Dec10ThuDecember 10, 2015
The Taj Mahal in India is a magnificent mausoleum. Built entirely of white marble, it was commissioned by the Emperor Shah Jehan in memory of his wife, who died suddenly. It took 22 years to complete. Millions of tourists visit this memorial annually in order to see this grand structure the emperor ordered to be built in memory of the woman he loved.
Face on rock
In the Bible God has his people do various things that they might remember:
God is also always calling on his people to remember. Exodus is referred to by some as a theology of remembering. All through the Bible parents are called on to remind their children of God’s mighty acts.
This morning we will do what Christians have been doing for over 2,000 years: the Lord’s Supper.
More than anything else, the Lord’s Supper is a time of remembrance. Twice in two verses told to do this to remember Jesus. It is a memorial. It is a time of calling to mind what Jesus did for us at Calvary. The breaking and eating of the bread symbolizes the breaking of Christ’s body in His sacrifice for sinners. The sharing of the cup symbolizes the shedding of Jesus’ blood as an atonement for sin.
So the primary significance of this meal is to remember the work that Christ accomplished on the cross, in paying for sins and providing salvation according to the promise of the New Covenant. There is nothing magical or mystical or superstitious about it. There is nothing salvific about it. It is testimonial of Jesus giving Himself up for us as well as the establishment of the New Covenant and the forgiveness of sin that comes with it. It testifies to the past, present, and future. It bears on the past as we actively meditate on the gravity and magnitude of Christ’s sacrifice. It bears on the present as we believe afresh, once again proclaiming the Lord’s death. And it bears on the future as we proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes remembering that Christ is indeed returning to judge His enemies, vindicate his saints, and set up his kingdom.
It seems impossible that we can forget so great a salvation but we do! It seems impossible that those who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, and loved with an everlasting love by the eternal Son of God, should forget our gracious Savior, but we do! We are all guilty of this! We forget about Christ! We forget him who never forgets about us! We forget him who pour his blood for our sins. If we are honest, our conscience must confess that it is too often a fault with all of us. He whom should be a permanent occupant in our mind is but a visitor. Does not your conscience say this is so? Do you not find yourselves forgetful of Jesus? Love of worldly things crowds him out, some earthly business engrosses your attention and before you know it, it has been hours, days, weeks before you have really dwelled on Jesus Christ. I think in many ways we have forgotten how to remember. Our days are so full and so busy, our lives are so full of entertainment and self-indulgence, that we have lost the importance of remembering.
So this is a very necessary memorial! Our memory is weak. We are prone to forget. And so we wouldn’t forget him Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper. And, no doubt, knowing how prone we are to forget, Jesus chose a memorial that would involve many of our senses to help us remember – a meal.
Scripture does not tell us how often the Lord’s Supper should be practiced. It simply says, “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup…” It would seem the early church at first practiced it every day in different houses at meal time and it became known as the love feast but as time moved on it moved to once a week for we read in Acts 20:7, “On the first day of the week we came together to break bread.” So the early church varied in its practice but what is plain is that Scripture sets no rule for how often. Some churches do it every week, once a month, once a quarter and once a year! The point is that you do it. The point is that you obey what the Lord says and you practice it. It says, “do this.” That is a command and we dare not disobey.
Jesus tells us twice we are to do this in remembrance of Him. He is to be our focus. As Hebrews 12:2 says we are to fix our eyes on him. I love the words of the hymn, “Be Thou My Vision”:
Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;
naught be all else to me, save that thou art -
thou my best thought, by day or by night;
waking or sleeping, thy presence my light.
The Lord’s Supper is a time to remember the preciousness of Jesus. It is a time to see his beauty. It is a time to remember that all that matters is knowing Jesus Christ.
I also love the words of Philippians 3:8 where Paul writes, “
Paul discovered in Jesus a treasure so rich that he took all his hard-won lifetime achievement awards and junked them in order to have Jesus. Jesus is worth losing everything else for.
So communion is about consciously directing your mind to Jesus and how awesome and wonderful he is and how everything else is junk in comparison to Him. Jesus is invaluable, incomparable and infinitely precious.
On the night before his death, our Lord Jesus gathered with his disciples in the upper room to eat the Passover meal. The Passover was a special meal designed by God to remember the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt. You’ll remember that Israel was in bondage to Egypt for 400 years. God delivered them through a series of plagues that ended with the killing of the firstborn throughout the entire land of Egypt. The only way the children of Israel could protect themselves from the death angel was to kill a lamb, take the blood of the lamb, and put it on the doorpost and lintel, and then they ate the lamb alone with some unleavened bread and herbs.
God instituted the Passover so the people of Israel would remember God as Deliverer, Savior, Redeemer.
So on that night before Jesus death, while the disciples and him are eating the Passover meal, Jesus took that meal and transformed it into something new, something better. HE took the cup and said this is my blood. He took the bread and said this is my body.
So now we don’t look back to Egypt, we look back to Calvary. We don’t look to the blood on the doorpost, we go back to the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the cross.
Just as the Passover festival was to be celebrated as a memorial to the exodus redemption, so the Lord’s Supper is to be a perpetual reminder of the new and greater exodus by which all sinners could find release from sin’s bondage and deliverance into new and everlasting life.
