What it means to us. What it means to Him
Bill Murphy, January 2021
When God does something ‘special,’ I’ve heard it said that He was really showing out. He certainly did this time… In giving this special message to me! I’m taking none of the credit, for this exciting fresh look is only a closer look at words spoken and events accomplished over two thousand years ago. Nothing in it is new.
I praise and thank Him for allowing me to have this fresh look. The message it gives is not new, nor is it my message – it is His entirely.
As the song says, ‘God is good all the time. All the time, God is good!’ To me, this time, He was especially good!
What we’ve come to refer to by such terms as ‘Holy Week’ is fast approaching. The date of Easter Sunday this year is April 4, 2021.
No doubt there will be many sermons preached on the Church’s observance of Communion. This observance is also referred to as a rite, and observance, a ceremony, a sacrement, a rite or service. By what ever your local assembly calls it, it is something originally instituted by Jesus, and we are instructed to continue the practice. As in other observances, such as baptism, it is a physical expression (or symbol) of a deeply spiritual event. Jesus Himself stated it perfectly when He said we should participate in communion as a physical act of REMEMBRANCE.
The question is: what is it that we’re supposed to be remembering?
Luke and Corinthians both answer that question when they record Jesus as saying, ‘In remembrance of Me.’
The reason this meal is referred to as the ‘last supper’ is because it was the last meal that Jesus shared with His disciples that could be thought of as normal and ordinary. He was about to die on the cross… and nothing in Heaven or Earth would ever be the same again! It was a monumental event… at a monumental time in the history of mankind!
We have national holidays for similar reasons… days set aside to remember specific times and events in history. For many years after World War Two, we celebrated VE Day (Victory In Europe) and VJ Day (Victory In Japan). Those two celebrations are no longer considered to be ‘politically correct,’ and are no longer celebrated. Yet, because it was a pinnacle turning point in the history of our nation, we still remember December 7th, the date on which Pearl Harbor was bombed.
Although VE and VJ days were considered as days of celebration and joy, because they were times of remembering victories… Pearl Harbor Day can never be remembered with joy and with a ‘celebratory’ spirit. It is a day of remembering tremendous sacrifice and great loss of life.
Now, let’s consider our original question. What did Jesus want us to remember today when we receive communion?
Scripture tells us that the broken bread is to remind us of his broken body, and the wine to remind us of his shed blood. This is what we are told to remember as we receive communion… this is the purpose of communion. But we all already know that, don’t we?
Yes, we do. But just like the song ‘Jesus loves me,’ the message never gets old, never wears out, never loses its powerful message!
And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. Matthew 26: 26-28
And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said, Take, eat: this is my body. And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it. And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many. Mark 14: 22-24
And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him. And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer: For I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves: For I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come. And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you. Luke 22:14-20
…The Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come. I Corinthians 11:23-26
I often hear a term used which is interpreted as ‘participating in a rite or ceremony,’ and that term is ‘celebrating’ it… as in celebrating the last supper. Personally, I don’t think ‘celebrating’ is an appropriate word for remembering the horribly painful, brutal, bloody death of our Lord and Savior! We can’t begin to imagine the shame, the pain, the suffering that He went through! Hollywood attempted to show us, but that was only a weak attempt at making us understand. We always thing of Jesus and His strength, faith, steadfast courage and unshakable spirit… yet scripture describes how He agonized over what was about to happen to him! Think about that! Remember it! Now where is you ‘celebration’?
As in most all things, there’s both a ‘what’ and a ‘why.’ We’ve just had a brief and painful look at most of the whats of this last supper. The ‘why’ is no less monumental in its supreme importance to God, to His will, to His plan for mankind, and to each and every one of us… then as well as today!
Two thousand years ago, our calendars changed. Jesus Christ changed more than just our calendars, but everything! Before him, God had a special family of people, people He referred to as ‘His Children.’ This was the Hebrew Nation.
These Hebrew people, living in Jerusalem, in the very shadow of the temple, were not only subject to the laws of God… but also subject to Roman law. They paid taxes to Rome, and Tithes to God in the Temple. And their sins were never completely forgiven. Instead they were atoned for, meaning, they were rolled forward for another year when all of these collected sins were atoned for all over again on the Day of Atonement. A sacrifice was made, and blood was shed, to pay the price for the people’s sins. ‘Church’ was a rather bloody place back then!
But Jesus changed all that!
Jesus came and not only taught us how to live in harmony with one another and with God, but He also preached forgiveness and love… and mercy and grace… faith and hope… and peace and joy. He taught us how to find and to follow the pathway to the very heart of God!
And then, He did something that bewilders and amazes us today. He did something that all the blood of centuries of animals could never do… He paid the price for all sins ever committed before, and all sins committed afterwards. He himself became the sacrifice, dying on the cross, as a final and complete sacrifice, which would remove sin from mankind for once and for all! All that was required of us was to reciprocate… He’d give His life for us but He wants us to give our lives to (and for) Him! He did this for everyone, everyone past and present…everyone who will give up (surrender) their wills unto Him.
Oh yes, then, as even today, there are many who cannot or will not agree to this exchange… and they chose a temporary life on earth over eternal life in heaven. And yet, He suffered and died even for them… even though they reject his unbelievably wonderful ‘deal.’ He did this for me, and He did this for you!
When we remember (like He told us to do) His broken body and the shed precious blood, we shutter in awe, our eyes flood with tears, our knees go weak and we fall to the ground in deep humility, respect, reverence. We worship at His feet. We worship because of what He has done for us. We are to remember His great pain and suffering, which He willingly subjected Himself to, so that we might have eternal life with him!
We are involved in this equation. We are the ‘why’ He did this! We are the why He suffered, bled, and died on the cross. He did it to save our filthy hides, to take the place for all of our sorry sins… Himself to die that WE might live!
Earlier we saw what was in it for Him. But now we’ve seen what’s in it for US. It is all together different… total polar opposites. He got the pain, suffering, and death… but we get the joy, happiness, peace, and life eternal! That second part takes away our tears. That causes us to celebrate! That joy sends us to our feet, our hands lifted in PRAISE! That’s what’s in it for us.
In many restaurants, especially in beach areas, you often see notification signs stating: NO SHIRT. NO SHOES. NO SERVICE. The meaning is clear, their dining in NOT that casual! Dress for the occasion! Four and Five Star Restaurants will probably require a reservation!
Do we need a reservation to partake of the Lord’s Supper, to partake in communion?
Actually, in a very real sense, we do! The ‘reservation’ that is required is that we come to His table in sincere humility, and with an attitude of worship, understanding, and respect for what it means. We need to reserve our hearts, minds, and spirits to come to the table in deep awe and respect. Read what Paul tells us in the book of Corinthians.
“The Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come. Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. I Corinthians 11:24-29
Now, as we stand before the altar, and the loaves and the wine lay before us, this year let’s be honest with ourselves and honest with God… and let’s consider carefully not only what we are remembering, but also why. And let’s consider not only what’s in it for us, but especially, what’s in it for Him!
Isn’t it amazing, that something so separate and diverse as are worship and praise, that they can come together almost as one, in an event so monumental to our very faith! We would miss oh so much to see the one and ignore the other!
It’s also amazing to consider that communion ‘flips the coin’ so to speak. We tend to think that praise brings about worship… but during communion, it’s worship which brings on praise!