuing to serve the false gods that their parents and grandparents hauled out of Egypt (see Joshua 24).  You see, to the Jews there was nothing false about the Egyptian gods.  Instead, they stubbornly clung to those idiotic idols throughout the entire Old Testament—something we find Yahweh complaining about in the Old Testament prophetic books.  Once you understand what a huge deal Egyptian gods were to the Jews, you can understand why Yahweh created an annual holiday which memorialized events in which Yahweh proved beyond all doubt that He was far superior to any Egyptian gods.  From the plague of darkness (which was an epic mockery of the Egyptian sun god Ra), to the death of the firstborns (which made a mockery of multiple Egyptian gods), Yahweh demonstrated that Egypt’s most powerful deities were pathetic jokes compared to His glorious Self (see Saving Egypt: The Story of the Ten Plagues).

So then, from Yahweh’s perspective, Passover was about exalting Himself and reminding His followers that He is the Supreme Authority who no other god can beat.  But for fiercely patriotic Jews who were arrogantly assuming that they were God’s favorite people, Passover had a lot of carnal appeal.  After all, wasn’t it for the sake of the Hebrews that Yahweh spanked those nasty Egyptians back in the day?  Wasn’t it out of love for the Jews that He rescued them from bondage and organized them into a formal nation?  When you’re not listening to God, you don’t care about embracing soul attitudes that please Him.  Instead, you turn the Passover into a time when you can wallow in ethnic pride and greedily lust over dreams of Yahweh exalting Israel into a world power.  By New Testament times, this is what we find the Jews doing with Passover.  They’d worked out an elaborate meal practice which involved the dinner group working through four cups of wine.  Each cup was associated with something Yahweh had said in the Torah which the Jews found ego-pleasing.  Today we Christians play similar games with our Bible promise books.  We go rifling through the Bible, ripping out lines that we like the sound of, and we pretend those lines are rock solid promises from God to us (see Practicing Discernment: Bible Promises).

To appreciate what Jesus was doing during the Last Supper, you have to understand that He was intentionally playing off of the carnal games that the Jews were playing with Passover.  When you look up Yahweh’s original instructions for how to celebrate the Passover in Exodus 12, you won’t find any hoopla about four cups of wine.  You also won’t find Him telling people to focus on His words in Exodus 6:6-7, but this is what the Jews ended up doing.  They took this one statement from Yahweh and turned it into a fourfold promise, with a cup of wine associated with each one.

“I am Yahweh. I will free you from your oppression and will rescue you from your slavery in Egypt. I will redeem you with a powerful arm and great acts of judgment. I will claim you as My own people, and I will be your God.” (Ex. 6:6-7)

This is the key statement, and the Jews squeezed the following four promises out of it:

{1} I will bring you out from the suffering of Egypt

{2} I will save you from enslavement

{3} I will redeem you

{4} I will make you My nation, and I will be for you.

Soon a holiday that was supposed to be all about magnifying Yahweh had turned it into a holiday that was magnifying the political nation of Israel.  And even though this statement was specifically referring to Yahweh rescuing Hebrew slaves from Egypt, New Testament Jews were seeing it as a current day promise that Yahweh would rescue Israel from Roman oppression.  The fourth cup of wine anticipated the day when Yahweh would restore Israel into some great nation.  It was focused on the coming glorification of Israel, not the magnificence of Yahweh.

BUILDING UP TO THE LAST SUPPER

Now two days before Jesus sat down to celebrate that final Passover meal with His disciples, He did His famous Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem.  Today Christians memorialize that event as Palm Sunday, which just demonstrates how little Christians understand what was really going on.  You see, when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on that donkey, He was intentionally deceiving the Jews into thinking that He was about to seize the throne in Jerusalem, start an epic revolt against Rome, and turn Israel into a world power.  The New Testament Jews fully expected Yahweh’s Messiah to be a warrior king—one who would vault Israel into her golden age.  When crowds of Jews saw Jesus riding on a donkey, they immediately understood that He was reminding them of a prophecy from Zechariah in which Yahweh said Israel’s new king would ride into town on a donkey’s colt. Try to hear this prophecy with the ears of a patriotic Jew who desperately wants to see the Roman Empire destroyed:

“Rejoice, O people of Zion! Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem! Look, your king is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious, yet he is humble, riding on a donkey—riding on a donkey’s colt.

