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Posts Tagged ‘Communion’

Last week we looked at what the Lord’s supper means. Here’s a bit of review as we get started today.

  • The bread is a figurative way of speaking of Jesus’ broken body on the cross. It also points back to the Passover deliverance from slavery. The bread, then, teaches and reminds us that Jesus’ death delivers us from slavery to Sin, Satan and Death.
  • The cup is a figurative way of speaking of Jesus’ blood poured out on the cross. It also points back to the covenant ceremony at Sinai when Israel entered into a new relationship with God, when God forgave their sins and they committed to obey God. The cup, then, teaches and reminds us that Jesus’ death brings us into a new relationship with God. God forgives our sins and we commit to obey God.

So this is the symbolism of the meal.

But the Lord’s supper invites our participation. Think about it, Jesus didn’t say to the disciples look here are tokens of my death on the cross. Put this on a table in front and look at it.

  • Jesus said of the bread, “Take, eat.”
  • And he said of the cup, “Take, drink of it all of you.”

But what are we doing when we accept Jesus’ invitation and participate in the meal? Let’s look briefly at this, this morning, to help prepare us to share in communion together.

1. We remember Jesus

In speaking of his meal, Jesus said twice, “Do this in remembrance of me” – 1 Corinthians 11:24/25. This remembering command is similar to the one from the Passover meal. Exodus 12:14 says, “This day (Passover) shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord.” Just as Israel was told to remember their salvation, so Jesus tells us to remember him – his death for us and the salvation we have through him.

Now, this is not a funeral like remembrance, you know, Jesus is gone and we miss him, and it’s grim and somber. No, Jesus is alive having been raised from the dead and is present with us as we celebrate! He is the true host of his meal.

So, this is a joyful remembrance as we think of his sacrificial love for us, our salvation through him and as we enjoy his presence with us.

2. We renew our baptismal testimony and commitments

In taking the bread we are reaffirming the testimony we made when we were baptized, we have been delivered from our sin, Satan and death, through the death of Jesus on the cross. And as well, in taking the cup we are reaffirming the testimony we gave when we were baptized, we have entered into a new relationship with God.

Also, we are reaffirming the commitments we made to God in baptism. In taking the bread, we are recommitting to leave behind sin and the world; that is we are re-expressing our repentance. And in taking the cup, we are recommitting to “obey everything” that Jesus has commanded us – Matthew 28:20; that is we are re-expressing our commitment to live a new life in Christ.

You see here that the Lord’s supper assumes that you have been baptized (which is why the church has always held that baptism was necessary to receive the bread and cup.) But also take note of this: baptism happens only once, but every time we continue to partake of the Lord’s supper, we renew our original baptismal testimony and commitment. It’s like our baptism once again.

3. We proclaim Jesus’ death

1 Corinthians 11:26 says, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”

As we go through the meal, and the meaning is made clear, it is a presentation of the gospel. We communicate that:

  • Jesus has died for us
  • He didn’t have to die, but freely gave himself in love for us
  • His death brings us salvation – deliverance and new relationship with God
  • If we want this salvation, we have to respond by receiving his body and blood, the benefits of his death on the cross
  • He is still alive, having been raised from the dead and is with us
  • He will return one day with blessing for those who wait for him

As we partake, we proclaim the gospel of Jesus.

4. We publicly show our covenant connection to Jesus

1 Corinthians 10:16 says, “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a partnering with the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a partnering with the body of Christ?”

In the ancient world, to eat with someone was a big deal. And to eat with a god in an idol sacrifice was a big deal. It spoke to a bond with the person or the god. This is the context of our verse in 1 Corinthians 10:16.

What I have translated “partnering with” is a difficult word to translate here. The word is Koinonia. It means sharing in, or fellowshipping with. It’s where we get the word “communion.” Here it has the sense of showing your connection or covenant bond with someone.

Paul is saying, instead of publicly identifying with and connecting with demons through idol meals, we are to show forth our public connection or covenant bond with Jesus through the Lord’s Supper. When we partake, we declare for all to see that Jesus is our Lord and Savior. It is a declaration of allegiance.

5. We publicly show our covenant connection to each other

1 Corinthians 10:17 says, “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.”

Because we are all connected to Jesus, through him we are all connected to each other! And partaking of the bread symbolizes this, that we are one body of Christ.

This is why it is important to make sure our relationships with each other are in good order. Not that there can’t be disagreements or conflict, but that we are doing everything we can, from our end, to live in peace with everyone. Paul talks about this in Romans 12:18 – “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”

And Jesus gives us this general principle of worship in Matthew 5:23-24 – “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.”

