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I don't know about other churches, but in the Catholic church you have communion, in which you receive the body and blood of Christ in the form of bread and wine. Why was bread and wine chosen to represent the body and blood of Christ?

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Just to be clear .. the bread and wine do not represent the body and blood of Christ, they become the body and blood of Christ. It is not a trivial distinction, particularly to Catholics and Orthodox. –  tomjedrz Oct 1 '11 at 19:47
    
@tomjedrz, I think it would be more precise to say the bread and wine do not simply represent the body and blood of Christ. They can truly become the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ and also, in the appearances which remain, continue to signify the body and blood. –  Ben Dunlap Dec 20 '11 at 19:02
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@tomjedrz That belief is not held in most Protestant churches. –  Narnian Feb 7 '13 at 13:31
    
@Narnian - this question is tagged catholicism, however :) –  warren Feb 7 '13 at 14:27
    
@warren Yes, but it seems that statement should still be qualified. –  Narnian Feb 7 '13 at 14:31

3 Answers 3

up vote 10 down vote accepted

One aspect I don't see addressed in other posts is the significance of bread and wine. Yes, it's because that's what Jesus said to do, but he did not merely pick to random substances to represent himself.

Although I would argue that John 6 does not have sacramental overtones in mind per se, we do see Jesus using bread to represent himself. A couple of observations:

  • "Bread" is used as shorthand for the manna given in the wilderness (see v31), as pointed out by the people. Jesus uses this to show them that bread in general, and specifically the True Bread, is given by God
  • Bread was the main sustenance of the day. Food in general is that without which you die. Yet the food itself is a living thing, so either it dies, or you do. In other words, bread in general and the True Bread must give up its life for you to have life
  • Jesus uses bread to contrast something that must be done repeatedly (eating daily), with partaking in him, which is done once (v35). He pushes the metaphor then away from simply eating to security as children of God. Bread is taken repeatedly and still does not prevent death. Likewise, the Jews sacrifices were performed repeatedly, but do not ultimately remove sin. But with Jesus, his one act is sufficient to secure one's place in heaven with him by faith. (see, e.g., v39)
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+1 for this. Q: "Why do we do it?" A: "Because Jesus did it." It's a shallow answer (and I knew that when I posted my answer). Deeper significance is nice to have. –  Richard Aug 26 '11 at 19:43
    
"significance of the bread and wine" What about the wine? (I'll delete this comment when you add to this.) Thanks in advance. –  Richard Aug 26 '11 at 19:44
    
Good question. In this chapter Jesus refers to eating his flesh and drinking his blood, but while his flesh is compared to bread, the blood does not have an explicit correspondence, so I wouldn't be prepared to say that the wine is worked out in this chapter. –  Ray Aug 26 '11 at 20:02
    
The reason the blood is used to wash away our sins is because it's so Holy. I love your answer about the bread and why bread was used. You're so right and your answer to the blood is because Jesus blood was made by the Holy Spirit therefore has the power to wash away sins. –  user3905 Feb 7 '13 at 10:19

Communion with bread and wine is common in most Christian denominations, although it can mean different things to different denominations (see What do different denominations mean when they talk about the Real Presence in the Eucharist?).

The bread and wine are from the Last Supper. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Last_Supper

The Last Supper is the final meal that, according to Christian belief, Jesus shared with his Twelve Apostles in Jerusalem before his crucifixion.2 The Last Supper provides the scriptural basis for the Eucharist, also known as "communion" or "the Lord's Supper".

You can read accounts of the Last Supper in all 4 gospels. (Although John's account of the Last Supper does not directly reference the bread as Christ's body or the blood as Christ's blood as does the other gospels.)

Matthew 26:26-29 (NIV)

26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”

27 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

 

Mark 14:22-25 (NIV)

22 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.”

23 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it.

24 “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them. 25 “Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”

 

Luke 22:19-20 (NIV)

19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.

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Where's John's account? –  El'endia Starman Aug 26 '11 at 14:56
    
I did not see a reference to the body and blood in John's account. Am I missing something in it? –  a_hardin Aug 26 '11 at 15:04
    
Your link has a link to a section of John. I didn't see the communion anywhere in it though. –  El'endia Starman Aug 26 '11 at 15:08
    
I added a note that John's account of the Last Supper doesn't include the communion. –  a_hardin Aug 26 '11 at 15:11
    
That's good. :) –  El'endia Starman Aug 26 '11 at 15:16

This is the analogy that Jesus chose at his last supper.

Matt 26:26-29 (NIV)

26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” 27 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the[b] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

The communion that all believers partake in is based on this.

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