In the last few weeks I have been pondering on communion and what that really means to me. In this episode of Caleb’s Journal I just like to share some of the thoughts I have been given, particularly around the breaking of the bread.
I have, in the past, experienced communion as a sombre and humbling event because I guess my thoughts were very much on the suffering that our Lord and Saviour had to endure. The breaking of the bread is a symbol of this… His body being broken for us, and His blood having been spilt to cover the multitude of our sins.
However, through all this pain and suffering, Jesus opened the way for us to come to know Him and the Father on a deeper level and to see things that we couldn’t see before… and that deeper level of intimacy and vision is experienced as we partake of communion.
The bread is not only symbolic of the body of Christ, but also of His Word… which at communion is blessed, broken open and given to us that we may eat and digest it in order to gain a deeper insight of His being.
In partaking of communion we come to the realisation that the suffering of Jesus was necessary to open the way for us to see Him in all His Glory.
In the Scriptures we see this illustrated in Luke 24 where we read the account of Jesus appearing to the two men on the road to Emmaus.
On the Road to Emmaus
On the day of the resurrection of Jesus, there were two men walking along the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus and while they were walking and talking together Jesus drew near and joined them, but they knew not that it was Him.
During the journey the men shared with Jesus what had happened in Jerusalem and that it was now the third day since the crucifixion and they were astonished and saddened as the tomb was empty and the One who they thought would be the Redeemer of Israel had not been seen.
It was at this point that the conversation took a turn and Jesus, beginning with Moses and all the prophets shared with them, from the Scriptures, the things concerning Himself. Yet even this did not cause the men to recognise Jesus for who He was.
The three arrive in Emmaus, and the men, still in the dark as to the identity of Jesus, invite Him to stay with them for the night.
And it was then, as they were gathered together, partaking of communion, that their minds were transformed from knowing ‘about’ Jesus, to truely knowing, recognising and experiencing Him in a real and tangible way.
We read of this in verses 30-31;
‘When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him…’
The Breaking of the Bread
When I think of ‘breaking’ I think of a porcelain vase dropping onto a tiled floor and breaking into a myriad of pieces. In our minds, breaking is often something destructive as the thing broken is now beyond repair. But that is not what is meant here.
The word translated ‘broke’ in this verse is the Greek κλάω klaó. In the New Testament, this verb is solely used to describe the breaking of the bread. κλάω means to ‘break’ but in the sense of opening up and producing life… It speaks of a breaking in which the energy is directed to form a bursting delta of fragments, streams or branches… much the same way as a river breaks open into a fertile delta of streams.
So when we apply this to the bread of communion, we realise that the breaking of His body, the suffering and the pain He endured for us, was necessary to open the way into a newness of life. A life in which He is the source.
This same thing happens when the Word of God is broken open before our eyes, which when we eat and digest leads us into deeper insights of His being.
Opening of the Eyes through the Breaking of the Bread
This is exactly what the men experienced after partaking of the communion meal.
‘And their eyes were opened, and they knew him…’
It was only after partaking of the broken bread that the eyes of the men were opened… and they knew Him.
When we look at the Greek words translated ‘opened’ and ‘knew’ in this verse, we come to see that what these men experienced was something truely remarkable and powerful. They transitioned from knowing ‘about’ Jesus, to truely ‘knowing’ Him, and that is what partaking of communion does.
The word ‘opened’ in this verse is the Greek διανοιγω dianoigó which means ‘to totally lay wide open, after having been closed’. It has the connotation of going through an opening wherein there is a connecting of two parties on either side of a hitherto solid divide.
It is through the death and resurrection of our Lord and Saviour that the veil was rent… so that the way was now completely open for us to enter into the presence of our Lord and draw near to Him. This is what Jesus has done for us, for you and for me.
‘Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh.’
With the barrier now removed, we can not only come into His presence, but also hear His Words more clearly… Words which now take on a new and deeper meaning… something which the men also experienced and recognised;
‘And they said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened (διανοιγω) to us the Scriptures?”’
The Burning of Emmaus
It is interesting to note here that the men experienced the Word of God as a ‘burning’. The Word of God is often likened to a fire… however, I do not believe this to be a destructive fire, but rather more like a refining fire as the Word of God produces life… it is there to burn away all our false perceptions, leaving only the Spirit of Truth in our hearts and minds.
This becomes more relevant when we consider the location of this event, namely the town of Emmaus. Although the location of the town is not known in the modern day, we can see a witness of what occurred here encapsulated within the etymology of the name of the town. Emmaus means ‘hot springs’. It is thought that the name Emmaus either originated from the Hebrew יֵם yem meaning ‘hot springs’, or that it is the Hellenized version of the Hebrew name Hammath, which comes from the root חמם hamam meaning ‘to be hot’, which interestingly is also sometimes used to describe mental agitation.
Therefore one could say that it is at Emmaus, through communion, that our false perceptions are burned away so that our minds are transformed into being able to experience a oneness with our Lord and Saviour… to truely come to ‘know’ Him.
Our Minds Transformed to Know Him
The word ‘know’ in verse 31 is the Greek επιγινώσκω epiginóskó, which describes an experiential knowing through a direct and personal relationship. This ‘knowing’ is not static… it grows as we walk on in our journey with the Lord, until that glorious day when we will see Him face to face with full clarity.
‘For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will experientially know (επιγινώσκω) to the extent I have also been experientially known (επιγινώσκω).
1 Corinthians 13:12.
So next time we partake of communion, may we stand in awe of the wonderful thing our Lord and Saviour has done for us… let us be humbled by the suffering He has had to endure for the myriad of our sins, but let us also rejoice because through this suffering He, in His great love, has opened a way for us to enter into union and experience His glory.