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October 25, 2020 | Doug Sauder
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Friends, even though we can't gather together in person and take part in communion this year on Good Friday, we can still experience this beautiful and holy time of remembrance in our homes during service!
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I love holidays—and yes, I view birthdays and anniversaries as holidays. They’re great, aren’t they? Who doesn’t love time off from work, festive attire, great food, and celebrating with the people we love? From Thanksgiving and Christmas to wedding anniversaries and birthdays, these days often contain some of our most vivid memories. In my house, we not only celebrate our wedding anniversary, but I also like to celebrate the anniversary of the day I met my wife—at a Macaroni Grill on June 23, 2007!
This practice of celebrating major milestone events in one’s personal, national, cultural, or world history isn’t new either. The Bible is actually full of references to various holidays, festivals, and feast days celebrated by the Jews. But have you ever stopped and wondered why we make holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries such an important part of our lives? Why did the Jews have so many feast days and special festivals? What is the point? Well, it’s simple: remembrance. Why do we celebrate anniversaries? So we can look back at the day we met or married the love of our life and remember why we took those vows before God and our loved ones.
Why do we celebrate Independence Day? To remember and appreciate the value of the hard-fought freedom we often take for granted. Why do believers celebrate Christmas? So we never forget the day God made His dwelling among us; to celebrate and thank Him for all He’s done for us and share His great love with the people around us. The point is clear . . . we observe holidays and special milestones so we may never forget what took place on those days and always remember to live in light of these things.
One of the most famous scenes recorded in the gospels was a holiday celebration. In Matthew 26:17–30, Mark 14:12–26, Luke 22:7–39, and John 13:1–17:26, we see Jesus and His disciples gathered together to celebrate, to observe one of the most sacred holidays of the Jewish people: Passover. Why do the Jews celebrate Passover? To remember how God miraculously delivered them from Egypt. At that time, every year, all of the Jews would make the trip to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. It was a seminal moment in their history; one of the most significant milestones of their faith and covenant with God.
Today, we commonly refer to this Passover gathering of Jesus and His disciples as the Last Supper. From the washing of the disciples’ feet, to the prediction of Judas’ betrayal, to the amazing, powerful, and inspiring words of instruction and encouragement from Jesus to His friends in John 13–17, this special night was jam-packed with significant moments of Jesus’ life and ministry. But there is one very special event that took place on this night I truly feel we as the Church have truly taken for granted for a long time. In many ways, we’ve lost the wonder and awe of it through our ritualization of it. I’m referring to the Holy Communion.
Found in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), this first communion—which Jesus implemented through the elements of the Passover Seder—was meant to show the disciples that He was the completion and fulfillment of the Passover. He was the Passover Lamb to be sacrificed for the deliverance of mankind.
Regarding communion, the apostle Paul wrote, “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ In the same way, He took the cup also after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me’” (1 Corinthians 11:23–25 NASB).
So why did Jesus instruct us to do this in remembrance of Him? What does He want us to remember? Well, let’s examine what the two significant elements of communion mean!
1. The Blood
Dating back to the Garden of Eden and the fall of man by the sin of Adam and Eve, God required a blood sacrifice to cover sins (Genesis 3:21; Leviticus 17:11; Hebrews 9:13–10:18). But this was just a temporary solution, a bandage, as the next offense required another sacrifice. This continued every year until “God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin” (Romans 3:25 NLT). And now, “People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood” (Romans 3:25 NLT, emphasis added).
You see, Jesus was God’s permanent answer to the problem of sin. How? By taking upon Himself all sin—past, present, and future—and shedding His blood on the altar of eternity to pay the full penalty. So, we take the cup and drink to remember the blood of the perfect, spotless, sinless Lamb of God that was poured out for our salvation.
2. The Body
During a Passover Seder, the matzoh (unleavened bread) is placed in a bag with three compartments called an echad, which means “one.” One piece is placed into each chamber. The piece placed in the first chamber is never touched, used, or seen. The second one is broken in half at the beginning of the Seder—half of the broken matzoh is placed back in the bag and the other half, called the Afikomen, is placed in a linen cloth. The third piece in the bag is used to eat the elements on the Seder plate.
In Scripture, leaven symbolizes sin, thus bread without yeast represents our holy God. So, when the sinless Christ took the bread, broke it, and said, “Take, eat; this is My body” (Matthew 26:26), He was very clearly telling them He would be broken so that we wouldn’t have to and so we could be made whole! Paul beautifully summarizes the significance of this symbolism in 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV) when he says, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” And God has given us the means to be made “holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time” (Hebrews 10:10 NLT).
When we respond to call of Christ to follow Him, repent of our sins, and receive salvation, we are consecrated—set apart to the Lord. Our debt is paid, our sins are forgiven, and we receive eternal life with God in heaven as well as the indwelling Holy Spirit. We are redeemed and restored in that moment forever, adopted into the family of God as His sons and daughters by the body and blood of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Simple . . . with wonder! We should come to the table every single time with the same wonder and awe we had in our hearts the moment we received Christ, like the wonder of a small child experiencing their first Christmas morning!
As we participate in communion, we should do so in humble, grateful, and reverent remembrance of Christ. We should look back to the cross and remember what Christ accomplished for us. We should be reminded of His great and unconditional love for us. We should be reminded that the penalty Christ paid on the cross was meant for us—it was our body of death that deserved to be broken (Romans 6:23). We should remember that it’s only by the blood of the Lamb that our sins have been washed away (Isaiah 1:18; Revelation 7:14).
But we should also come to the table in celebration! In Christ, we have been given a hope that doesn’t disappoint. We have been given abundant life today and eternal life in heaven—a beautiful present and glorious future. We have been united with Christ, given access to the presence of God, and been given the Holy Spirit to live and dwell with us. We should approach the Lord’s Supper like we would an awesome New Year’s Eve party where we look to the coming year with hopefulness about what’s to come.
Sadly, though, it seems we have lost our wonder for the Lord’s Supper. We have forgotten the depths of what it represents and simply come to the table in habit and routine. Like a renewing of vows, we need to remember why Christ instructed us to do this in remembrance of Him. Let us not take this symbolism for granted.
I pray that the communion bread and cup would provide us with a constant opportunity to remember all that Christ did for us, look forward to all the Father wants to do in and through us, and renew our commitment to obey and honor Him.
I love forward to seeing you at the table!