The Breaking of Bread

So, I have a question which has been burning in my mind ever since I was a young Christian and its been raised again when I read “A meal with Jesus” by Tim Chester. My question is about communion/breaking of bread. I want to know why we do it so differently to how Jesus did it and how the apostles and churches in Acts did it? You may think I am crazy, but I am reading the times when the people came to the Lords supper/communion/breaking of bread and it certainly isn’t the way we do it in church.

Lets have a look at how they broke bread:

Jesus and the disciples:

So at the last supper Jesus was celebrating the passover meal and we know from Exodus that they would have been eating lamb and unleavened bread:

“Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. 4 If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbor, having taken into account the number of people there are…6Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight…That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast.” Exodus 12:3-8

Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed…. When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. – Luke 22:7&14

Ok so Jesus was eating the passover lamb and also the bread and drinking wine and they were also sitting at a table. It was a meal. So ok, the passover lamb is Jesus and that means we no longer need to slaughter a lamb because the sacrifice has been made. However It is strange how we no longer sit at a table and eat a meal together. Instead we pass around small squares of bread and a cup of wine that you can only have a sip of. Strange, I dont think I would call that a meal.

Ok what about the early church?
Well one example I want to look at is Paul rebuking the Corinthians about the Lords supper. He says:

So then, when you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, 21 for when you are eating, some of you go ahead with your own private suppers. As a result, one person remains hungry and another gets drunk…So then, my brothers and sisters, when you gather to eat, you should all eat together.- 1 Corinthians 11:20-33

Now when I read that, those Corinthians were getting rebuked for eating way too much and drinking too much wine which resulted in some not getting any food and going hungry and others getting drunk. There is no way they could do any of this from a slice of bread and a sip or thimble size glass of wine!! It must mean they had a real meal with real food. And Paul doesn’t say stop eating a meal together but he says to wait so everyone can eat together.

It’s odd how we have changed this so much! Why don’t we for the Lords supper gather around a table and eat good food and drink good wine (or grape juice) and then break bread and take the wine in remembrance of what Christ has done on the Cross? Think of the context that this would be in: family together, cultures together, rich and poor side by side eating, laughing, enjoying conversation, enjoying food the Lord has made and rejoicing in what Christ has done. Not only does this meal point back to what Jesus has done but it also points forward to this:

“Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” – Revelation 19:9

There is going to be a wedding and a wedding supper! There is going to be a feast, with eating! And I think that possibly means there will be more food then a slice of bread and thimble of wine and we wont stand in rows and not talk to each other… don’t you think?

It seems what we do now is no supper at all. Which is odd because we talk a lot about how Christianity is relational and not religious, however the way we do communion isnt exactly relational but comes across very religious. Therefore people who are not Christians will gaze on this and think that this is just a religious thing we do. But if we had a meal together which is very relational, they would see the warmth, the joy, the giving to the poor, the acceptance of all people who are in Christ and they will not see anything religious in it but they will see something very loving and Christ like!

So why don’t we eat together? Even if your church is 500, then break into smaller groups and enjoy a meal and fellowship and rejoice at what the Lord has done for you. Considering the “Son of man came eating and drinking” it seems strange that his bride does not do the same!


10 thoughts on “The Breaking of Bread

  1. Yup. exactly. Amen amen.
    I presume we don’t do it because at rock bottom we don’t actually want to have a bring and share lunch with church every Sunday?

    Question: do you think that Jesus’ command to ‘do this as often as you drink it in remembrance of me’ means that every time we meet with Christians (eg dinner parties) we should be ‘doing communion’? Should our pre-meal grace not be so much ‘thank you for our food’ but ‘thank you for your death’?

    • Hey Tanya,
      Yeh maybe you have a point about the pre-meal Grace! Using meals as a reminder of the Cross – so infact enacting communion every time believers get together and share food and life. I dont see why not, but then what problems may come up from church/people in church? what might be the objections?

      I wonder whether the rock bottom part of this is that we dont want to share our lives with each other because it means we have to be open and vulnerable – and as westerners we dont like that! We dont have to do communion on Sunday – it could be midweek or it could be every time we eat with other believers. May mean we have more of an open door attitude, but it does mean we will be reminding ourselves of the Cross and building relationships!

  2. I love this. I’ll share what we do, if I may?

    In my church we meet in various size groups in those of our houses that are communally shared (sort of acts 2 & 4 style) a few times a week. On one of these occasions we meet for our ‘agape meal’ similar to what Paul refers to in your quote.

    We worship together and encourage one another then share a hearty meal with an emphasis on fellowship – meaningful conversation, confession of faults, encouragement, discussion on the week’s scripture study, that sort of thing. We actually share communion after that (yes, with little bits of bread & sips of juice!), but it’s part of the whole night’s meal.

    At a youth event recently (Real And Wild) on one occasion our lunch was shared in little groups sitting on the floor. It was bread and grape juice and the whole meal was our communion. It felt really wholesome to share communion as the main meal – both solemn, joyful and relaxed. I agree with you, I’d like to do it more often as a practice.

    Keep exploring.

  3. Anyone would think you were in the same church as Andrew Larkin.
    I agree with you though – needs to be much more part of church life, meals, regular breaking of bread. Would be a very attractive community, and one that’d be firmly gospel-centred.

  4. There is a question as to whether the last supper meal was the passover meal – don’t know the details but some people are not so sure.

    Either way there are lots of other details that are commonly ignored:

    Wine (which had alcohol in it)
    Sitting down
    Order: Thanks for bread – everyone eats – thanks for wine – everyone drinks
    One cup

    My preference would be every week as part of a meal that all the believers attend. Everyone sits round table(s) and the bread part is done. Then the wine part can be done straight after or even during a break while eating the other food. Not that hard work, and places the meal at the centre of the community rather than an individual’s expression of piety.

  5. nice and the comments are also encouraging while the actual communion maybe different from how we do it, the heart is what matters, yes in every way whether we eat or drink or whatever we do for the glory of God in that way event the most menial task(or food) is communion already hehehe

  6. In light of this I dare to utter the confession that communion in the style we are used to in church does nothing to affect me with warmth towards Christ (or anyone else for that matter) at all. I long for communion the way you point out it was happening in Corinth (without the problems, of course!). Glad to hear people are doing something like it. I hope that many things we do that are religious might be transformed into things that actually reflect the gospel, not least communion.

    • I agree James, the way we seem to do it now gives me no warmth towards Christ. It is all about heart transformation (just as Dave mentioned above) and obviously just changing the way we do things doesnt change our hearts – but there is something about community and eating together that brings our hearts into the warm reminder of who Christ is. I would like more of that!

  7. With reference to eating a full meal together at a “Breaking of Bread” service: It is important to read the whole context of the scriptural teaching on this. 1cor. 11:34 reads, “And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation. ——.”
    William MacDonald in his Believer’s Bible Commentary, on this verse,observes, “In other words, the love feast, linked as it was with the Lord’s Supper, was not to be mistaken for a common meal. To disregard this sacred character would be to “come together for judgement.”
    So, whether or not we share a full meal together before the Breaking of Bread ceremony, the important thing is the condition of our heart at that time. “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death ’til he come. Wherefore, whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord , unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.”

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