6. We offer up a sacrifice of praise to God

One word that is used to speak of the Lord’s Supper is “Eucharist” which means thanksgiving. The Lord’s Supper was often called this in the early church. And that’s because there is thanksgiving to God involved in the Lord’s Supper.

When Jesus took the bread and the cup, he gave thanks for them – Luke 22:19. This thanksgiving is rooted in a simple table blessing of food, but it is more – because Jesus says this bread and cup are not simply food. They represent his death for us. So Jesus teaches us here to give thanks for what this food and drink represent. We give thanks for his death on the cross for us.

Also, just after the Lord’s supper we are told – “when they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives” – Matthew 26:30. During Passover it was traditional to sing from Psalms 113-118. These are praises, or hymns to God for, among other things, deliverance from Egypt, God’s steadfast love, and in Psalm 118:26 the Messiah. So after the meal they were praising God for salvation.

Scripture talks in several places about our praises as a sacrifice that we offer up to God. For instance Psalm 50:14 says, “Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving.” As we partake and give thanks, we offer up to God a sacrifice of praise. (See Hebrews 13:15, which I take as a Lord’s supper reference.)

7. We look forward to the Messianic banquet

This refers to a time of feasting and celebration at the end of the age when God’s victory is established through Jesus and the kingdom of God has come in its fullness. Here are a couple of Scriptures that talk about this:

Isaiah 25:6-8 says, “On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all people a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.”

Revelation 19:9 talks about this meal as “the marriage supper of the Lamb.”

Jesus makes the connection between the Lord’s supper and the Messianic banquet in Matthew 26:29. He said, “I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” So every time we partake, we anticipate the day when we will feast with Jesus in the kingdom of God.

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We are going to be sharing together in the Lord’s Supper next Sunday, Lord willing, and so I want us to look at the Scriptures and remind ourselves what this meal of Jesus means. Today we look at the symbolic meaning of the bread and the cup, and next week I would like for us to look at what it means for us to receive these elements.

 Let’s begin by reading Matthew 26:26-28 –

Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

The first thing we need to note, is that –

The supper symbolically portrays Jesus’ death on the cross

  • He says of the bread – “this is my body” (v. 26). The bread is connected to his body
  • He says of the cup – “this is my blood” (v. 28). The cup is connected to his blood

Now, some Christians take this too literally. They say that the bread and wine turn into Jesus’ real body and blood in one way or another. But Jesus is using figurative language. And the reason we know this, is that Jesus’ body and blood were still a part of him, with the disciples in the room as he spoke. What Jesus is saying is that this bread is a symbol of my body, and this cup is a symbol of my blood.

But the point is not just that these elements represent him, the bread and cup represent his death on the cross. 

  • That the bread is broken as it was distributed to be eaten shows that his body is broken – an image of his death on the cross
  • That the cup is poured out when they drank it shows that his blood is poured out – an image of his death on the cross.

These two elements signify Jesus’ death on the cross.

But there is another layer of meaning that helps us to understand the meaning of the bread and the cup, and thus Jesus’ death on the cross. This comes to us from –

 

The Exodus event

– and how God delivered Israel from Egypt. Jesus himself makes this connection. He intentionally uses the bread and the cup to connect his meal to the Exodus story. Let’s look at how this is so.

First, the bread comes from the Passover meal. Jesus makes it clear that the Last Supper is a Passover meal when he says, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” – Luke 22:15. The Passover was the event that set Israel free, the meal celebrates that deliverance [Mishnah mPes 10.5]

And then the cup is identified by a phrase that comes from the covenant ceremony, from Exodus 24, when Israel entered into covenant with God. Jesus calls the cup the “blood of the covenant” – Matthew 26:28.

So there is a clear connection.

  • The bread not only points us to Jesus on the cross, it also points back to the Passover
  • The cup not only points us to Jesus on the cross, it also points back to the covenant ceremony at Sinai

Let’s look at this in more detail.

When the Exodus story begins, Israel was in slavery without God, afflicted and miserable. But God heard their cries for help and acted to deliver them.

One of the ways he saved them was the the Passover – Exodus 12:6b-7; 11-13  

 . . . the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight. Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it . . .. In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord’s Passover. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.

 What do we learn from the Passover meal? 1) There is a sacrificial death. They were to “kill their lambs” and put the blood on their door frames – 6b. 2) This death brings salvation to Israel. Not only are they not killed by the plague, they are delivered from slavery, misery and death in Egypt. v. 11 says, they are to eat it “with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand” because they will be leaving just after this.

And then we have the covenant ceremonyExodus 24:5-8. This is when Israel entered into covenant with God at Mt Sinai.

And Moses sent young men of the people of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the Lord. And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.”

