The kids rush home from school early on Fridays, and my wife and I ask them to go play outside while we finish cleaning the house. Friday night eventually arrives, and the Shabbat table is set. We have invited some of our neighbours to share the Shabbat meal with us, and they too arrive with some delicious side dishes they have prepared. The table is beautifully set with “Khrimay” (Moroccan style fish in tomato sauce), chicken, salads, Challah bread, kosher wine, a kiddush cup, and an Ashkenazi Siddur (Jewish prayer book).
We begin to say the blessings in Hebrew. During one of the prayers we recite, “in memory of creation because it is the first day of our holy assemblies, in memory of the exodus from Egypt because you have chosen us and made us holy from all peoples.”
Afterwards, I ask my children, “is there any need you want to ask from Yeshua and is there anything you want to ask forgiveness from each other and from Yeshua.” My daughter, Maayan, starts with saying, “Asaph, I am sorry I fought with you and hit you today fighting over the x-box, and sorry Yeshua.” Asaph answers, “Maayan, I forgive you.” We each then go one by one asking forgiveness from Yeshua, and from each other. We also ask Yeshua to provide any needs or needs of friends this week. We then pass each other the kiddush cup and say, “This is the blood of Yeshua.” We then bless the challah bread, ask for any healing needs, and say, “The body of Yeshua.” This particular day, our guests were curious about what we were doing (they were Israelis and not believers), so we explained how we believe Yeshua has the “skhuyot” (virtue) through his life, death, and resurrection to forgive our sins and to heal our bodies, and we practice this every week to participate in the “skhuyot” he provided for us. We then recited the story of the Passover the lamb and how the skhuyot of that lamb provided for freedom and atonement for the children of Israel. We explained that the Shabbat liturgy encourages us to remember the exodus out of Egypt and Yeshua is our Passover Lamb. This is how we as Messianic Jews remember and participate, “in memory of the exodus from Egypt”.
The Jewish Nature of Communion
I have been in the Messianic movement for nearly 14 years here in Israel and have found that as a movement in Israel we are very weak in taking communion. Some congregations take communion only once a month, others take communion only once or twice a year. I believe the lack of taking communion comes from two philosophical sources : 1) Some Messianic congregations are highly influenced by Western Evangelical Christianity, which does not put a high emphasis on taking communion (because of not understanding the real presence of the Lord’s table), as most Western Evangelicals take communion once a month at the most if not less; and 2) The more indigenous Messianic Jews do not see communion as Jewish and it reminds them too much of Christianity. Some have even suggested that communion should only be taken together with the Passover meal once a year. I would like to address the second objection to taking weekly communion.
There were seven blood sacrifices that were commanded in the Torah including the sin sacrifice (hatat), the peace (shalem) sacrifice, the New Moon sacrifice, the remembrance sacrifice (feast days), the tamid sacrifice, the trespass sacrifice, and the olah sacrifice. There were two types of sacrifices, the remembrance and the peace sacrifices, that included giving a portion to God, a portion to the priests, and a portion was to be eaten by the worshiper. The worshiper was also to share his portion with his family, as well as the widow and orphan.
All throughout the Tanakh, there are references to covenants being made between both man and man, as well as man and God, with a sacrifice, eating bread, and drinking wine. I just read one such reference recently in Parashat Yitro (Exodus 18:12) where the elders of Israel ate bread and drank wine ‘in the presence of God’ with Moses, Aaron, and Jethro after making a sacrifice.
Last of all, in Jewish thought our feasts are supposed to be not just liturgy but experiential. It is said every year in the Passover seder that we are to take the meal, “as if we ourselves were coming out of Egypt.”
“Always Give Us This Bread”
In John 6, we see an amazing story. As Yeshua was teaching the masses, they became hungry. So Yeshua sat them down and had the disciples pass out five loaves and two fishes that a small boy gave to Yeshua’s disciples. Miraculously it multiplied to where over 5000 families were able to eat, and twelve baskets of bread were left over. Later in the story, some of the crowd went looking for Yeshua possibly wanting Him to give them more bread and found him in the village of Capernaum. Probably still amazed by the multiplication of the loaves and the fishes, they asked Yeshua to perform a sign to prove He is the one sent by God like Moses brought down the manna from heaven. Yeshua responded , “For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” Yeshua then affirmed them that He is the bread of heaven and ‘those who eat this bread will never hunger nor thirst again.’ To this, the masses replied, “Always give us this bread.”
Yeshua then starts to say some really amazing declarations about Himself and what He is about to offer to the world, “But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
Yeshua then relates this to eating His flesh and drinking his blood, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” (John 6:53-58)
In all the cases above, what I find most fascinating is the correlation between eating the body and drinking the blood of Jesus with remaining in Him, receiving LIFE, and inheriting eternal life. I do not find this to be referencing a one time meal (symbolizing our salvation experience), but rather a regular meal we partake of. We need to feed on Yeshua who gives us LIFE, just like feasting on the Paschal lamb set the children of Israel free. Disclaimer: I do not believe as the Catholics do that communion literally becomes the body and blood of Jesus in substance; however when we take communion it is the body and blood of Jesus “in Spirit”. The presence of God is literally there with us providing LIFE to our needs. Yeshua did pray, “give us this day our daily bread”. Just as our physical bodies need daily food, so our spirit needs to feast on Yeshua through communion on a regular basis.
I remember once the Holy Spirit prophetically showed me in prayer that the tree of life in the garden of Eden is Yeshua’s death on the cross. Adam and Eve were thrown out of the garden so they would not eat from the tree of life and live forever. Yeshua has given us access once again to eat from the tree of life on a regular basis. Taking communion is eating from the tree of life. Communion is our “dinner date with Yeshua with the fruit of the tree of life on the menu.”
Communion in Disciple-Making
A healthy disciple making community will take communion on a regular basis. This is implied when Paul writes the Corinthian community in chapter 11 that they came together for the purpose of taking communion. This can be done in discipleship relationships, in families, at the Shabbat table, within a congregation, or with a few believing friends together. Wherever “two or more are gathered together in my name” (Matthew 18) to proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. Here are a few reasons why it is good to practice communion regularly when we are making new disciples:
1.) It encourages holiness and repentance
2.) It encourages fellowship with other believers and congregational life.
3.) It is a way for new believers to practically experience the real presence and power of God for their regular needs and have somewhere to take their shame of sin to.
4.) It encourages obedience (Yeshua commanded us to do this).
5.) It encourages evangelism (proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes).
6.) It encourages experiencing the grace of God on a regular basis.
7.) It rehearses and deepens our understanding of the cross, burial, and resurrection of Yeshua.
8.) It encourages us to hear the voice of God.
9.) It is a regular reminder for Jewish believers of the Jewish nature of the gospel as well as the covenant God has made with the Jewish people.
10.) It rehearses the power of our covenant through Yeshua
This is why I believe in every disciple-making relationship, house congregation, and community we should be taking communion on a regular basis and taking the very life of Yeshua into our body, soul, and spirit.