If you are in the practice of celebrating Communion with any kind of regularity, the words Jesus says in today’s passage will be pretty familiar to you. I’ve often wondered what the friends of Jesus, gathered round a meal, having heard him pretty darkly and cryptically talk about the future over the preceding days, would have made of what he said here. After all, anyone holding bread and wine, saying ‘this is my body’, ‘this is my blood’ might well be thought of as, what, strange? Frightening? Confusing? For us, for whom Communion is a part of life and culture, whether we’re regular churchgoers or not, we know what we’ve decided it means, or might mean. But what of those people who knew nothing really of what was to come? What about those people who are uncertain? It’s a funny thing, isn’t it? To say that bread is your body and wine is your blood?
I’m not going to spend ages here writing about what I think happens in Communion. What is spectacular for me though is that Jesus invites his friends, and us who follow after them to make him part of us as we eat and drink in remembrance of him. We’re invited in to union with him, fellowship, family, intimacy even, through this simple yet life-altering meal. If Jesus says ‘this is my body’ and I eat the bread, then somehow Jesus’s body becomes part of me. You could spend a lifetime trying to work that out no doubt, but as a starter for thinking things through it’s pretty potent.
And not just that, Jesus looks with confidence into the future. ‘after I am raised up’ he says. This isn’t something that has really jumped out at me until today’s reading of this story. The eye naturally goes to the prediction of Peter’s three-time denial of Jesus, but Jesus says here, as he does elsewhere, that he is sure of what is going to happen to him. He knows the outcome, even if the actual human circumstances of his death eventually seem to overwhelm him. We as Christians follow a God who suffered, but did so with such certainty as to the end of the story. He would be raised. It’s very matter-of-fact in the telling here. I’m prone to saying ‘this might work’ or even ‘this prayer might be answered’, but Jesus sets the tone for our confidence in faith. He was in step with God. So we can be too. Just how much trust are willing to place in God today?