What do we learn from this covenant ceremony? 1) There is a sacrificial death. They “offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen” – v. 5. 2) This death brings Israel into a new relationship (or covenant) with God. They received from God forgiveness for their sins (Moses took the blood and threw it on the people. Also, Hebrews 9:20-22; and Exodus Targum). And they committed to obey God. “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient” v. 7.  Even though they knew of Yahweh before, they were not in this kind of relationship with him. So this really is a new.

 

meaning-of-the-lords-supper-graphics

Bringing this all together

 When the Exodus story is brought in as a background to the event of Jesus’ death on the cross, we learn several things. First, just as the Israelites were slaves in Egypt, so we are enslaved to Sin, Satan and Death; without Christ we are slaves to these hostile powers, lost in the world. There is a parallel here.

Second, just as they were delivered from slavery, so are we through Christ.

  • In the Passover, there was a sacrificial death (a Passover lamb) and this death brought salvation from slavery.
  • So, Jesus’ death is sacrificial (he is our Passover lamb) and it brings us salvation from slavery to Sin, Satan and Death.

The bread reminds us of this. It points back to the Passover deliverance and forward to Jesus’ death on the cross and makes the connection between the two.

Finally, just as they entered into a relationship with God, so we enter into a new covenant relationship with God.

  • In the covenant ceremony there was a sacrificial death which brought them into a new relationship with God, through the forgiveness of their sins and their commitment to obey God.
  • So, Jesus’ death is sacrificial and it brings us into a new covenant relationship with God in the same way. We are forgiven, as Jesus said, “for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” – Matthew 26:28. And we commit to obey God in baptism, to quote Jesus from Matthew 28:20, “to obey all that I have commanded you.”

The cup reminds us of this. It points back to the covenant ceremony and forward to Jesus’ death on the cross and makes the connection between the two.

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(Lord’s supper devotional)

We are celebrating the Lord’s supper today. And certainly a part of what we are doing is remembering Jesus’ love for us. And that’s because we see his love displayed before us in the bread and cup – a picture of his death on the cross for us.

So as we partake today let’s think a bit more about his love for us. I would like to highlight three things in particular this morning. And I will speak in personal terms.

 1. He loved me, though I did not deserve it

I did nothing to be worthy of his love. I had no claim on him that he had to love me so. Rather, I have shown time and again, that apart from God I am rebellious against God. That is, I want to do things my own way, have control of my own life. And I am also self-centered when it comes to other people. Me first, and others second, if at all. I may not have displayed this very openly, but that was also for my own self-centered reasons.

The fact is that through my words and actions, I have made myself thoroughly unlovable. All of my twisted rebelliousness and self-centeredness made me abhorrent to Jesus, because he is exactly the opposite of these things. He is the picture of love and submission to God and love for others. But I must surely have repelled and disgusted him.

Yet, despite all this, Jesus still cared about me. Jesus still loved me! Indeed, I can say, as Paul does in Galatians 2:20, he “loved me and gave himself for me.” He loved me, though I did not deserve it.

 2. He loved me with actions, not just words

He loved me with deeds, not just inner intentions in his heart, or thoughts in his head.

He saw me in all of my need; my sin and my brokenness. And he did not sit far away, in his place of glory with the Father and say, “Oh sure, I love you. I see your need from here and I’m definitely thinking about you.” He came and he acted for me. He saw me as the revolting, disgusting mess that I was – and he came to help me anyway. He demonstrated his love for me, with real life actions in this world where I live.

3. He loved me sacrificially

When he came – he gave up so very much to help me in my need.

  • He laid aside his glory, which he had from the beginning of time
  • He lowered himself to become a human
  • He humbled himself to serve others
  • He bore the cross – the torture, the injustice, the pain, the shame
  • He died on the cross

And he did all this for me. He loved me sacrificially. Jesus held nothing back.

Do you know this love? It’s there for you too, even though you don’t deserve it. He has acted to help you with your need coming to you. And he has done so sacrificially. He truly does love you. But you need to receive this love. Will you receive his love?

Now the Lord’s supper is not just an encouragement that yes, Jesus loves us. If that’s all it is we could just have the broken bread and the cup up here and look at it. We could put it in a display.

But no. He said of the bread, “take and eat.” He said of the cup, “drink from it all of you.” We are to take this love, his love into us, so that we can then love others, as Jesus has loved us. In other words, the Lord’s supper is also a call for us to embody Jesus’ love for others. This is the challenge of Jesus’ love. To receive it is to commit to give it.

1. We are to love those who don’t deserve it

At times we can be pretty good at loving those we like, and those who are nice to us; those who are like us and don’t bother us.

But Jesus calls us to love precisely those who are not lovable to us. As he said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” – Matthew 5:44. Just like Jesus loved us when we were unlovable, he calls us to love those that we find unlovable – who disgust us. We are to give them the same love that he gave to us

2. We are to love others with deeds, not just words

After talking about Jesus’ love for us, and how he came and died for us, John says, “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” – 1 John 3:18.

