The Lord Gave His Meal . . .
The Lord Gave His Meal
1. For remembrance
2. For forgiveness
3. For proclamation
4. For those prepared
Text: 1 Corinthians 11:23-28
Many years ago, the Lord gave a special meal to his people. It had food just like a regular meal, yet it had special instructions to accompany it. Along with the special instructions came a command. The command was to celebrate that meal in the same way over and over again so that God’s people would never forget what he had done. That special meal was called Passover.
Around 3,500 years ago God gave instructions to Moses that were for all the people. You heard them a few minutes ago in Exodus 12. The people were to roast a firstborn lamb and eat it with better herbs and unleavened bread. They were to take its blood and paint it on their doorposts. Seeing that blood then, the angel would “Pass-over” that house and the family would be delivered from death and doom. So every year after that the people were commanded to continue the Passover celebration. It would be a continual reminder of God’s great love and mercy. It would be a continual reminder that they were God’s people. It would be a continual reminder of all that God had done.
Fast forward 1,500 years. A prophet greater than Moses had come, as promised. He had been preaching and teaching actively for three years. Now the fulfillment of his mission was just hours away. But first, he took time to fulfill another of God’s commands. He celebrated the Passover. He did so with his closest and dearest friends.
As they were eating this meal in the way God had commanded, he stopped. He took unleavened bread. He took wine. He did something very unusual, yet very special. Jesus instituted a new meal. It had regular food like other regular meals. But this new meal also had special instructions to follow and a command to continue doing it. This evening we explore this new meal called the Lord’s Supper, or Communion, and consider its meaning for us today as we look at the apostle Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 11.
Paul is distinct from the disciples in that he was not an eyewitness of what happened in the Upper Room on Maundy Thursday. However, he is also distinct in how he found out about it. Verse 23 says: “For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you.” At some point, likely during his training by Jesus, he was given all the information about what happened.
Here is what happened: “The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you.’” In these words and in the other gospel accounts, it is very clear what is present in the Lord’s Supper. Jesus used plain and simple language and the context demands a plain and simple interpretation. Jesus did not say that the bread and wine are symbols that stand for or represent his body and blood so that only bread and wine are present. Jesus also did not say that the bread and wine change into his body and blood so that only his body and blood are present and no longer bread and wine. Jesus said of each, “This is my body . . . This is my blood.” That is to say that in a miraculous way and beyond our comprehension Jesus’ true body and blood are present together with the bead and wine. We don’t know how or why, except that he is God and because he says so. Thus all four elements are truly received by everyone who participates.
The question is, “Why?” Why institute this new meal? Why offer his body and blood with this bread and wine? Take a look at what Jesus says, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me . . . This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” The Lord Gave His Meal first for remembrance.
When the Israelites would celebrate the Passover year after year, God wanted them to remember the miraculous deliverance he had provided when they were in Egypt. They escaped the angel of death and they were rescued from their slavery.
So God wants us to remember with this special meal. What should we remember? Jesus says, “in remembrance of me.” Remember Jesus! Remember the miraculous deliverance that God has provided for you! Our sins also bring on a plague of death, but far worse than any of the 10 Plagues in Egypt. Our sins earn slavery to sin and Satan and death. Our sins bring eternal death. But Jesus paid for those sins. Jesus died for those sins. As God passed over the Israelites with his punishment in Egypt because of the blood of the Passover lamb, so God now passes over us with his punishment because of the blood of the Lamb of God. When we participate in this special meal, we remember what Jesus has done with his body and blood. The Lord Gave His Meal for remembrance.
That in and of itself is plenty of reason to partake of the Lord’s Supper. But God offers much more than that. Look again at those same words Jesus spoke in verse 25, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.” A covenant is a contract or agreement between two parties. God had made a first contract with the people of Israel on Mt. Sinai shortly after they left Egypt. God told them that if they obeyed him and followed all of his commands, then he would be with them and bless them and be their God. But if they did not obey him and if they turned from him and his ways, then he would leave them and abandon them. Obviously from Scripture, the Israelites did not do so well with that. In fact, they failed miserably as they quickly and repeatedly turned away from the Lord.
