The Lord’s Seder

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Is “Communion” Practiced Within Messianic Judaism?

Q: My boss and I have been having some discussions—he is a Lutheran. ... He asked me if Messianics have communion, and then he said he believes the juice/wine becomes the blood and the bread is literally the body, and asked me if I believed that.  I have always thought of it as symbolism, that we were to do as a reminder of what He did for us until He comes again.  I had heard that Catholics believe that but did not realize any Protestants did...or am I missing something?

A: Most Messianic congregations that I know of do not observe “Communion” in the same way that Gentile Christians do, because it is not taught in the Bible that we are to do so, but only in Gentile Christian tradition. I know that sounds pretty radical coming from a Messianic theologian who was trained and ordained as a Baptist, but consider carefully what the Bible does teach.

In most translations of Luke 22:19 (like the NASB, for example) it says something like: “And when He had taken some bread and given thanks …” This is actually a very poor translation — He actually “said the b'rakhah, or blessing” as correctly translated in the Complete Jewish Bible, as follows:

Also, taking a piece of matzah, he made the b'rakhah,[1] broke it, gave it to them and said, “This is my body, which is being given for you; do this in memory of me.” [CJB]

What was the “this” that He was doing, and what is the “this” that He instructed His disciples to do in His memory? He was observing the Passover Seder. So His instruction, in the Biblical context, was that the Passover Seder was to be celebrated in remembrance of Him. Rav Sha'ul did not change that teaching in 1 Corinthians 11:23-34. So why do Gentile Christians not celebrate the Passover Seder “in remembrance of Him?” Because the Council of Nicea, under Constantine, made the celebration of Passover punishable by death; so that same Council established the weekly “Mass” and “Eucharist” plus the annual observance of the pagan fertility “Feast of Ishtar” [Easter] as a “Christian” substitute for the Biblical feasts of Passover and First Fruits. Over the last 1700 years, Christians have simply forgotten the historical facts surrounding “Communion.”

Probably most (if not all) Messianic synagogues celebrate the Kiddush (not “communion”) with challah and wine at every Shabbat service. And I, personally, cannot possibly eat bread and wine together under any circumstances without “remembering” Him. I think most Believers feel the same way. 

Now, concerning the actual nature of the bread and wine: Your boss apparently does not accurately understand the Lutheran doctrine concerning the communion elements. The Roman Catholic Church teaches the doctrine of transubstantiation; the Lutheran Church teaches consubstantiation.

The word “transubstantiation” derives from Latin – trans (across), and substantia (substance). The term is employed in Roman Catholic theology to denote the idea that during the ceremony of the “Mass,” the “bread and wine” are changed, in substance, into the literal flesh and blood of Christ, even though the elements appear to remain the same. This doctrine, which has no basis in Scripture, first appeared in the early 9th century A.D., was formalized at the Council of Trent (A.D. 1545-63), and was reaffirmed at the Second Vatican Council (1962-65).

“Consubstantiation” is a term commonly applied to the Lutheran concept of the communion supper, though some modern Lutheran theologians reject the use of this term because of its ambiguity. The expression, however, is generally associated with Luther. The idea is that in the communion, the body and blood of Christ, and the bread and wine, coexist in union with each other. “Luther illustrated it by the analogy of the iron put into the fire whereby both fire and iron are united in the red-hot iron and yet each continues unchanged” (The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, F.L. Cross, Ed., London: Oxford, 1958, p. 337).

[SOURCE: http://www.christiancourier.com/questions/transubstantiationQuestion.htm — an excellent article]

While both of those ideas are interesting, there is no Biblical basis for either view. Both are based on an ultra-literal interpretation of Scripture, which usually leads to error. When Yeshua said, “I am the door,” He did not mean that he was made of wood and had hinges. And when He said, “I am the bread of life” He didn't mean that he was made of flour, soft on the inside, and crusty golden on the outside. So when He said, “This is my body … this is my blood …,” He didn’t mean that the wine now had red and white corpuscles floating in it and that the matzah contained His skin or muscle cells.

He who has ears, let him hear … he who has a brain, let him also think!

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Note: There are two b'rakhot (plural of b'rakhah, blessing) that are of significance here, and which Yeshua would have recited during His last Passover seder. The first is the b'rakhah that is always said before partaking of wine; the second is the b'rakhah that is always said before partaking of bread. These are the modern versions, but they are probably very similar to what yeshua said.

The b'rakhah for wine:  Barukh atah ADONAI Eloheinu, Melech ha'olam, boray p'ree ha'gafen.
Blessed are You, ADONAI our God, King of the universe, the One Who creates the fruit of the vine.
The b'rakhah for bread:  Barukh atah ADONAI Eloheinu, Melech ha'olam, ha'motzie lechem mein ha'aretz.
Blessed are You, ADONAI our God, King of the universe, the One Who brings forth bread [or sustenance] from the earth.

____________

  1. Please note that is not the bread and wine that are being blessed, but rather it is He Who creates the the wine and He Who brings forth the bread that is blessed. So when we are saying our “grace” before meals and ask God to bless our food, that really isn’t Biblical. Not that there’s anything wrong with it; it just isn’t Biblical. [RETURN]

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