I will remove the battle chariots from Israel and the warhorses from Jerusalem. I will destroy all the weapons used in battle, and your king will bring peace to the nations. His realm will stretch from sea to sea and from the Euphrates River to the ends of the earth.” (Zech. 9:9-10)

Sounds great, doesn’t it?  No wonder the crowds all shouted “Hosanna!”  Today you’re told that this was a cry of praise, but it was actually a desperate plea for salvation.  Jesus’ donkey theatrics was a clear message to ethnic Jews that He was about to spank Rome, and they were rushing to vocalize their support of His plans (see Know Your Bible Lesson 61: The Triumphal Entry).  Two days after spiking Jewish hopes up so high, Jesus sits down at the Passover with His disciples—a meal which climaxed with that fourth cup of wine which symbolized Yahweh restoring Israel into some fabulous kingdom.  This was how the Jews saw it, and Jesus knew that was how they saw it.  So it was more than a little deceptive of Him to handle the fourth cup the way that He did.  Let’s now get to the actual text of the Last Supper so we can fully appreciate the games that Jesus played with His boys on that night.

JESUS REVISES THE MEANING OF PASSOVER

Jesus’ Passover games began with the third cup—the cup of redemption.  It was the third cup that Jesus was holding when He said these famous words:

“Each of you drink from it, for this is My Blood, which confirms the Covenant between Yahweh and His people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many. Mark My words—I will not drink wine again until the day I drink it new with you in My Father’s Kingdom.” (Matt. 26:27-29)

Now wait a second—there are four cups to get through.  This is just cup three, yet Jesus stops here and says He will not drink the fourth cup until He drinks it with His boys in Yahweh’s Kingdom.  Two days earlier, Jesus staged His donkey stunt to publicly announce to all of the Jews that He was about to make a big move against Rome.  Now He’s refusing to drink the fourth cup, saying that He’s saving that one until Yahweh’s Kingdom has been established.  What is Yahweh’s Kingdom if it’s not a new, sovereign, world dominating Israel?  By now Jesus has already prophesied His death and resurrection multiple times.  When He actually does resurrect, guess what His disciples keep asking Him?  We find out in Acts 1.

When the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking Him, “Lord, has the time come for You to free Israel and restore our kingdom?” (Acts 1:6)

Another version says:

“Lord, are You now going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

Notice that language. Giving the kingdom to Israel.  Ethnic Jews referring to “our kingdom.”  What happened to focusing on God and exalting Him?  That’s just not what these guys care about.  It was all about Israel for these fiercely patriotic Jews.  They saw Jesus as the Guy who was going to give Israel the glory they felt she was so entitled to.  Are you hearing how carnal this is?  But then again, these are the same clowns who used to fight about who would have the greatest clout once King Jesus seized the throne in Jerusalem.  The brothers James and John actually went so far as to try to get Jesus to promise them top positions in His kingdom ahead of time—talk about ego run amuck (see Know Your Bible Lesson 60: Greedy Disciples).

“When You sit on Your glorious throne, we want to sit in places of honor next to You, one on Your right and the other on Your left.” (Mk. 10:37)

Clearly these guys weren’t listening very well to all of those sermons Jesus preached on the importance of humility (see Understanding Jesus: All who Exalt Themselves will be Humbled).

Now being God, Jesus knows that His disciples are inwardly lusting over the power that they think they’ll have when He launches His new earthly kingdom. He knows that their hopes of personal glory have played a big role in their loyalty to Him over the last three years.  After all, Jesus’ disciples are a bunch of nobodies.  Fishermen and tax collectors were hardly big players in Jewish society.  To the twelve disciples, Jesus was a once-in-a-millennia ticket to glory.  He had the power to make them go from just one of the rabble to top royal advisors.  The more miracles Jesus performed, the more motivated the disciples were to protect their own interests by sticking it out with Him.  After all, if they proved their loyalty to Him now, He’d surely feel obligated to reward them with top positions in His government later on.

