July 2, 2017
Undivided attention is in short supply these days. I mean it is difficult to have a focused conversation with anyone who has a cell phone or tablet. As soon as a call, a text, or facebook message comes in we have to look at it because it might be important. It might be more important than the conversation I am having with you.
When my boys were in high school every so often I would have reason to go into a class room. I couldn’t believe it. The teacher is talking but students are talking among themselves or getting up to do this or that. How could anyone learn in that kind of setting?
When it comes to spiritual things we struggle to give undivided attention to the Lord, but one thing for sure is that we want the Lord to give his undivided attention to us especially when we have a need. Since the Lord is present everywhere, we can be confident that when we pray he is a close to us as our breath. And the same is true when we come to the Lord’s Table. The Lord Jesus is fully present at his Table to strengthen his people.
I. JESUS IS OUR BREAD OF LIFE. Mt.26:26
Here was Jesus and his disciples gathered around the Passover table. I’m sure most of us remember that at Passover a lamb was killed, roasted, and eaten. When God delivered Israel from slavery in Egypt the blood of the Passover lamb was put on the door frames of each Israelite home so that the first born of every Jewish family would be spared.
In 1Cor.5:7 Paul refers to Jesus as our Passover Lamb. So here’s my question. Why did Jesus take bread and break it and not a leg of lamb? Wouldn’t the lamb be more appropriate to signify his sacrifice on the cross?
Now, I’m glad he took bread, because if we had to cook lamb every month for communion it would be a lot of work. But I don’t believe Jesus was thinking so much about convenience here.
The best answer I could find is that in choosing bread, Jesus was making it clear that he is the final sacrifice for sin. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. No longer would it be necessary to sacrifice lambs on a regular basis. A new day was dawning. Along with this, bread has always been considered to be a staff of life, a staple of diet. Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” When Israel was in the wilderness, everyday God gave them manna, bread from heaven to sustain their lives.
When we think about Jesus we are reminded that he is the Living Bread. He is our daily and eternal source of life. When I was growing up in the church we used to sing a song called Do Lord. “Do Lord, O do Lord, O do remember me.” The verse went like this, “I took Jesus as my Savior. You take him too. I took Jesus as my Savior. You take him too. I took Jesus as my Savior. You take him too. Way beyond the blue.” I don’t know what “way beyond the blue” even means, but if I had a nickel for every time I sang that song I’d be rich!
It’s true that I took Jesus as my Savior, but honestly, every day I am taking Jesus as my Savior. He is the Bread of life. My life depends upon him every day.
But note that Jesus commands his disciples to take the bread. “You take; you eat.” It’s not a “do this or else” kind of command, but grammatically these are imperatives. This is important. In Luke’s gospel, when Jesus breaks the bread he says, “Do this in remembrance of me.” Paul quotes from Luke’s Gospel in 1Cor.11. In Mt. it is “take, eat.”
Now I do not believe that the bread is the actual flesh of Jesus. When Jesus said this, he was present in the flesh with his disciples. So I understand Jesus to say, “This bread means or refers to my body. It is important that you do this. I am the one who gives you life.”
So does this mean that everyone should take the bread and eat? No. The bread on this table is not for everyone. The bread on this table is for those who have embraced Jesus as the Savior, Lord and King that he is. Jesus was talking with those who were already his disciples. They did not become disciples of Jesus by eating the bread. If you are not a follower of Jesus, a believer in Jesus, then eating this bread will do nothing for you. It’s not the bread that we are focused on here. It is Jesus. He is the living bread. He gave his body to empower our bodies with his life. When those who know Jesus eat the bread they are strengthened by Jesus who is fully present at this table.
If you are not a disciple of Jesus I would urge you to refrain from eating. But I would also urge you to embrace Christ as your Savior, Lord, and King. He gives himself to all who will have him.
II. JESUS IS OUR SACRIFICE FOR SIN. Mt.26:27-28
Many think this was the third cup of wine, the cup of redemption, used in the Passover meal. It says that he gave thanks. The word for “give thanks” is eucharisteo, from which we get our word, “Eucharist,” or thanksgiving.
