When you’ve been invited to a party or some sort of celebration, have you ever received a little card that had you select from entree and/or other options? Or have you been to a buffet and been overwhelmed by the selection (or underwhelmed)?
Over the years there have been many tales of what the feasts in Heaven would look like. Some have used it to recruit people to their church or religion. For many, a gathering of family barbecues every day would be fantastic. So, of course, that’s would be what Heaven would be like (all the social introverts just shuddered)!
Making assumptions about things like that is often unwise, as it can lead to weird thoughts and even bad theology. The more serious part of that is that the primacy of feasts in the Scriptures is not to be diminished. This is especially true when we remember the feast that Jesus left to fill the gap while we wait for his return.
The feast that we have, though, is peculiar. Those who have been long in the church have been inured to the strangeness that is the Eucharist. As we read in John…eating human flesh and drinking human blood? If someone came to you and said that…how would you respond?
We read this and we immediately translate it into Christian language and thinking. If someone like Jeffrey Dahmer (real-life cannibal) or Hannibal Lecter (fictional cannibal) said something like this, we would not have such a Christianized response. That is the horror and revulsion that his hearers and likely even his disciples felt when they heard these words.
The Christian side of it is that we see the “spiritual” side of this as perfectly reasonable. We do have to keep in mind that for years Christians were accused of cannibalism because of the words of Jesus, and the regular Love Feast.
The Christian side of it also continues in two ways. First, by associated with blood, Jesus was associating with the Jewish belief of life was in the blood (from Levitical law). Second, by associating with the bread, Jesus was tying himself to the daily necessity (and often only food) of bread.
Lastly, though not often talked about, is the Jewish concept of eating the word of God. This was the Jewish practice of licking (literally) off a slate upon which Scripture was written (the Shema would make the most sense) with honey poured on it. There is some historical question if this was a 1st Century thing or if it developed later. However, there is some precedence from Ezekiel 3:3 who ate the word of God on a scroll.
Also, we understand that Jesus was the incarnate word of God (John 1:1–4). Thus, eating the word of God takes on a completely different understanding.
Especially now, when we are not taking Communion (Eucharist/Love Feast) in the communal way we have in the recent past, it is even more important to understand the gravitas of it. It isn’t just a little juice and a wafer (or bread)…it is the Word of God.
Lord, John Wesley taught us that your feast is a means by which you deliver your grace to us. Let us not take it for granted and approach your banquet table with thanksgiving [eucharistia]. Amen.
1) How would you explain the why of Communion to a non-believer? How do you explain “eating flesh and drinking blood” without it sounding weirder than it already does?
2) Thinking of the king’s feast (Matthew 22:1–14), what does this tell you about coming to “the table” for communion?