So what do you do when you’re with a group of guys who are so focused on basking in glory that they’re not willing to think about the things that really matter?  What do you do when your gang stops listening whenever you start talking about spiritual maturity and they only tune back in again when you say something that their egos like the sound of?  Well, when we refuse to listen to God, He stops teaching us.  Not only does He stop putting truth in front of us, but He starts encouraging us in our ego-pleasing delusions.  This is what Jesus is doing with His disciples when He makes that comment about the fourth cup.  He’s dropping yet another huge hint that the launch date for His kingdom is only a few days away.  It’s like He’s saying “I’ve got this cross thing to get through, so let’s put off this final toast until that’s done and we’re all kicking back on our thrones.”

Does it bother you to think of the twelve disciples as being a band of immature glory hogs?  This is because the Church has taught you to idolize these men and view them as icons of spiritual maturity.  And yet when we read through Luke’s account of the Last Supper, we find this revealing comment:

Then a dispute also arose among them about who should be considered the greatest. (Lk. 22:24)

Now there’s a pretty picture.  Jesus is sitting at a dinner table hours from His crucifixion listening to His disciples fighting about who is better than who.  Can you imagine what some of the lines in that conversation were?  “Shut up, Peter, you always think you’re better than everyone else, but the truth is that I’ve done just as much as you to support Jesus.”  “Hey, what about me?  I’ve been a better friend to Him than any of you, so I should get to be His top official.”  That had to be an ugly scene.  And listen to how Jesus totally snows them with this answer:

“You have stayed with Me through My struggles. Just as My Father has given Me a kingdom, I also give you a kingdom so you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom. And you will sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Lk. 22:28-30)

In other words, “Don’t worry, boys, I’ll make your fondest dreams come true, and you’ll all get to reign like superstars in My Kingdom.”  Bear in mind that at this time, the Jews were living under the rule of Rome, and Rome organized its empire by breaking it up into kingdoms which were each managed by a separate ruler.  If you ruled a portion of Rome, you got treated like royalty by your people, you had a throne, and you got to really bask in the worship—as long as you didn’t overdo it and forget that you were a servant of Rome.  So Jesus’ promise makes total sense to His disciples: He’s saying that He’s going to assign each of them a portion of His kingdom to rule over.  Is this really what He is planning to do?  Not at all. It’s a fat lie.  Jesus is just playing along with the egotistical dreams of these men, no doubt because He’s decided it’s futile to try and teach them anything else.

Once we start examining context, we realize what a carnal affair this whole Passover was.  No one is thinking about how awesome Yahweh is.  Instead, the twelve disciples are dreaming about how awesome they’re going to be when they’re co-ruling with Jesus in a revamped Israel.

Now when Christians celebrate Communion today, they often borrow language from 1 Corinthians 11, which is Paul’s summary of the Last Supper events.

The Lord Jesus, on the night He was betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way, after supper He took the cup, saying, “This cup is the New Covenant in My blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” (1 Cor. 11:23-25)

So what is Jesus doing here?  He’s inserting Himself into the Passover holiday.  Originally, Passover was supposed to be a time for focusing on Yahweh.  But now Jesus says that when people break the bread and drink that third cup, He wants them to do some serious contemplating about how Yahweh has established a New Covenant—one which replaces the Old.  And by saying that His death on a cross was taking away the sins of the world, Jesus took away the need for any future sacrifices.  How fitting that Jesus should commemorate the end of the sacrificial system using a holiday which reflects back on the first sacrifice Yahweh ever instructed Israelites to make.  The first Passover occurred before Israel was a formal nation—before the Law was given.  That was the first time Yahweh instructed all Israelites to kill an animal for salvation purposes.

