The Reading: Exodus 25:23-30
“… set the bread of the Presence on the table” (v.30) RSV
What could be a clearer indication of the bread of Communion than this Old Testament symbol of the “bread of the Presence” (v.30) or Showbread (e.g. 2 Chronicles 13:11)?
Every Sabbath twelve fresh loaves were prepared for the table; they were placed in two rows of six, and the previous twelve were eaten. Surely the significance of this ritual was that the bread is made holy by the presence of God, and is then consumed by Aaron and his sons (representing the people of God), so that they may become partakers of the divine nature.
John appears to refer to this process of divinisation in his account of the Feeding of the 5000. He records Jesus as saying: “I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh” (John 6:51). There is no doubt that the very life blood of God flows into us through the symbolic bread.
And symbolic it is. However high its significance, however holy, and however much a means of grace, it is not in itself the Presence of God. There is no magic here. It has not changed irresistibly into ‘God’! It remains bread, and yet when eaten in faith it truly conveys the Presence of God.
Did not Jesus himself illustrate this point when he cited the occasion when David and his men were hungry in the desert, “Have you not read what David did, when hungry, and those who were with him; how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for him to eat …” (Matthew 12:3-4). He was arguing with the Pharisees that rituals, however important, are only relative and may sometimes be broken. The Bread would have been to David and his men ordinary, not divine; it was still bread!
The bread of the Presence was a wonderful foreshadowing of the gift of the Bread of Communion that we have today.
May I truly receive you, O Lord, and your life when I receive your word and eat the Bread of Communion.
1 Read about David eating the Bread of the Presence
2 See Paul warning against eating the Holy Bread unworthily