“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Acts 2:42
We have gone over this verse many times as a kind of motto for our times of fellowship together. And when mentioning the breaking of bread we joked that it sometimes with us it is breaking sushi, Mexican, or Italian food. But with all joking aside, what does the Bible say about the breaking of bread?
What is this “breaking of bread” all about?
The “breaking of bread” is an old ritual that comes out of and encounter that Jesus has with his disciples. That real event of the Last Supper.
Over the years the Last Supper has left a strong impression upon the hearts & minds of Christians and artists alike. Let’s take a second to see how others have understood and recreated this pivotal scene in the life of Jesus:
Watch: “Last Supper” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XZvf_ZNWmqI
Read: Luke 22:7-20
We have seen what artist thought the Last Supper was like. Now lets read about the real thing!
Two things that jump to my mind while reading this story is that 1) it happening during Passover and 2) Jesus says that this ritual of Communion is establishing a new covenant with His followers. And Jesus claims to be the fulfillment of both.
Passover: So, what is Passover? What was this holiday about? Take a moment and read the biblical account in Exodus 12.
Two truths about God are seen in this celebration :
1) God is gracious to save. He does so because He is good no because the people were.
2) Redemption comes via blood. Notice that the Hebrew people who were saved were only the ones who put the blood of the lambs on their doorposts. Their rescue had to do with this blood, not their own personal merit.
Jesus identified Himself as the fulfillment of the Passover. He was the Lamb of God whose blood would rescue us from our sins. Not by our own effort or goodness, but by His death on the cross!
Covenant: this is simply a deal, a contract. Jesus was establishing a New Deal between Himself & us by His blood (sacrifice.) Now, all this talk about blood is pretty gross. It’s not pleasant. But, it does have significance to the people Jesus came to – the Jews.
This idea of Covenants & blood go back all the way to Abraham (the first Jew).
READ Gen 15:6-21 . This is an account of God making a covenant with Abraham (Just like Jesus with His disciples). In ancient Mesopotamia the way two men would “sign” a contract between themselves (like for buying land, setting up a business) would be to cut sacrificial animals in half and both walk through the bodies & blood. It was a very graphic and lifelong binding agreement. (I’m glad we don’t do it this way today!). But you will notice in the story that only God passes through the bodies (i.e. only God “signs” the contract). God put all the burden of the deal on Himself. Likewise, Jesus put all the price and burden of the New Covenant on His blood. God’s promises stand on His goodness, not ours. We only receive by His grace.
So, Why do I need to “break bread”?
What does all of this have to do with me? you? us? Why do we as Christian’s repeat this scene of the Lord’s Supper over and over again in our meetings together?
We do it for two reasons:
1) we do it out of obedience as an expression of faith
2) we do it in Remembrance of Jesus
Read: I Cor 11:23-26 “Do this in remembrance of ME.”
Now, I was brought up in a very non-traditional Christian community. We didn’t follow many well-worn rituals or traditions. But, the only ritual that I see the Lord Jesus setting up is practicing the Lord’s Supper. Why? Sometimes we need RITUAL to Remember…
Q: Do you have memory problems? how do you overcome?
Some people use little tricks to get their memory going. They tie a string around their finger, write notes on hands, e-reminders, or alarms on their phones. We all need to be reminded about things from time to time.
God knows we need things, rituals, to remind us of Himself. The Old Testament is full of little rituals that God gave the Jews to remind them of Himself. Here are a few “Rituals of Memory”:
1. Gen 9:16 Rainbow – God’s everlasting covenant with man
2. Ex 13:3 – Passover. A ritual to practice. God’s power & grace.
3. Ex 20:8 – Keep the Sabbath. A ritual. Remember God. Pause & reflect on Him!
4. Num 15:39 – Fringe on clothing – to remember God’s laws
5. Dut 24:19-22 – leave part of the harvest to remember that they were at one time slaves
6. Communion – remember Jesus, His body broken for us.
Here are some questions to meditate on:
Q: Why is ritual important?
Q: Would we do certain things or think about certain things if it weren’t ritualized?
Q: What is the difference between a ritual & being ritualistic?
Lastly, How should we “break bread”?
It is funny, actually sad, how we a Christians overcomplicate things. We take the simple truths of God and turn them into religious dogmas, cages, and excluding walls. Communion is no different. Christians throughout the ages have attached lots of strange ideas & unbiblical theology to this simple celebration of remembering Jesus. Even to the point of causing division between Christians and churches.
Yet, this problem of “doing it wrong” is an old problem. We see the Apostle Paul confronting the church in Corinth about how they were messing it up. Read: I Cor 11:17-34. You can see that these times of Communion were not about remembering Jesus, but fighting amongst believers & not caring for others needs. But Paul brings this church back to the central idea: Do it in memory of Him! By participating in Communion as a community we are proclaiming Jesus’ death until He comes again!
Despite all the negative traditions attached to Communion, one interesting thing is what different traditions (church groups) have named this unnamed ritual. Check them out:
– Communion (from Latin communio, “sharing in common”)
– Eucharist (from Greek eucharistia, “thanksgiving”)
– The Lord’s Supper – focused on “the Lord”
– Divine Mysteries – a mystery being revealed, solved
All of these traditions focus on a different aspect or response to the ritual. I think all of them have value and we would do well to practice them. Let “the breaking of bread” live up to it’s names!
So, let’s partake in the Communion, the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper, the Divine Mysteries…whatever you want to call it…just keep remembering and do it in remembrance of Him!