In a similar way, Jesus says, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” What is that all about? In Ex.24:7-8 we read about how the first or old covenant between God and Israel was ratified by the people of Israel. It says, “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.”
In the Old Covenant, God promised to protect and provide for Israel in the Promised Land.” His intention was for Israel to become a kingdom of priests and a light to the nations. Israel promised to obey all that God said. But Israel did not obey. Israel became like the pagan nations around them.
In Jer.31 we read about a new covenant that God would establish. Jeremiah 31:31-34 says, “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more."
After giving thanks for the cup, Jesus said, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” The first covenant was ratified with blood. The new covenant is also ratified with blood, the blood of Jesus in his death on the cross. The new covenant is not based upon the people’s ability to keep the laws of God. The new covenant is based upon God’s forgiveness of our sins through Jesus Christ
As we think about Jesus’ death, John tells us that he is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Paul refers to Jesus as our Passover Lamb. The Passover lamb was not so much about forgiveness of sin as much as it was about rescue from death of the first born, and deliverance from slavery in Egypt. And of course, there is also in the Old Testament reference to the sin offering which involved the sacrifice of a lamb. As the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, Jesus is the Passover lamb that he brings deliverance, salvation from death and slavery to sin, and he is our sin offering who provides forgiveness of sin. Jesus embodies in his death on the cross the significance of these two Old Testament sacrifices.
So, in v.27 Jesus says, “Drink of it, all of you.” Again this is an imperative. This is important. Everyone who desires forgiveness and eternal living must embrace and enter into the significance of this cup. You notice that they all drank from the same cup. There is only one source of salvation and forgiveness. It is Jesus Christ.
We don’t get our sins forgiven by drinking this cup. Drinking this cup implies that we have already embraced Jesus as our Savior, Lord, and King. When believers in Jesus drink the cup at the Lord’s Table, it is an ongoing expression of our ongoing faith in Jesus who died and rose from the dead. We are expressing our dependence upon Jesus for our daily cleansing of sin. His presence here as we drink the cup encourages us with the assurance of sins forgiven.
III. JESUS IS OUR LIVING KING. Mt.26:29
In the Passover meal four cups of wine are drunk. The four cups correspond to the four phrases found in Ex.6:6-7. They are, “I will bring you out; I will deliver you; I will redeem you, and, I will take you. The third cup is connected with redemption and the fourth cup is connected with the idea of God taking Israel to be his own people. It is the cup of consummation.
So in v.29, Jesus forgoes drinking the fourth cup, the cup of consummation. He says he will not drink of wine again until the kingdom of God is fully established at the end of the age. In other words, as followers of Christ, in our daily living we have a forward looking perspective. We are being drawn towards a goal. We don’t live for the moment. We live for the day when we will see the Lord face to face at the marriage supper of the Lamb.
Until that day arrives we live with Christ as our risen, living King. He is our Lord. We seek to be like him as we live our lives on this earth. We seek to be like him because we have his life in us.
The other day someone posted a little video clip of a dad listening to the heart of his deceased daughter. Her heart had been transplanted into someone else. This dad could hear his daughter’s heart beating. Men and woman, as followers of Jesus Christ we have his heart, his life beating in us. How evident is it to others that Christ lives in us?
Here is the interesting thing. While we are looking forward to the consummation of our salvation when the kingdom of God is fully established, even now, as believers we live in the kingdom of God with Christ as our king. We draw our life from Christ. We live according to the commands of Christ. He has put his Holy Spirit in us. Through his Spirit, He is present everywhere. So even though we cannot see Jesus we live under his good rule. We are living as citizens of the kingdom of God even while we live in this world.
So the Lord’s Supper is a wonderful opportunity for us to corporately be reminded of this day that is coming. As we eat the bread and drink the cup in the presence of Jesus, we think about that day when we will see our Savior, Lord and King, face to face. The Lord’s Supper is not just a foretaste of good things to come. The Lord’s Supper is a tasting of the good things that are now here in Jesus Christ. We drink only one cup at the Lord’s Supper. It is the cup of the Lord, showing our dependence upon and our longing for Him. Let us come to the Lord’s Table.