It is probably one of the most memorable scenes from the New Testament. For three years they had travelled the width and breadth of Palestine, listening to him teach, watching him heal, marvelling at the miracles that he performed. Sometimes they found what they were looking for and sometimes it came together in a beautiful serendipitous moment, y’all know what serendipitous means? It means an unexpected discovery. When you are looking for your car keys in behind the sofa cushions and you find a twenty-dollar bill, that’s serendipitous, and no it’s never happened to me either.
They had started as followers and then became disciples and then became friends, and now after three years they had gathered for the Passover feast in Jerusalem, something that Jews all over the world long to do, even today. And in the midst of all the laughter and all the festivities Jesus drops a bombshell. He’s been telling them for months now that the time is near, now he tells them the time is here.
How would you feel? Passover was the most festive of all the Jewish celebrations, it would have been the same as being at a private Christmas party and right in the middle of all the festivities you best friend looks at you and says “Oh, by the way I’m going to die tomorrow.” How would you react? That was the setting behind the scripture that was read this morning. And two thousand years later Christians all over the world still celebrate communion, in one form or another. Why?
The scripture that was read earlier was a lead up to the story that we are going to jump into this morning. That story that many people around the world refer to as “The Last Supper”.
Luke 22:19 He took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this to remember me.”
Let’s start with the fact that Communion Leads us to The Past. This is probably the most vitally important component of the communion service, which is the link it gives us with the past.
The main reason that Jesus gave us the communion service and the reason he insisted that we observe it was because he knew how fragile the human memory is. That’s the very same reason that God instituted the sacrament of the Passover for the Jews fifteen hundred years before Jesus was born, so that the children of Israel would always remember how He, God, had delivered them from the Slavery of Egypt.
It’s when we are called upon to look back that we remember. In the years before Dad passed away I would often say, “Do you remember when. . . ?” And that would be enough to spark his memory and he would begin telling me stories of our time fishing together or stories of when I was growing up.
And as we participate in the communion service, as we eat the bread and drink that juice our minds travel back in time 2000 years to reflect on the ultimate sacrifice that God made for us. You do realize that the sacrifice was made for you? Not for someone else or for that vague nebulous “Everybody”, but for you personally?
John 3:16 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
But you know that really doesn’t say it all, does it? The phrase, “He gave his only Son” That doesn’t mean that God said, “here’s my son, you can have him” Jesus came to this earth in the womb of a virgin; he was born in a manger and raised in a carpenter shop. For thirty years the creator of the universe lived as one of his created ones. For thirty years God lived as a mortal in an imperfect world. And in order that he could truly be the ultimate sacrifice for mankind he had to live as we live. I’m sure that there were days that his nose was stuffed up, and days that he felt rotten, and days he didn’t want to get out of bed. But he needed to experience the full realm of the human spectrum, from birth to death if his sacrifice was to be effective.
The gift of Christ however wasn’t enough to assure our salvation. In the Old Testament God had laid down the law and there he outlined the sacrifices that needed to be made when the law was broken. And the penalty for continually breaking God’s law was eternal separation from God. A just God could not go back and change the rules; he couldn’t change the laws and the penalties for breaking the law. But he could pay the price for us, and that’s what he did when he came to this earth.
Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 5:21 For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.
Jesus came to pay the price for each one of us. He died so that we wouldn’t have to.
And it’s when we come to the communion table that we remember that he died for us.
I know that you don’t want to think about it, but this week I’ve had a number of meetings about our Christmas services and Christmas eve services.
Yep, it’s only 80 days until Christmas, 79 days to our Christmas Eve service, 78 days until our Christmas Eve Eve service and less than two months until we launch our Christmas preaching series and have our first Advent reading.
And at Christmas time it is so easy as believers to get caught up in the birth of Christ and to forget that the birth of Christ was a meaningless event without the death of Christ. The nativity scene is never complete without the shadow of the cross.
Now I wouldn’t have been the one to send to die for the sins of the world.
I mean the conversation would have gone a little bit like this, “Denn, we are sending you to earth as God’s Ultimate sacrifice”.
“Ok, I can live with that.”
“Well Denn, that’s the problem but we’ll get to that later. Ok? You will be born in a manger and you will be raised in a carpenter’s shop.”
“No problem, I’d prefer a fishing boat, but a carpenter’s shop is better than a farm.”
“Now Denn, in order for your sacrifice to be effective, you’re going to have to die for the people of earth. Do you have a preference for your death?” “Hmmm. Let’s think now, if I’m going to die for the sins of the world then I’d like to die of old age, preferably in my sleep surrounded by my great great grandchildren.”
If we were honest that’s the way most of us would want to go, comfortably at the end of a long and productive life.
