There are probably more opinions about this question than any other; some keep it whenever they feel like it; some do it daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly; some in the morning, some in the evening; some use wine, some use grape juice; adding my own opinion to the mix will just make it worse. The only way to find a real ANSWER is to ask your Bible, and that’s what I will help you do.
Communion, in the context of eating bread and wine, is only mentioned once in the Bible. That is in 1 Corinthians 10:16; please turn to it in your own Bible. TheSimpleAnswers is about you learning these things for yourself, so you KNOW why you know them, not spoon-feeding you like so many do today.
In that passage, some versions say “the communion of the blood of Christ”. The Online Etymology Dictionary says “communion” comes from the Latin word communionem, which it says means “fellowship, mutual participation, a sharing”. That’s why it is possible to communicate a disease – meaning to share it.
Because of this, many versions, such as the BBE, don’t use the word communion at all, instead translating it into English:
1 Corinthians 10:16 The cup of blessing which we take, does it not give us a part in the blood of Christ? and is not the broken bread a taking part in the body of Christ?
So right up front, notice that the Bible does not call the taking of the bread and wine COMMUNION at all; it says “the cup of blessing” GIVES US A PART (communicates, shares) of the blood of Christ, when it’s translated into plain English like you and I speak. And there is no other place in the Bible that uses this word, so we can’t really say that the Bible speaks of communion at all. Incidentally, it doesn’t speak of the “eucharist” either. At all. However, it does plainly speak of taking the blood and the bread, but under a different name. Read where the first time it is used in the New Testament and see for yourself what exactly Jesus commanded: Luke 22:13-20.
First, notice it was “when the hour was come” (verse 14) that Jesus sat down and gave them these symbols. So there was a DEFINITE HOUR that Jesus had in mind to keep this service, setting us an example!
Second, notice that He COMMANDED them to observe it; He said “This do” (verse 19). So this is not optional, any more than “love thy neighbor as thyself” or “turn the other cheek” are optional. Jesus commanded it! But WHY? For what purpose are we to DO it?
“In remembrance of me”, Jesus went on to say. This was a MEMORIAL – a remembrance of His death. Now how often do you keep a memorial of say, the signing of the declaration of independence? Or of the day of your birth? Do you do it every day? Weekly? Quarterly? Or do you do it on the same DATE every year?
Or look at it a different way; when a spouse dies, the grieving widow(er) always carries a small piece of that grief around with them, every day – but on the day of the spouse’s death, they always take it extra hard because this is the day that COMMEMORATES the day they lost their loved one! One day a year they are reminded with extra bitterness that it was X years ago, TODAY, that their beloved died!
They don’t feel this remorse weekly, quarterly, or monthly; but yearly. But draw no conclusions yet, for there is more evidence to be entered.
WHAT DOES THE BIBLE CALL THIS “LAST SUPPER”?
You’ve already read over the answer, but go ahead and read the parallel version of the story in Matthew 26:26-28. First off, notice that Jesus was in the process of eating the passover meal when this was done. “And as they were eating”, Matthew recorded. Eating what? What did Jesus say they were going to eat in this very room? Read Luke 22:11.
So the PASSOVER is what the Bible called this event when Jesus instituted these symbols – the bread representing His body, and the wine representing His blood. It uses that term over a dozen times, so there can be no doubt. Most people don’t realize that, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise if you know your Bible, for Paul tells us “Christ OUR PASSOVER is sacrificed for us” (1 Corinthians 5:7). So when else would Christ have introduced these new symbols of OUR NEW PASSOVER, except AT the passover meal that the Jews observed every year?
And at what time of day did Jesus eat this passover service, when He gave us the bread and wine as symbols? Matthew 26:20; Mark 14:15-17. And so it was DURING this passover service that the Jews always observed that Jesus gave us these new symbols which REPLACED the Old Testament’s symbols:
Matthew 26:26-28 Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
And now to really grasp what this means, we have to journey to the Old Testament passover service and see what it is that Jesus’ sacrifice replaced!