But so have we. God also tells us to be perfect and holy just like he is. God also tells us to love him with our whole heart, soul, mind, and spirit. God also tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Yet day after day, we fall so far short of the glory of God. We do things that are reprehensible and despicable. We do things that are horrible and horrific. We do things that we would be embarrassed for others to know. We sin so much we hardly even realize half the sins we commit. We live in a country and a time when our consciences have become so corroded we hardly even take note of the words we say or the things we see or the things we do that God would consider sins. But Israel and we have broken our covenant with God. By contract then, the result for us is death and punishment.
But Jesus has given us a new meal with a new covenant. It’s a different kind of covenant because it is a one-sided covenant or contract. Jesus simply offers us forgiveness and salvation. There is nothing we need to do. There is no way to earn it. Jesus alone is the one who delivers on this covenant. As he says in Matthew 26, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
Here at this meal we lay our sins on Christ and on his cross. Here we turn over all of our wrongs and all of our guilt. Here we come forward repentant and ready to receive. And here Jesus gives. He offers his own true body and blood which were given and shed for us. He allows them to touch our own lips as that extra reminder and assurance that we are forgiven. All are sins are washed away. All our guilt has been removed. The Lord Gave His Meal for forgiveness.
Often, when people think of the Lord’s Supper they think vertically. They think that they are communing with God, that they are participating in his Sacrament, that they are confessing sins and receiving forgiveness. That is true. But that is also incomplete. The Lord’s Supper not only has a vertical aspect to it, but it also has a horizontal aspect to it. Listen to Paul in verse 26: “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he come.”
The choir sang this as the Verse of the Day a few moments ago to highlight another important aspect of this meal. We certainly commune with God as we receive forgiveness. But we do more than just receive. We also proclaim.
When the Israelites participated in the Passover meal they remembered all that God had done. They remembered God’s deliverance. They thanked God for his mercy. But they also were proclaiming. They were proclaiming to their children and family. They were proclaiming to people of other nations and races. They were giving a testimony of their faith and a testimony of what God had done.
So also do we proclaim when we partake of this meal. We proclaim a Savior who suffered and died for our sins. We proclaim a Savior who forgives our sins. We proclaim our unity in faith. We proclaim what God has done—to each other, to our families, to visitors, to the world. The Lord Gave His Meal for proclamation.
In the Old Testament times, the Passover was not for anybody and everybody. Children were to be instructed in the Passover before they would fully participate or lead the Passover meal. Foreigners, or unbelievers, were not to participate in the Passover meal. Circumcision was for everybody. Anyone—child or adult—about to enter God’s family would become circumcised and become part of the family of God. Passover was a meal though that was offered later to those who had been instructed and prepared.
In God’s infinite wisdom, he has done the same for his church today. Jesus has commanded us to do two special things. One is for everyone. Like circumcision, it is for anyone of any age and is the means through which people become part of the family of God. This New Testament parallel to circumcision is called Baptism.
But Jesus has also given us something special like the Passover. Like the Passover, it isn’t for everyone. It is for those who are instructed and prepared and already part of the family of God. As we have seen often this evening, this New Testament parallel to Passover is the Lord’s Supper. Listen to Paul’s instructions in the last two verses: “Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread or drinks of the cup.” Participants are instructed to examine themselves before partaking. They need to be instructed, prepared, and ready. Otherwise, participating unworthily would be sinning directly against Jesus’ body and blood and would bring spiritual harm.
What does examining yourself involve then? It means knowing and believing that Jesus’ true body and blood are present with the bread and wine. It means knowing and believing that you are a sinner. It means truly being repentant and sorry for your sins. It means knowing and believing that Jesus offers and gives forgiveness through this meal.
This is why we offer the Lord’s Supper to members of our church who have been instructed. We don’t know what random visitors know or believe. We don’t know if they understand. We don’t know if they might be prepared. Thus, out of love we ask that they first speak with me and become instructed in the Word and in the Lord’s Supper. You see, The Lord Gave His Meal for those prepared.
Tomorrow we will remember the death of our Savior for our sins. Tomorrow we will worship the crucified Savior and proclaim the forgiveness he won and gives. But we also do so tonight. In a few minutes we will partake of his special meal. Well prepared, we will remember his wondrous work. We will receive his free and full forgiveness. We will proclaim his salvation proudly and publicly. It is a new meal, and it is for you!
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Posted on April 22, 2011, in Church, Sermons and tagged 1 Corinthians, 1 Corinthians 11, Church, Close Communion, Closed Communion, Communion, Last Supper, Lord's Supper, Maundy Thursday, Paul, Real Presence, Sermons. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.