Most of us wouldn’t mind dying for the sins of the world if’n we could do it when and where we wanted. But those weren’t the terms that Jesus came under, he was willing to admit his weakness and fears to God, when he prayed in the garden but then he was willing to say, “But not my will but yours be done.”
And then for me and for you, let’s make it a little more personal, for you and you and you and you. Think about it for each one of you, think about it for each one of us, as a matter of fact think about this.
I want you to focus on the thought that for you and you alone Jesus Christ the Son of God was beaten and cursed and mocked. They pulled his beard out, they humiliated him, they stripped him of his clothes and nailed him to a cross and killed him for your sins, but the story doesn’t end there. They put him in a borrowed grave carved out of the side of the hill, and after three days he rose from the dead. And he did all of that for you, and for you and you and you and you. It is in remembrance of the past that we take part in the communion service.
Let’s continue with the story, Luke 22:18 For I will not drink wine again until the Kingdom of God has come.”
Communion doesn’t just look to the past; Communion Directs us to the Future. Time and time again Jesus points us beyond his crucifixion, beyond his resurrection, beyond his ascension and directs our attention to the Second Advent, that is to say his second coming. And that is where Jesus is directing our attention here. Listen to what Paul writes about the communion service in 1 Corinthians 11:26 For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are announcing the Lord’s death until he comes again.
He is coming again, you do believe, that don’t you?
His second coming is chronicled in depth throughout the New Testament, leaving only one detail conspicuous in its absence and that is the when. We know the “who”, it’s Jesus Christ. We know the “how” he’ll come in the clouds for all to see.
We know the “why”. It’s to gather his church to him, but instead of telling us the when, he tells us in Mark 13:32-33 “However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows. And since you don’t know when that time will come, be on guard! Stay alert!
Communion then does not just direct you to reflect on the past, but it will cause you to focus on the future.
Yes, Jesus did come on that Christmas so many years ago, but the truth is that he is coming again. And while he came humbly last time as a child, born in a manger, this time he will come with a shout and the sound of a trumpet.
When I was a kid, we played hid and seek, do kids still play that? And the person who was it would close their eyes and count to a hundred while the other kids hid and then when the had gotten all the way to a hundred do you remember what they shouted?
Right “Ready or not, here I come” And while the scriptures don’t tell us the exact words that will herald the second coming of our Lord, I’m sure that will be very similar to “Ready or not here I come”
Too many of us have lost the urgency of Christ’s coming. Oh, I’m sure that we all know he’s coming again, I’m sure we all believe that he’s coming again, but somehow, I’m not sure that we are all anxiously awaiting his coming again. I doubt that the average Christian is really waiting with bated breath for his arrival.
I heard a story once that involved H.A. Ironside a noted preacher of yesterday, after speaking in one large church a woman accosted him at the door and demanded, “How dare you do that?” “Do what?” was Ironside’s response. “You prayed ‘come Lord Jesus come’ and that would ruin all my plans” Would it ruin all your plans? If we were real truthful about it this morning how many of us would consider the second coming as an intrusion on our lives and plans.
One of my favorite quotes comes from the French Chemist Pierre Bethelot who made this statement in 1869, “In one hundred years of physical and chemical science, man will know what the atom is. It is our belief that when science reaches this stage, God will come down to earth with His big ring of keys and will say to humanity, ‘Gentlemen, it is closing time.’ ”
As we take communion this morning, I trust that we are looking with anticipation to the return of Jesus Christ.
Luke 22:20 After supper he took another cup of wine and said, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood, which is poured out as a sacrifice for you.
Communion Grounds us in the Present
Let us always remember that no matter how wonderful yesterday was, it is gone. And no matter how rosy tomorrow looks it’s not here yet. As important as Christ’s death and resurrection was 2000 years ago it is worthless unless you are doing something with it today. As important as the return of Christ will be when it happens, you still have to make a decision today for it to impact your life.
Jesus offered himself up as a sacrifice and laid down his life for you 2000 years ago, but it’s only when you claim the power of that sacrifice that you enter into a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Have you ever been given a new car? Maybe as a Christmas gift or birthday present? No? Don’t feel bad neither did I.
But if that had of happened. When you received your gift, you could reflect on the history of that automobile, perhaps thinking back to how long that particular model had been around, marvelling at the different modifications and design changes that had taken place through the years. You could think about how it progressed from a pile of unassembled parts to eventually become the finished product that was displayed on the dealer’s showroom floor.
Or perhaps you would want to speculate what was going to happen to your car in the future, perhaps wondering what it would be worth in forty or fifty years. And how the classic lines of that beauty would cause it to become a sought-after collector’s item. Much like the 1973 Vega I once owned.
But regardless of how noble the past history of your car might be, or how impressive the future of it might be, unless you are willing to drive it today, you are gonna walk. We need to apply our Christianity to our everyday life; Christ has to be a vital part of our today, not just our yesterday and not just our tomorrow.