Just like Jesus loved us with actions, we are to love others with real deeds, coming to them to help them with their need, where they live. We are to give the same love to them that Jesus gave to us.

3. We are to love others sacrificially

In the same passage, John says this about Jesus’ love, “by this we know love, that he laid down his life for us.” But then he goes on, “and we ought to lay down our lives for the sisters and the brothers. . . ..” – 1 John 3:16. You see the message – he laid down his life for us, we are to lay down our lives for others.

And love is not always easy. The phrase, “laying down your life” means sacrifice. And we need to love not just when it is convenient, or when we get something out of it.

Just as Jesus loved us sacrificially, we are to love others sacrificially. We are to give the same love that he gave to us, to others.

So as you partake today be encouraged by Jesus’ love for you. And as you take in his love receive the challenge, and recommit to give this same love to others.

William Higgins

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Lord’s Supper Devotional

We are celebrating the Lord’s supper today. And as we do we see a picture of Jesus’ death: the bread is broken and the cup is poured out. This is a representation to us of how his body was broken and his blood was poured out on the cross.

So as we remember Jesus’ death this morning I want us to focus in on a question – ‘Where would I be if Jesus hadn’t died for me?’ or ‘Where would you be if Jesus hadn’t died for you?’

For some of us, this is kind of hard – at least to be specific. For instance I began walking with the Lord when I was 14 – that’s when I was baptized and really began to take God seriously. What would my life have been like without this?

Others of us lived long enough in sin to have good idea of what our life would be like without Jesus. So perhaps it’s a bit easier.

This is how we will go about it. First I want us to look at Paul’s life before Christ. Then I want to say a few words about myself. And finally I will invite you to share briefly as well on the question – ‘Where would I be if Jesus hadn’t died for me?’

Paul

Paul was a proud Israelite, a religious scholar and a devoted zealot for the cause of Judaism. In Philippians 3:5-6 he speaks of how he was “circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness, under the law blameless.”

In Galatians 1:13-14 he said, “For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers.”

We see in these verses that he was a person of exquisite credentials with regard to Judaism. He was zealous, so much so that since he felt Jewish Christians were apostates to Judaism he persecuted them. And he was righteous, at least according to one standard.

But even with all this, his credentials, zeal and right behavior, he was going in the wrong direction. So wrong in fact that he found himself opposing God. He was sinning against God.

In 1 Timothy 1:13 he says, “. . . formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent.” This is now looking back at his life from God’s point of view. And then in v. 15  he says, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” And I believe he is specifically talking about himself.

Just like so many people today, he was successful and hard working – but he was working toward the wrong goal.

Without Jesus’ love and death for him he would still have been in this life – zealously going in the wrong direction; fighting God. But Jesus took him and made him an apostle among apostles – and one who did a great work for God.

Myself

Let me say a few words about my own life. If Jesus hadn’t died for me I would still be under the guilt and shame of all my evil deeds. Carrying around this burden or living in denial. I was not a particularly “bad” person outwardly, but I was under the sway of that twisted self-centeredness that all of us are born with, that leads us to sin.

If it wasn’t for Jesus I would be stuck in the brokenness of my flesh; stuck with all of my weaknesses. The Spirit of God wouldn’t have come into my heart and changed me and help me to be different. A specific example would be anger. I was angry  growing up – ready to fight with anyone verbally or otherwise

If Jesus hadn’t died for me, I wouldn’t know God. I wouldn’t have a relationship with God. I don’t know what life would be like without being able to come to God in prayer; without God speaking to me, comforting me and helping me.

If it weren’t for Jesus I would have no hope for the future; that is for a life beyond this one where what God always intended for us will actually come to pass. And not the suffering and evil of this world.

If Jesus’ hadn’t given his life for me, I wouldn’t have a sense of life direction and purpose. This is a big one for me. For instance, if it wasn’t for Jesus calling me, I wouldn’t be up in front of people all the time. If you think I am shy now, you should have seen me before. If I didn’t think this was God’s will, and that God wouldn’t help me, I wouldn’t do it.

Also, if it wasn’t for Jesus, I would never have gone through the schooling that I did – college, seminary and graduate school. I was an average student in high school. I didn’t really care about school. But I did all this, more than I thought I could, because I felt that Jesus wanted me to.

And also, if it wasn’t for Jesus I would not have moved all over the country following after his calling on my life.

I have purpose now. I know what my life is about. And it brings be contentment and joy. And it has eternal value. Without Jesus I wouldn’t have any of this.

Others

And now I invite you to share – ‘Where would you be if Jesus hadn’t died for you?’

William Higgins

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