Communion Bred And Fruit Of The Vine

Charles J. Aebi

Dear Aebi: "Are there any Biblical principles we can use to determine how we should dispose of the bread and fruit of the vine that are left after communion? (Since it has been 'set apart,' should it be treated in a frivolous way?")

There are four passages that describe the institution of the Lord's supper: Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:15-20; and 1 Corinthians 11:23-25. All four agree on what was done with the bread, and Paul, in 1 Corinthians 11, gives what Jesus did as an example, which we are to follow in our partaking. All four passages say that Jesus (1) took bread, (2) blessed (gave thanks), (3) broke (the bread), (4) gave it to the disciples, and (5) told them it was (the symbol of) His body and commanded them to eat it in memory of Him. All four passages indicate that Jesus gave thanks before He broke the bread and gave it to the disciples (apostles). They do not say exactly how the bread was distributed, nor is anything said about disposing of any bread that might have been left.

Jesus broke the bread at the Passover supper which He celebrated with His apostles. Custom among the Jews did not require a container for the bread; it was passed hand-to-hand around the table. Jesus probably followed the then current custom; exactly how it was done was not important enough for the Holy Spirit to describe it further. The same is true of the fruit of the vine and the manner in which it was served.

Our questioner asks about that which was left over after everyone had partaken of the emblems, and about whether it should be treated in a frivolous way since it has been "set apart." We note that the text does not say it was "set apart," but that Jesus gave thanks for it or blessed it. "Blessed" here means He gave thanks for it, not that he made it especially holy or consecrated it for specialized religious use or "transubstantiated" it. (Transubstantiation is the Catholic idea that the bread, once blessed by a priest for "mass," is sanctified and changed literally into the body of Christ and, thus, is especially holy or sanctified). The same word for "blessed" is used of the bread of the Lord's supper in Matthew 26:26 as is used of the bread and fish in Matthew 14:19 with which Jesus fed the 5,000. The twelve baskets of fragments left over from the multitude's meal were picked up, not because they were holy, but because Jesus did not want to waste it (John 6:12). The fragments were not to be lost or wasted; they were to be kept and used or eaten. Why would not the same thing apply to whatever is left over of bread or fruit of the vine after the Lord's supper has been eaten?

What would be done with these leftovers if they were holy and could not be either eaten or thrown out? Would we have to provide a special place where they could be preserved? Could we have some ceremony over them as they were disposed of? What would be a "frivolous way" to use the leftover bread and fruit of the vine? These questions are not meant to make light of the issue but to cause us to think about it. Perhaps it would be frivolous to give these leftovers to children standing around after the assembly is over, and it might be better to dispose of them privately or keep them for future use. Since this is a matter on which the Scriptures do not specify, it must be left up to our judgment to do what seems appropriate. 2660 Layman Rd., Vincent, OH 45784-5578.


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