And that is why the Bible says 2 Corinthians 6:1-2 As God’s partners, we beg you not to accept this marvelous gift of God’s kindness and then ignore it. For God says, “At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.” Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation.
And you know what? He was talking to you. The time is now. As we prepare to celebrate communion today why not do it as a brand-new Christian?
It’s as easy as asking, of confessing to God that you are a sinner and that you need his forgiveness and surrendering your life to him.
If you aren’t sure how that happens or what to say. I’m going to put a prayer up on the screen, and as I’m praying this morning, if you’ve never chose to follow Christ I would encourage you to pray those words. It’s doesn’t have to be out loud; God hears our hearts.
It’s easy to forget. To forget what we are and what we once were. To forget what our destiny was and what our destiny is. Sometimes we forget that our being a Christian has very little to do with us and everything to do with Jesus. Jesus knew how frail human memory could be and so the night before he was crucified, he began a tradition that would last for over two thousand years. But Jesus didn’t just pull something out of thin air, instead he used a celebration that was an integral part of his followers’ lives and that was the celebration of Passover.
Passover had begun a thousand years before when God had delivered the people of Israel from Egypt, and it was given to the Jewish people so they would not forget what God had done for them. So, it was fitting that Jesus would take the bread of affliction which had signified the suffering that Jews had endured and say, “This will now represent the suffering that I will go through for you.” And then he took the wine they were sharing and told them, “This no longer represents the blood of the Passover lamb, now it represents my blood, for I will be your Passover lamb.”
And he told them whenever you do this remember me; remember what I’ve done for you, remember how I’ve changed your life. But what is it that we are supposed to remember? Every Sunday in Churches around the world people take communion in one form or another. And they take it for a variety of reasons. Some do it because they’ve always done it; their church tells them they have to do it and so they do. Others eat the bread and drink the juice or wine because they are afraid of what people will say or think if they don’t. And still other’s do it because, well they really aren’t sure why they are doing it but everyone else around them is doing it.
But there is really only one reason why we should take part in communion. And that is because we are remembering what Jesus did for us. he forgave our sins and gives us eternal life.
Let’s pick up our story in Luke 22:14 where this morning’s scripture reading left off.
Luke 22:14-20 When the time came, Jesus and the apostles sat down together at the table. Jesus said, “I have been very eager to eat this Passover meal with you before my suffering begins. For I tell you now that I won’t eat this meal again until its meaning is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God.” Then he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. Then he said, “Take this and share it among yourselves. For I will not drink wine again until the Kingdom of God has come.” He took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this to remember me.” After supper he took another cup of wine and said, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood, which is poured out as a sacrifice for you.”
Because the sacrament of the Lord’s Table, or Communion was given by Christ himself it needs to be approached with special sacredness, and we can only be properly prepared by having our minds and hearts open to god, and his ways. We need to approach the Lord’s Table knowing that we are living in obedience to God’s will for our lives. Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 11:27-28 So anyone who eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord unworthily is guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. That is why you should examine yourself before eating the bread and drinking the cup.
So, let us pause for a period of silent prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to search our hearts and to bring us into a oneness with the Holy God whom we serve.
As we come together to celebrate communion it is a time to remember what Christ has done for each of us individually. He died for each of us, but that gift only becomes valid when we accept it, and so communion isn’t for everyone, but it is for everyone who calls him Lord, everyone who has accepted His gift of salvation and forgiveness.
It was during the Passover celebration that Jesus broke what was known as the bread of affliction. Toward the end of the meal Christ took a cup of wine and explained how the blood of the Passover lamb had saved the people of Israel, and how the spilling of his blood would cleanse those who accepted him from their sins. And so two thousand years ago, Christ told his disciples, don’t forget me, don’t forget what I’ve done for you, whenever you do this remember me and what I’ve done.
the same night that he was betrayed, he took bread and gave thanks saying “Blessed are you, O Lord, our God, King of the universe who brings forth bread from the earth”
After he had given thanks, he broke the bread and gave it to his disciples saying, “This is my body which I’ve surrendered for you, eat and remember what I’ve done for you”
Let us remember the body of our Lord Jesus Christ that he gave up for each one of us. It was through his sacrifice that we have eternal life. Take and eat with thanksgiving for what he has done for you.
It was after the meal that he took a cup of wine and gave thanks saying “Blessed are you, O Lord, our God, King of the universe, who created the fruit of the vine.”
after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying “This cup represents the new covenant of my blood. Whenever you drink it, remember the cleansing power that my blood has had in your life.”
As we drink let us remember the blood of the lord Jesus that was shed for you, and for your eternal salvation. Whenever you drink it remember that he shed for you and be thankful.