Now let’s say you’re an Old Covenant Jew who grew up making regular trips to the Temple.  For you, bringing sacrifices to Yahweh is a core part of your theology.  But if you obey Jesus’ instructions about Passover, then when you get to that third cup, you find yourself asking a lot of uncomfortable questions, such as, “Why am I still celebrating Passover?”  Eventually you’re going to realize that you should not still be celebrating Passover or any of the other holidays which were part of traditional Judaism. You should stop sacrificing animals, because Jesus has said it’s no longer necessary.  You see, Jesus’ real point in associating Himself with that third cup of redemption was to help Old Covenant Jews transition out of Judaism.  And once you stop celebrating Passover, you stop with that four cup ritual, and you move on to embrace a new, simpler religion that is free of any ritualistic hoopla.

Once you understand that Jesus was actually bringing an end to the Passover tradition by redefining the meaning of that third cup, you can see how ridiculous we Christians are being when we practice Communion today.  You can’t separate the wine and bread from Passover or you lose the whole point.  Jesus didn’t just grab some random cup and a handy loaf and invent a solo ritual that was only meant to commemorate His death on a cross.  He used symbolic elements of one of the most popular Old Covenant rituals to hammer the point that all Old Covenant rituals were now null and void.  The third cup became symbolic of the New Covenant: a Covenant which made Judaism irrelevant.  If you’re going to fully embrace the meaning of Jesus’ death on the cross, you can’t keep celebrating a holiday which involves sacrificing animals for the sake of saving people from the wrath of God.  Animal blood has become irrelevant.  Now that Jesus has died, we are insulting our Gods by continuing to make any further sacrifices.

Instead of trying to preserve elements of a ritual which is no longer appropriate for us to celebrate, we Christians should stop hauling out bread and wine and instead honor our Gods by fully embracing Their New Covenant.  You aren’t embracing the New Covenant by acting like you have to keep re-activating the power of Jesus’ atonement sacrifice, which is what Catholics do.  You aren’t honoring Jesus when you keep doing some lame reenactment of one moment of the Passover while you totally ignore what that third cup symbolized to New Testament Jews and how Jesus changed its meaning. When Christian leaders stand around quoting from 1 Corinthians and act like Paul was talking about a cup of wine and bread which stood apart from any other ritual, they’re being ridiculous.  You can’t separate the Last Supper from Passover—they’re one and the same. You can’t understand the cup games without acknowledging the mess that the Jews had made of Passover, and how far they’d strayed from focusing on the ritual’s original meaning.  The original purpose of Passover was to glorify Yahweh, not Israel. Under the Old Covenant, Yahweh claimed to be the only true God, so it was quite appropriate to participate in a ritual which magnified Him as the Supreme Deity.  But today, we Christians are supposed to be worshiping three equal Gods, not just One, which is why Judaism must be entirely set aside.

By linking Passover’s bread and third cup of wine to His death on a cross, Jesus emphasized that a New Covenant had been established–one which makes the Old Covenant and all of its rituals obsolete.  If we Christians were doing it right, we would have never invented Communion or the Eucharist.  Instead, we would recognize that the only reason Jesus linked Himself to certain elements of the Passover meal was that He knew His immature group of followers were going to keep on clinging to many Old Covenant traditions after He was gone because they weren’t listening.  Today, we need to be much better listeners than the twelve disciples and early apostles were.  The Old Covenant has been thrown out and replaced by the New.  Since what we call Communion is really a remnant of an Old Covenant tradition, it has no place in our lives today.

FURTHER READING:
Rethinking Christian Rituals: Water Baptism
Beyond Atonement: Understanding the True Purpose of the Cross
The Trinity Doctrine: Its Origin & Absurdity
Jesus vs. the NT Jews: What it Means to Please God
When to Stop Reading the Bible
Applying the Ten Commandments: Guidance for Christians
What’s holy about holy water? (Understanding Labels in the Church)
Guidance for Serious Catholics: What does God think about Lent?

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