Summary: Is communion a sacrament, ordinance or memorial? Are bread and wine mere symbols or is there something deeper?
Is Communion a sacrament, an ordinance, or a memorial? Are bread and wine mere symbols or is there something deeper? Let’s look at what Jesus said in Luke 22:14-27.
Luke 22:14 “When the hour had come, He reclined at the table, and the apostles with Him.” The appointed hour that the Passover was to be killed was culturally from three to six p-m (Exodus 12:6), and eaten shortly thereafter. Jesus reclined rather than stand (Exodus 12:11).
Luke 22:15 “And He said to them, ‘I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer’” The letter-of-the-law time of Passover was actually 24 hours later. It is clear that Jesus was not legalistic. Christians understood this freedom and later changed the time of Easter.
Luke 22:16 “for I say to you, I shall never again eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” Passover is not fulfilled by looking back to the Exodus but forward from the cross. “I will… dine with him, and he with Me.” (Revelation 3:20)
Luke 22:17 “And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He said, ‘Take this and share it among yourselves’” Jesus gave thanks (eucharisteo) for wine, not grape-juice, 6 months after the grape harvest, with neither refrigeration nor pasteurization. Wine is not forbidden, only drunkenness (Ephesians 5:18).
Luke 22:18 “for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until the kingdom of God comes.” Culturally, this meant fruit of the GRAPE-vine. These verses show that Jesus will eat lamb and drink wine again when God’s Kingdom comes.
Luke 22:19 “And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This IS My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’” How IS the Bread Jesus’ Body? Eastern Christians rightly call this a “mystery.”
The new covenant, is also the New Testament, because a testament involves the death of the testator. In this case, the death of Jesus. Communion is a sacrament (“this IS” not “this symbolizes”, but also not “this transubstantiates”), an ordinance (“do this”), and also a remembrance (“in remembrance of me”.
 The most ancient Christian definition of sacrament is a mystery now revealed to the Church (Mark 4:11, Colossians 1:26, Colossians 2:2, 1 Timothy 3:16). It is also a visible expression of an invisible grace. Ancient Christians believed that all of life was a sacrament and thus it could not be limited in number.
Luke 22:20 “And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup which is poured out for you IS the new covenant in My blood.’” The early church knew this was more than mere symbol because of Jesus’ teaching in John 6:53–55:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink.”
Luke 22:21-22 “But behold, the hand of the one betraying Me is with Mine on the table. For indeed, the Son of Man is going as it has been determined; but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!” Another of over 300 prophecies fulfilled (Psalm 41:9).
Luke 22:23 “And they began to discuss among themselves which one of them it might be who was going to do this thing.” What innocence of character must they have had, to not even suspect Judas? They probably already deeply understood that none of them was of perfect character.
Luke 22:24 “And there arose also a dispute among them as to which one of them was regarded to be greatest.” No shocks here; we still witness this between Christians from different nations, regions, and denominations. Ancient writers often ignored chronology, focusing on lesson structure, an appropriate communion lesson!
Luke 22:25 “And He said to them, ‘The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called Benefactors.’” A fault of Church history, lording it over people’s faith, forcing meat down the throats of those only ready for milk, bossy brutality.
One Who Serves
Luke 22:26 “But it is not this way with you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant.” Humility is not fake, but a simple realization that a leader’s job is not to boss, but to serve.
Luke 22:27 “For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves.” Arrogance is NOT godly leadership. God have mercy on our failures.