Thursday, April 29, 2010

3 Nephi 18, 20: Jesus teaches different lessons through the sacrament

There are two different instances of Jesus administering the sacrament to people in the Book of Mormon and I recently noticed that the contexts were different and that Jesus used the act to teach different lessons.
1 And it came to pass that Jesus commanded his Disciples that they should bring forth some bread and wine unto him.
2 And while they were gone for bread and wine, he commanded the multitude that they should sit themselves down upon the earth.
3 And when the Disciples had come with bread and wine, he took of the bread and brake and blessed it; and he gave unto the Disciples and commanded that they should eat.
4 And when they had eaten and were filled, he commanded that they should give unto the multitude.
5 And when the multitude had eaten and were filled, he said unto the Disciples: Behold there shall one be ordained among you, and to him will I give power that he shall break bread and bless it and give it unto the people of my church, unto all those who shall believe and be baptized in my name.
6 And this shall ye always observe to do, even as I have done, even as I have broken bread and blessed it and given it unto you.
7 And this shall ye do in remembrance of my body, which I have shown unto you. And it shall be a testimony unto the Father that ye do always remember me. And if ye do always remember me ye shall have my Spirit to be with you.
8 And it came to pass that when he said these words, he commanded his Disciples that they should take of the wine of the cup and drink of it, and that they should also give unto the multitude that they might drink of it.
9 And it came to pass that they did so, and did drink of it and were filled; and they gave unto the multitude, and they did drink, and they were filled.
10 And when the Disciples had done this, Jesus said unto them: Blessed are ye for this thing which ye have done, for this is fulfilling my commandments, and this doth witness unto the Father that ye are willing to do that which I have commanded you.
11 And this shall ye always do to those who repent and are baptized in my name; and ye shall do it in remembrance of my blood, which I have shed for you, that ye may witness unto the Father that ye do always remember me. And if ye do always remember me ye shall have my Spirit to be with you. (3 Nephi 18:1-11, emphasis added)
I learned something very interesting recently from one of the talking heads in the DVD “Reflections of Christ”*. In this incident of the sacrament, Jesus points out that they should eat in remembrance of the body that He had shown unto them. It was noted that here Jesus was making the sacrament a symbol of the tangibleness of the resurrection.

I thought that was very enlightening, since so many times I’ve read through that part and my mind would just assume that Jesus was drawing a comparison to His body that had been “bruised, broken, and torn for us”, creating a symbol of the crucifixion. (And we certainly could take it that way.) But now, I realize than in our sacrament prayers, the words are “that they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son, and witness unto thee” (Mormon 4:3) and there is no mention of the ordeal of crucifixion in this particular prayer. It simply asks us to remember His body, which could suggest two different things for us today. First, it should help us remember the condescension of God, that Christ became mortal for us. Second, it should help us remember that Christ was resurrected and regained His body.

I find this gives an expanded meaning to the sacrament. Not only does it remind us of Christ’s Atonement and death, but it reminds us of His mortal condescension and His resurrection! It symbolically encompasses His whole mission.

Now, interestingly enough, there is this other time when Christ administered the sacrament to the Nephites during His visit. There are some different circumstances, and Christ uses those circumstances to expand on the sacramental symbols.
3 And it came to pass that he brake bread again and blessed it, and gave to the disciples to eat.
4 And when they had eaten he commanded them that they should break bread, and give unto the multitude.
5 And when they had given unto the multitude he also gave them wine to drink, and commanded them that they should give unto the multitude.
6 Now, there had been no bread, neither wine, brought by the disciples, neither by the multitude;
7 But he truly gave unto them bread to eat, and also wine to drink.
8 And he said unto them: He that eateth this bread eateth of my body to his soul; and he that drinketh of this wine drinketh of my blood to his soul; and his soul shall never hunger nor thirst, but shall be filled.
9 Now, when the multitude had all eaten and drunk, behold, they were filled with the Spirit; and they did cry out with one voice, and gave glory to Jesus, whom they both saw and heard. (2 Nephi 20:3-9, emphasis added)
It has always seemed interesting to me that Christ provided the bread and wine miraculously. This is like feeding-the-five-thousand redux, only better. The thing I realized today was that He was using the miraculous providence to draw a comparison for them similar to what He did in the New Testament with His bread of life speech to the Jews; He was strongly tying it to an awareness of the miracle of the manna in the Old Testament. Just like manna came down from heaven, Jesus came down to the Nephites from heaven. Just like the manna miraculously fed the children of Israel, Jesus miraculously provided bread and wine for the Nephites. And just like the manna filled the children of Israel when they were hungry, Jesus promised the Nephites that those who partook ate to their souls and their souls would never hunger or thirst but be filled. This was the promise of satisfying a deep soul-hunger. And we see in verse 9 that this promise was fulfilled; the Nephites were filled with the Spirit and were couldn’t refrain from shouting praises to Jesus.

Jesus used this miracle to teach in a stronger way what the promise of the sacrament was. The first time they were all agog over His resurrected body, so He pointed out how the bread was to remind them of it. The second time, He miraculously provided the bread and wine and while the people were amazed by that, He taught how they would be filled with soul-satisfaction that was just as miraculous as the way the bread and wine was provided. The manna came from heaven, the bread and wine Jesus provided came from heaven, and the Holy Spirit came from heaven. Hunger satisfied, hunger satisfied, and… soul-hunger satisfied.

* I can't say enough good about this DVD. It really helps to bring to life the Savior's visit to the Americas. It makes an excellent Family Home Evening lesson. (Disclosure: I am not associated in any way with the makers of the DVD or those that sell it, and I am not receiving any compensation for this endorsement.)


LeAnn said...

Thanks for sharing the scriptures and your thoughts. It really gave me a different view and I appreciate your thoughts. I too believe that Christ is our Bread and Water and we must seek for him and partake of his offerings.
I have a blog entitled Living Waters; check it out.