OLD TESTAMENT PASSOVER
The original passover was the last of the ten plagues God sent on Egypt; you can read the whole story for yourself in Exodus 12. The important facts are that the Hebrew year begins in mid-to-late-March in our calendar (the exact date changes every year), not in midwinter like ours does. And on the tenth day of the first month, called abib, they were told to choose a lamb for the passover, one perfect, without spot or flaws of any kind; this lamb of course represented Jesus, the “lamb of God” (John 1:36), who “did no sin” (1 Peter 2:22), who was to “takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
They were to take this lamb they chose and keep it separate from the flock until the fourteenth day of the month (sometime in our April), and kill it “in the evening” (verse 6); the literal Hebrew reads “between the two evenings”, or more accurately, “between the two darks”, which means between the two levels of darkness – that is, when the sun disappears, and when it is completely dark; as the BBE translates it “put it to death between sundown and dark.”
So if sundown is at 6pm, which it often is that time of year, then Israel was commanded to kill the lamb between 6pm and 7:30pm, when total darkness sets in. It must be noted that God counts days from sunset to sunset, with the evening beginning the day (see Genesis 1:13, Leviticus 23:32). So the lamb was killed at the very beginning of the 14th day of the month, just after sunset began that day.
As soon as it was killed, they took the blood and put it on the doorposts, to protect them from the death angel; then the lamb was roasted, and eaten in haste. Then at midnight the death angel passed through the land of Egypt to punish them for their sins against God, but he passed over every house that had the blood of the lamb on it!
Thus it was called the PASSOVER, because on that day God PASSED OVER Israel and punished only the Egyptians. But now suppose there had been people in Israel who said “well, I want to keep the passover TOMORROW” – why, they wouldn’t have had the blood on their houses on that special night and the death angel would not have spared them!
Exodus 12:14 And THIS DAY shall be unto you for A MEMORIAL; and ye shall keep it a feast to the LORD throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever.
It was THIS DAY – not weekly, or monthly, but THIS SAME DAY, the 14th day of the first month, that Israel was to keep FOREVER, as a memorial of putting the blood of the lamb on the doorposts and eating it’s flesh; just as Jesus commanded us “this do, in remembrance of me” – on that very same day, when He gave us His flesh to eat and His blood to drink!
But suppose there had been some Israelites who wanted to keep it weekly, or quarterly, or in the morning… they were free to do what they wanted! But if they weren’t covered by that blood on the NIGHT God came seeking it, they would have been slain by the death angel along with the Egyptians!
“When I see the blood, I will pass over you”, God says – surely a metaphor for when God sees the blood of Christ on us, He passes over our sins! As Jesus said “this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28). So Jesus REPLACED that lamb, at the SAME ceremony; Jesus and His disciples ate that passover, just as the Israelites had done, and “WHILE they were eating”, He gave them these new symbols!
IS IT NECESSARY FOR SALVATION?
Let’s let Jesus answer.
John 6:53-54 (BBE) Then Jesus said to them, Truly I say to you, If you do not take the flesh of the Son of man for food, and if you do not take his blood for drink, you have no life in you. He who takes my flesh for food and my blood for drink has eternal life: and I will take him up from the dead at the last day.
If you do not take these symbols Jesus gave us, HOW, WHEN, and AS OFTEN AS He commanded us to do it – you have no life in you. You CANNOT be saved, Jesus said, UNLESS you eat His flesh (the bread), and drink His blood (the wine).
WINE OR GRAPE JUICE?
Grape is used to represent blood when He tells Israel “and thou didst drink the pure blood of the grape” (Deuteronomy 32:14) – so that grapes are used to represent the blood of Christ is no surprise. But was it grape juice or wine that we must eat?
As has been proved, this was done in the springtime; so in early April, Jesus drank “of the fruit of the vine” (Luke 22:17-18, 20).
But here is the thing; in April there is not a single grape within a thousand miles of the Middle East. Remember, they had no refrigeration. No way of preserving fresh fruits. And the first – the VERY FIRST grapes ripen in JULY! Over three MONTHS after the passover service! In April, grapes seldom even have LEAVES, much less ripe grapes!
So try this experiment; this October when the last of the grapes come in, buy some organic grapes from the store, and put them in your cellar in an earthenware crock. Come back in April and see what you have – you will find you have wine. You might even find you have a pretty good wine! But after even a couple of days, you will NOT have grape juice anymore, as it will have already started to ferment!
So Jesus used wine. And He told us “DO THIS”; He didn’t say “do something”, or “make something up”, or “do what you want” – He said do THIS, and gave us an EXAMPLE of what, how, and when to do this ceremony without which “we have no life in us”!