When he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
1 Corinthians 11.24
Born to Break
The King James Version of 1 Corinthians 11.24 slightly alters Christ’s statement. But it’s a rich enhancement. There, He says, “This is my body, which is broken for you,” stressing a one-to-one correlation: as bread is broken, so the body of Christ is broken. The double emphasis adds profound nuance to why God elected to dwell with us in flesh. Surely He had other means. He could have pronounced His New Order via a phenomenon like the burning bush. He could have revealed it by prophetic edict. Using the physical body as His redemptive medium suggests He intended to be broken—the Christ Child was born to break. Of course, we say; He laid on the cross’s altar as the final sacrifice for sin. But equating sacrifice with breaking mixes metaphors and misses the beauty of the bread. If Jesus were speaking of sacrifice, wouldn’t He have cited the Paschal lamb, the Passover meat offering? He’s specifically talking about His body as bread. The reference is more than a precursor to His death. It points to our life. “This is my body, which is for you,” He says.
Hungry No More
In John 6.35, Jesus declares, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry.” Unbroken bread appeals to our senses. It looks and smells lovely and feels warm and substantial in our hands. But without breaking, bread’s value is fleeting. It must be ruined—torn open, pulled to pieces, and consumed—to experience its true benefits. The broken body of Christ is no different. It enables us to enjoy and experience the life He gives. His blood brings our atonement. This is why Jesus tells the disciples, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” (Luke 22.20) Hebrews 9.22 confirms this: “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” The new promise of God’s mercy is in Christ’s blood. But His body is broken to grant us life.
“If you come to me,” Jesus says, “you’ll be hungry no more.” The breaking of the Bread of Life nourishes us twice—in this existence and the next. In John 10.10, Jesus defines His mission very succinctly, saying, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” And every Sunday school student can quote His definition of God’s plan: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3.16) The sacramental bread we eat—the broken body of Christ—endows us to live fully now and assures us we’ll live again. We take the bread in remembrance of Jesus’s willingness to be broken. Yet we also cherish its reminder that Christ’s breaking fully ourhunger for life, now and forever.
In the Body
Paul writes in Galatians 2.20: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Being crucified with Christ means being broken with Him. We set aside concerns about appearances and appeal to give Him free access to our minds, hearts, and spirits. We allow ourselves to be ruined—torn open, pulled to pieces, and consumed—by His Spirit. The life we live, we live by faith. We look beyond what we see. We believe what we can’t prove. While unbroken minds crave definitive knowledge and evidence, we trust in Christ, who loved us and gave Himself to be broken for us. While they wrestle with “the meaning of life,” we live. We live confidently now because we have absolute confidence Jesus suffered and died so we can live forever.
On this Maundy Thursday, Christians everywhere will commemorate the Lord’s Supper in services expressly focused on the sacramental elements. Sadly, the vast majority will gloss over the nuances differentiating the bread from the wine, reducing them to: bread = body; wine = blood. They’ll quickly combine them to equal sacrifice. And, basically, they’re correct. The breaking of His body and shedding of His blood both contributed to His death. Yet each element also carries unique meaning we shouldn’t overlook. His shed blood brings our full, eternal forgiveness of sin. His broken body provides our full, eternal life. “This cup is for you. This bread is for you,” He says. We are forgiven. We have life.
Only after bread is broken can we experience its benefits.
(Tomorrow: At Just the Right Time)