This is my message on the Body of Christ for tonight’s Good Friday communion service:
Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:4-6 ESV)
Our Bodies and Flesh
Without Christ, we are so engulfed by sin that Paul refers to our bodies as “a body of sin” in Romans 6:6. Any reference to our body in the Bible is usually meant to encompass all of us, not just the parts of which we are made of, but all of who we are as a person and who we are as a being. And as the verse from Romans and many others say, our bodies are entirely corrupted by sin and do not have a speck of goodness in them, apart from Christ. We are bent and pulled towards sin. We sin because we are sinners.
The Bible also refers to our bodies as flesh and often times the flesh is referred to in a negative sense, talking about anything that is sinful or worldly about us. Paul says nothing good dwells in him, that is in his flesh, Romans 7:18. Flesh is commonly referred to as either skin that covers the body or the stuff of which our bodies are made. It tends to be more of a biological term, than an all-encompassing term of who we are as people. Either way, it is commonly used to describe how our flesh, the substance of which we are made, is corrupted by sin. Sin has corrupted us so deeply that even our biological impulses (our brains, stomachs, and other biological urges) lead us to go after that which is sinful and apart from the will of God.
Christ’s Body and Flesh
However, the same terms that are used for body and for flesh in the New Testament are used concerning Christ. These same terms that we just said were usually connected to sin, were used of Christ. We know that Jesus did not sin, so that must mean that His body and flesh were different from ours. He came as a man so He was like us in every way in that to see Him, He would not be any different from us biologically. But the difference in Christ’s body and flesh is that He was uncorrupted by sin, unstained by the damages left by sin, and was entirely undefiled by having never given into a single temptation. This was possible because He is also God, he is fully God and fully man. Jesus represents what it is to be truly human, to be as God created mankind to be before the Fall. Jesus represents redeemed and corrected humanity or humanity as it was intended.
He does not merely represent and display redeemed and corrected humanity, but He also secured, bought and paid the price to make this possible. Jesus refers to himself as the bread of life in John 6:51 and says that all who will eat this bread, which He says is His flesh will have eternal life. He says earlier in the chapter (John 6:35-36) that to eat this bread, which is His flesh, is to believe in Him. It of course is not a literal eating of His flesh, but a consuming of who He is through faith.
Towards the end of the Gospel of Luke, (Luke 23:50-56), it says that Jesus’ body was laid in the tomb. That same body had just received lashing, beating and scourging beyond imagination. That same body was nailed to a cross. That same body hung on a cross while he slowly suffocated. That same body, not long before all the beatings and the cross, sat with His disciples, took bread, broke it and gave it to His disciples and told them to eat. He said that this bread was his body that was given for them.
Christ’s Body and Flesh in Communion
Jesus gave all that He was, body and flesh, to secure this redemption of His people, of whom we are a part if we have put our faith in Him. In communion we don’t merely remember. In communion we don’t merely reflect on the awful things that Jesus endured for us. We should not simply be moved to sadness over what torture He endured. In communion, we look to the cross and past the cross in awe and praise at the finished and completed work of Christ on our behalf. Through faith, the breaking of His body and the tearing and piercing of His flesh redeems us and makes us truly human and truly alive. Communion literally means unity, fellowship, closeness, accord or agreement. There is so much more going on than merely remembering, we are assured of the unity we have with Christ in the death that He died for us. Through faith in Jesus our body of sin died with Him, and through faith in Him our bodies are resurrected to new life in Him. In this new life we are then made a part of Christ’s body, the church, where we may serve, praise and honor Him. We live out and celebrate that new life as His Body tonight in communion.