“Body” and “blood” are vivid words that bring to mind suffering and pain. When we take the elements of the Lord’s Supper, we are to remember that Jesus Christ suffered horribly for us to save us from our sins.
However we are not saved from our sins because Jesus was mocked or rejected or had nails driven through his body.
We are saved from our sins by faith in Jesus because He bore God’s wrathful judgment for our sin. What happened at the cross was not about the cross but the wrath due your sin and mine being thrust upon Jesus.
Romans 8:38 says “God spared not his Son.”
Isaiah 53:10 says, “
It did not please God to cause his Son to suffer. It pleased him that His suffering fulfilled His great purpose of providing redemption for us. It pleased him that the greater good of Jesus suffering is sin being forgiven and sinners redeemed and ultimately glorified.
This is why Jesus cried out, “My God, My God why have your forsaken me?” Christ felt the pains of hell. Jesus was forsaken for your sin and mine so we would never be forsaken. It was more for Christ to suffer one hour than for us to have suffered forever.
Christ drank down the full cup of God’s wrath and cried out it is finished!
There was no law to coerce him, no force to compel him. He willingly offered up his life.
John 10:17 says, “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.”
Hebrews 12:2 says Jesus, “for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame…”
This is amazing – Jesus willingly endured the cross for the joy of what lay beyond the cross, namely, the joy of being exalted to God’s right hand in the assembly of a redeemed people. His joy is in his exaltation and our redemption. His joy is in his inheritance –
Isaiah 53:10-12: Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. 11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.
“For you” in v. 24 reminds us that Jesus did what he did and suffered what He did because he loved us. He didn’t do it for his own sake. He did it for you. Everything he did was for you Christian. All the suffering and anguish was for you. The cross is the supreme message of love. It is love without parallel. Jesus left the glories of heaven, passed by angels, took on flesh, became a servant, was wounded and beaten and murdered and drank God’s wrath that you and I might be healed and given eternal life and know the mercy and love of God.
This is wonderful. Christian, the God of everlasting love has dedicated himself to loving you, to helping you enjoy His love and to enter deeper into his love.
So during communion we remember his love and we remember that he loved us while we were quite unlovable and unworthy.
As wonderful as all of this is it just keeps getting better for the Lord’s Supper reminds us of Jesus victory. He did not stay dead. He rose from the dead and is now alive forevermore and has the keys of death and hades. He is coming again (v. 26)!
John 14:1-3 says, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”
These verses have been badly misunderstood by Christians. Jesus is not saying he is going to heaven to create a place for believers there. Heaven was created long ago and plus I am pretty sure it doesn’t take Jesus 2000 years to build heaven since he created the entire universe and everything in it in six days. Rather what Jesus means is that his death, burial and resurrection prepared the place and so when he returns he will take us to himself that we might be with him and reign with him forever!
So the Lord’s Supper looks forward to fellowship with Jesus and His people in the kingdom. It reminds us this world is not our home and our hope is not in this world but in the person of Jesus Christ.
The church at Corinth was a divided church – 1 Cor. 1:10-13.
Not surprisingly, this division spread to the practice of the Lord’s Supper – 1 Cor. 11:17-22.
This is terrible! The Lord’s Supper is an expression of the unity of the church and what they were doing was acting selfishly and divisively! They were in fact by their actions despising the church of God!
The Lord’s Supper is not some ritual. It is a call to love. It is an indictment of lovelessness. It is an indictment of divisiveness. It is a call to unity. 5x in 1 Cor. 11 Paul speaks of the church coming together – v. 17, 18, 20, 33, 34.
See also 1 Cor. 10:16-17
The Lord’s Supper is a testament to the unity of the church.
This also means that the Lord’s Supper is not for unbelievers. It is for the gathered family of Jesus Christ. Unbelievers may be present – indeed, we welcome them to be present – there is nothing secretive about the Lord’s Supper. It is done in public. It is proclamation, not privacy.
Biblically, “Remember” does not mean to merely recollect. It isn’t just, “Oh yeah, I remember that.”
Biblically it means to include resultant action as well. It is not just recalling but recalling in a way that affects one’s present feeling, thought or action. It means to live in the present in the light of God’s past actions. No. It’s to reach back there to that event and pull it all up into the present so that I’m living in the conscious presence of Jesus Christ.
So remembering the Lord’s death is more than simply recalling a historical fact – it is remembering in a way that should fill us with deep and abounding thankfulness. It should set our hearts to singing. It should make us want to praise him with loud praises! It should fill our hearts with joy as we see how God perfectly and providentially orders all things to their determined and perfect end – even sin! Remembering should lead us to live holy and righteous lives because who after all wants to sin when it is that very sin which caused my Lord such suffering?
It should also fill our hearts with hope! Jesus has defeated our greatest enemy and is one day coming again! Lamentations 3:21 says, “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope.”
So in conclusion consider:
Am I really saved? Is Jesus my Savior?
Am I clean before Him today? Are there hidden things in your life that need to be dealt with this morning? Is there any problem between you and another believer?
Am I focused? Are my thoughts centered on Jesus?