By: Will Bruhn
In the Gospel according to Luke, uncanny things started happening after Jesus’ resurrection. People were confused, people were sad, and people were anxious as to what the empty tomb meant. In one particular story, we see two downcast men, and apparent disciples of Jesus, walking from Jerusalem to the village of Emmaus. It was a hopelessly long walk ahead. The man they thought would be their triumphant and war-raging Messiah, like King David, was just killed; found to be a failure. So, they wandered aimlessly to Emmaus with soul-crushing defeat.
Along the journey, Jesus came and started walking with them. Scripture says God kept the two men from recognizing him as Jesus (Luke 24:16). As he approached them, Jesus commented on their evident sadness, asking what it is they were talking about. The men explained the last few days of horrendous disappointment. A man named Jesus of Nazareth, who was supposed to be the Messiah that redeemed Israel, was just crucified—along with their hopes. Jesus would go on to teach the two men how the Scriptures predicted these things must happen to the Messiah before he would be glorified.
As they entered Emmaus, the two disciples asked this wise yet perplexing man to come stay with them. Jesus agreed; so they went to the house and sat down to eat together. Scripture says Jesus took the bread and blessed it, just as he did with the twelve disciples the night before he was betrayed. Then Jesus broke the bread and gave it to the two men and suddenly, “their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.” At that moment, Jesus vanished! Instantly gone. Disappeared. All the two men were left with was broken bread on a table.
Now, most people are interested in this story because of the fact that God blinded the men from seeing Jesus as he was. Certainly this can have implications of its own, but I’m interested in something else from this story: the bread that was broken remained. After Jesus had disappeared, the two men from Emmaus ran back to Jerusalem and told their story to the other disciples, about how he had appeared to them on the road but that they only recognized him, “as he was breaking the bread” (Lk 24:35). This is the mystery we run into when we approach the table of communion. Somehow, someway, Jesus is with us through the means of broken bread on a table.
It hasn’t always been so that the Lord’s Supper was just a small part of our weekly, or monthly, or even yearly practice as a Christian. Communion was at the very heart of the early Church’s worship. The Lord’s Table was always there, from the beginning. Before there was a canonical Bible to reference or a structured Church to lean on, the disciples had the table. Every time the early believers met together you could count on two things being on the agenda: praying the Lord’s Prayer, and partaking in the Lord’s Supper together. In fact, no Christian in the first 1600 years of Church history would recognize a Church that did not do those two things every time they came together.
The table was a place that they were able to recognize that they were now all brothers and sisters. All social distinctions came down at the table. No longer Jew, no longer Gentile; no longer poor nor rich, no longer republican or democrat, struggling sinner or victorious saint. It is at this table that Paul’s vision for a unified body (1 Corinthians 12:12-26) was fulfilled. The table of the Lord has that kind of power. We come as we are; we are healed, made whole, sanctified through broken bread on a table.
If I’m being completely honest, there are times I come to Church empty, without an ounce of faith in me. There are times I sit in the pew and I can’t get myself to listen to the sermon. There are times I can’t get myself to sing the songs during worship. But, I’ll tell you what I can do, I can come and take that broken bread and dip it in that cup, and in that moment I know that Jesus is somehow with me—entering into my brokenness. I can come to this table when my heart is aching and my soul is dark. I can come when it appears all faith has escaped me. And through that broken bread, I receive life and healing.
I don’t know what kind of Church you go to, nor do I want to persuade you to stop going to any church that doesn’t regularly take communion. But I do want to challenge you that next time the Lord’s Supper is offered to you, that you bring all of your brokenness, insecurities, and doubts, and you ask Jesus to come and give your soul life through this meal of thanksgiving. Go to that table and receive communion, go and receive eternal life.