Thursday, April 1, 2010

Repost: Broken

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 directly to us. “This is my body, which is broken 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 quickly goes stale and hard, making it too difficult to swallow and, eventually, microbes and maggots nesting inside it make it indigestible. Bread 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 satisfies our hunger 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 was broken in death and resurrected to new life 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 is to body what wine is to blood. They’ll quickly combine the two 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 received life.

Originally posted April 9, 2009.

Just as forgiveness is in Christ’s shed blood, life springs forth from His broken body.

Postscript: You Are the Living Word

Fred Hammond is my favorite contemporary gospel singer. His songs are unadorned with fancy stylistics and clever lyrics. Fred distills a thought into a few phrases that function closer to meditative prayer—he repeats them until they enter the heart. (It helps that he’s a master of musical “hooks.”) Like all his songs, “You Are the Living Word” builds by repetition until it bursts heart, mind, and spirit wide open. Bread of Life, Bread of Heaven, Jesus, You are the Living Word!


Bread of Life

Sent down from Glory

Many things You were on Earth

A holy King, a Carpenter

You are the Living Word

Bread of Heaven

Sent down from Glory...

Awesome Ruler

Gentle Redeemer

God with us, the Living Truth

And what a Friend we have in You

Jesus, Jesus

That's what we call You

Manger-born but on a tree

You died to save humanity

Oh, You are the Living Word


Philomena Ewing said...

Hi Tim,
I know you post at A Seat at The Table and so I read your comments quite often so I would like to drop by and wish you a very Holy Easter full of God's blessings.
Great inspring music here. I'm singing along as I write!

Tim said...

Dear Phil, it's great to hear from you--and thank you for adding S-F to your reader. I've so enjoyed reading your comments at Claire's place. I've not yet got by your blog, but look forward to doing so soon. (During Lent, I limited my time online to not get swept up in a lot of conversations, etc.)

Thanks so much for the Easter blessings. I pray the riches of Christ's sacrifice and resurrection be yours always!


PS: Glad you enjoyed the music. I was slightly torn about it--you know, that "need to be more somber" thing. But the song lifts me...

claire said...

Tim, I wish I could remember where I read that we too need to be broken so that we can feed others.
But it makes sense, don't you think?
Thank you for the banquet you serve here every day.

Tim said...

It makes total sense, Claire, and reminds me of Christ's command to Peter: "Feed my sheep." How many times have I protected my veneer--my crust, if you will--to feed my ego and pride? How many people around me are hungry for the Bread? They can smell its sweetness and even reach out to feel its warmth and yet my resistance to breaking sends them away unfed?

This is powerful stuff to contemplate--certainly a thing worthy of its own post!

Thank you for the sweet compliment. I'm unworthy of it, as I've been blessed to grow up around many extraordinary chefs who fed me well and stockpiled me with plenty to share!

Blessings always,