W. A. Criswell tells a story about the Duke of Wellington once attending a small church in England. It was their custom to come to the front and kneel down to receive communion. The Duke, who had just been honored as a hero in the battle of Waterloo, came forward and knelt down.
About the same time a poor ragged old man came down from the other side of the building and knelt beside the Duke. Immediately a deacon came up behind the old man, gently placed a hand on his shoulder and quietly whispered for the man to move farther away from the Duke. Or to rise and wait until the Duke had taken communion.
But the eagle eye and the quick ear of the great commander caught what was happening. Immediately he clasped the old man’s hand and held him to prevent his rising. Then in a reverential but distinct undertone, the Iron Duke said, “Don’t move; we’re all equal here.”
Communion, a word often used to refer to the Lord’s supper, is a shared experience. For everyone. There are no big people or little people when it comes to communion. The reason is that communion is about Christ. About the cross. About our commonality with Him.
The word “communion” is translated from the Greek word “koinonia.” It is also rendered “fellowship,” “companion.” “partaker,” and “partner.”
In the shadow of the cross, on Passover eve, Jesus instituted the communion. Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” (Matt 26:26-29)
Think of those who joined in that communion service. Fisherman. A tax collector. And a political zealot. Common men. Ordinary men. Weak men. On Friday when Christ was crucified, one would betray him. Another would deny Him. All would forsake Him. Men who had just engaged in spiritual fellowship less than 24 hours earlier.
The Supper is not for perfect people. It is for pardoned people. People who see their own unworthiness. Sense their own sinfulness. And seek communion with Christ.
When we come on Sunday to take communion, our fellowship is two-fold.
(1) We commune with Christ. We enjoy fellowship with Him. We are reminded of our relationship with Him. We remember his suffering and death. We rejoice at his resurrection. We realize our reconciliation.
Our communion has implications beyond the table. It issues itself in action. In a lifestyle. In a renewed commitment. Remembering Friday’s crucifixion and celebrating Sunday resurrection results in Monday’s Christian walk. A walk of love. A walk in the light. A walk in newness of life.
(2) We commune with One Another. The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread. (1Cor. 10:16-17)
Together we are sharers of the spiritual blessings in Christ. Partners in His purpose. Companions in His Church. As we mutually participate in the Supper, together our focus is one. It’s on Him who broke down barriers. Eliminated racial distinctions. Eradicated social classes.
We enjoy a special kinship. A oneness of heart. Of soul. Of spiritual aspirations. Because of what Christ did on Friday there is a closeness in our Christian community. Warm Fellowship. Right Relationships. Happy Comradeship. And mutual responsibilities.
On this Friday we are reminded “all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory.” But we’ve been “justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 3:24-25)
On Sunday as we come to partake of communion, may we draw near to God with a true heart in full assurance of faith, and embrace the fellowship of our spiritual partners.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman