Monday, September 6, 2010

Broken Body

Broken Body
Sept 7, 2010
1 Corinthians 11:24 "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."

Within the elements of Communion there is a great deal of symbolism. Jesus, at the famous Last Supper, shared the first Communion with His disciples, giving them a drink of wine and a broken piece of bread. He told them it was a representation of Himself and they were now partaking of that representation upon themselves. It was a way of identifying themselves with Jesus' actions on the cross, the spilling of His blood and the brokenness of His body. Most of us understand the representation of the blood, the shedding of His blood to cover our sins. But few of us understand the depth of meaning in His body, or the broken piece of bread. Fortunately, the apostle Paul speaks volumes with us on "The Body," but we seldom take it all in, especially in the context of Communion.

Paul asked the early Christians a rhetorical question, "Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?" He asked it that way because the answer was obviously "Yes," but the early Christians were not applying the symbolism correctly. Paul sandwiches his discussion on the symbolism of Communion between two large discussions on "The Body." To understand "The Body" in Communion, you must understand "The Body" in all that Paul discusses in the chapters before and after the verse pertaining to Communion. Paul assumes you already read the first half of his letter to the Corinthians BEFORE you got to the point about Communion and he assumes you'll keep reading AFTER that specific point, not simply take one line out of context.

Before the discussion on Communion, Paul tells us that the human body is something that we are to put into submission, making it do what we WANT it to do, rather than allowing the body to submit to the human nature: "No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize." Paul is saying that he puts his personal self aside and works unto the Lord, for the Lord's plans, not his own. He said this to tell us that our lives are a part of the work of God's plan for mankind and we are to participate in this no matter how comfortable or uncomfortable it seems. This is meant to invoke empathy, as Jesus suffered on the cross, through the torture of His body. As we share in the Body of Christ through Communion, we willingly share in any hardship of our lives, if it means accomplishing God's plan for mankind on this earth. Paul later said this specifically, ". . .the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives." Similar to Christ's suffering to accomplish God's plan, we will participate in that suffering on this earth if we allow ourselves to be used for God's plans. When we take Communion, we acknowledge that this is the case, whether we like it or not. Jesus gave us the worst case scenario with His actions on the cross; we are to follow suit.

An additional consideration in "The Body" through Communion is the actual breaking of the bread. When Jesus broke the first bread, it was a social event, communal, shared with others. Paul reaffirms this when he says, "Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf." Communion was meant to be a corporate acknowledgment suggesting the fact that we are all in this together, each one of us. All the broken pieces of the bread can come together to make a full loaf of bread. We are all those broken pieces, simply parts of the whole. Paul's comments about "pieces of the whole" lead right in to his discussion on being members of one body but having different functions. Paul writes, "The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ." This is meant to further instill in us the imagery of all fitting together. There are no solo Christians, just the Body of Christ; we are the members of that body.

When we partake in Communion, we are saying that we are the body of Christ and we share in His sufferings to accomplish God's plan. If this doesn't sit well with you, then don't drink of the cup during Communion or acknowledge that His blood is what gives you forgiveness for your sins. You can't have one without the other, the blood and the body go hand-in-hand. Just as we eagerly accept the blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins, we must eagerly accept His broken body as an example for our possible suffering in the face of God's plan for mankind.

To understand Paul's explanation thoroughly, read straight through from 1 Corinthians 6:15 through 1 Corinthians 12:30. Ignore the headings in the Bible for now, because Paul didn't put those in his original letters. All the apostles understood this; John, Paul, James, Peter, and the author of Hebrews all wrote about sharing in Christ's sufferings, or His broken body through which Communion is symbolic.

1. What has been your understanding of "The Body" in Communion?
2. How much emphasis have you placed on the blood versus your emphasis on the body in Communion? Are they equal?
3. How can you apply this clearer understanding of "The Body" into your everyday life?

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Rom 8:17, 1 Cor 9:27, 1 Cor 10:16-17, 1 Cor 12:12, 2 Cor 1:7, 2 Cor 4:10, Phil 3:10, 2 Tim 1:8, Heb 2:10, 1 Peter 2:19, 1 Peter 4:12, Rev 1:9

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