Christians believe that Jesus instituted Communion at the Last Supper. In fact Jesus had just taken the middle matzah called the Afikomen from the single stack of three matzah during the Passover observance. He broke that matzah and then equated that unleavened bread to His body and poured the wine and equated that to His blood.
Seems simple enough but not for many professing Christians. Catholics believe the bread and wine actually becomes the physical body and blood of Jesus and those Christians who do not believe that are denied Communion in a Catholic Church. A local Catholic Bishop may make an agreement with a local Orthodox Bishop to extend Communion to Orthodox Christians. However, Local Orthodox Bishops will not comply. The Orthodox Church does not permit non-Orthodox Christians to take Communion in an Orthodox Church and the Orthodox Church forbids Orthodox Christians from taking Communion in non-Orthodox Churches.
Likewise Catholics are forbidden from taking Communion from non-Catholic Ministers. The Catholic Church considers taking Communion in a non-Catholic or Orthodox Church to be a grave evil and mortal sin. The Catholic Church considers their Bishops and Orthodox Bishops to have a direct line succession going back to the Apostles. Since non-Orthodox and Catholic Pastors cannot claim that line of succession they are considered illegitimate to offer Communion according to the Roman Catholic Church.
Although the Missouri Synod and Wisconsin Evangelical Lutherans and some Baptist churches fall outside the Catholic/Orthodox sphere they also practice closed Communion.
As a person with 12 years of Catholic education coupled with years of Bible study we will discover what the Bible says about Communion. We will discover our evidence together in John Chapter 6, Matthew Chapter 26, Mark Chapter 14 and Luke Chapter 22. The issue will be resolved one of two ways. Either the bread and wine actually become Jesus actual body and blood [Christ enters the Communion elements thus changing the elements into Jesus body and blood] or Jesus was referring to Himself as the bread and His blood as the wine so that all may remember what he did for us and abide only in Him.
John Chapter 6
Verse 27 – Physical bread only satisfies for awhile then one gets hungry again. [Physical food satisfies only for a while before hunger sets in again.]
Verse 29 – Believe in the one God sent. [A prerequisite for what is to follow is believing that God the Father sent Jesus to earth for the purpose of redemption]
Verse 32 – God the Father provides the real bread from Heaven. [Not the manna of old but His Son who entered physically entered the affairs of men.]
Verse 33 – The Bread of God is the ONE who comes down from Heaven. He gives life to the world. [This bread is Jesus who is life to the world]
Verse 35 – Jesus says, “I am the bread of life.” Those who believe in Him should come to Him. [The person of Jesus is the bread of life. What He alone offers will sustain us]
Verse 37 – Anyone who comes to him will not be cast out. [Anyone who fills themselves with Jesus will never be cast away]
Verse 39 – Those who are with Jesus will be raised. [Rest assured those who seek to fill themselves with what Jesus offers, this spiritual food will be raised on the last day]
Verse 45 – Isaiah 54:13 is quoted. It states “They shall all be taught by God” [What we learn from Jesus is the spiritual bread that sustains us.]
Verse 48 – Jesus says again, “I am the bread of life” [Jesus is the bread that he is talking about]
Verse 51 – Jesus is the bread that came down from heaven. The bread that He gives is his flesh. [The bread that Jesus gives is his body, a body that will be given as a sacrifice for our sin]
Verse 53 – Those who eat his flesh and drink his blood will have eternal life. [Jesus is saying this before Passover before what Christians call Communion. He is saying those who accept the flesh he will offer i.e bread and believe that his spilled blood cleanses us from sin will have eternal life.
Verse 57 – The one who feeds on his flesh will live. [Those who consume what Jesus taught and believe will live eternally]
Verse 58 – Jesus re-emphasizes that He is the bread that came down from heaven. [Jesus is the bread. We must feed on Him.]
Verse 63 – The Spirit is the one who gives life. Jesus words are spirit. [Jesus drives the point home. When we fill ourselves with His words which are spirit the Holy Spirit gives us life eternal]
These words were stated before the Passover what Christians call Holy Thursday. These words cannot be contradicted. At this point Jesus is not talking about observance of a new religious ritual. He wants those who believe in him to fill up with His words, His knowledge and by doing so accept the sacrifice that he will give. The blood he will spill will ensure eternal life to those who can accept it.
Matthew chapter 26
Verse 26 – Jesus breaks the middle matza and says, “take eat this is my body”
Verse 28 – “This is my blood of the Covenant shed for many
Mark Chapter 14
Verse 22 – Take it this is my body
Verse 24 – This is my blood of the Covenant to be shed for many
Luke Chapter 22
Verse 19 – This is my body given to you in remembrance of me. [He then breaks the bread]
Verse 20 – This cup poured out for you is the New Covenant in my blood.
Taken in context when this was happening it would only have meaning to a Jewish audience. Jesus is following the traditional Jewish Seder. From the single pile of three matzah Jesus takes the middle matzah [Thus signifying one God in three persons] He takes the middle signifying Himself and breaks it [signifying his broken body] The part that is hidden is called the afikomen. The part that is consumed by all is called the bread of affliction. This is what Jesus shares and compares this to himself signifying what he will suffer as predicted by the Prophet Isaiah in chapter 53. In the taking of the second cup of wine he announces the New Covenant as predicted in Jeremiah chapter 31. Later in the Seder the afikomen is retrieved thus signifying His resurrection in Psalm 16. What Jesus is doing is substituting a new meaning in the Jewish Seder. It is this new meaning that becomes Communion.
By the fourth Century the Gentile Church removed all traces of Judaism from the Church. Communion became a standalone event. Jews would always recognize Communion belonging to the Seder. Gentile Christians would not make that connection. Although we are told to get together often for Communion in remembrance of Jesus, the Roman and Hellenic Church would have Jesus actually entering the matzah and wine. Based on John Chapter 6 the Apostles understood that Jesus was the bread who came down from heaven. The matzah did not come down from heaven nor did the wine. These elements stood for what Jesus did for us.
Let’s take the Catholic position that the bread and wine are changed into Jesus. If this were so absolute holiness would be quantifiably emanating from the elements. Everyone who met Jesus was changed. After receiving the Holy Spirit his followers changed the world. Now let’s take this logic and apply it to the worlds Catholics and Orthodox Christians. By and large are these Christians changed after taking Communion? Do these Christians more so than other Christians exhibit the fruit of the spirit more than other Christians? Do Catholic and Orthodox Christians know their bible and actively bring people to faith in Christ more so than other Christians? Are Catholics in Italy, Brazil, Spain, Argentina, Mexico and France Christians who behave similar to those in the Book of Acts? Can the same be said for Orthodox Russians, Greeks, Serbs, Bulgarians, and Ukrainians?
Conclusion: Just because one takes Communion it does not mean that they have a relationship with Jesus. Jesus was not focused on rites and rituals. He wanted us to have a relationship with him. Neither Billy Graham or Dr. David Jeremiah, or Doctor Michael Youseff, or Dr Michael Brown, or Doctor Charles Stanley or C.S. Lewis or Messianic Rabbi Jonathan Cahn believe in transubstantiation. Yet their life’s work is to bring people to faith in Jesus. What is illegitimate about that? Jesus is present at the Communion table when we take the bread and wine in remembrance of him. As long as our heart and mind are with Jesus when taking the bread and wine our Lord would not deny any of us who believe and love him from partaking in his Passover.