Today is the Lord's Day, Friends - and that means a shorter than normal podcast for us. Rest your ears, wash your hands and enjoy your extra time this Sunday! As a pastor, much of my Saturday is spent getting ready for Sunday, and therefore I try to take it a little easier than normal on the Saturday night podcast. Today we are reading some great Bible passages, though: Exodus 19, Job 37, Luke 22 and 2nd Corinthians 7. In Luke 22, Jesus is with His disciples for their last meal together before the crucifixion. Here is the passage in Luke:
14 When the hour came, he reclined at the table, and the apostles with him. 15 Then he said to them, “I have fervently desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17 Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks, he said, “Take this and share it among yourselves. 18 For I tell you, from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 And he took bread, gave thanks, broke it, gave it to them, and said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”20 In the same way he also took the cup after supper and said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood,which is poured out for you. 21 But look, the hand of the one betraying me is at the table with me. 22 For the Son of Man will go away as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!”23 So they began to argue among themselves which of them it could be who was going to do it.
SO - why are Christians all across the world going to eat crackers or bread and drink the fruit of the vine today during church today? Is it for a tasty snack, which is how young Chase viewed communion in his childhood. Well - tasty grape juice, the crackers were always bitter and odd, and very, very tiny. Is communion a way to break up the monotony from time to time? An act of cannibalism...or something much more?
The practice of communion in the church is so unusual that in the early 200s a Roman writer accused Christians of consuming infants during the worship times - obviously combining the nativity story and the communion element of worship. In fact Hoc Est Corpus Meum - the Latin for ‘This is my body’ which Jesus said at the initial Last Supper is the probable origin for the magical phrase ‘Hocus-pocus’. It shows that people have been confused for years about the practice of Christians taking communion and what exactly it means.
Let's go back a few days to 1st Corinthians and read Paul's explanation of communion:
For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: On the night when He was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took bread, 24 gave thanks, broke it, and said, “This is My body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.” 25 In the same way, after supper He also took the cup and said, “This cup is the new covenant established by My blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.
1st Corinthians 11:23-26
AGAIN - DEATH. Why are Christians so focused on death?? It’s weird and morbid, right? Except, death is the most universal reality we all face, and the most terrifying thing. If you are young, you care little about death, unless it has stolen somebody precious from you. The older you are, the more death has laid its marks on you. On your hair, your beard hair, your body, your knees, your joints, your husbands and wives, your families and friends. The Bible rightly describes death as a terrible enemy, because it is. The worst.
You know why death is so important to Christians if you’ve ever faced it. But - the thing is - when we are focused on the death of Jesus - we are not celebrating in some sort of macabre way that He suffered by having His Body broken and His blood spilled. We are celebrating that HE LOVED US SO MUCH THAT HE WENT THROUGH A HORRIFIC DEATH TO SAVE US FROM GOING THROUGH A HORRIFIC DEATH. We proclaim the Lord’s Death because it SAVES US FROM OUR OWN DEATH!!! Because we’ve died with Him - WE WILL LIVE WITH HIM!! BECAUSE HIS BODY WAS BROKEN - OUR BODIES WILL BE UNBROKEN BECAUSE HIS BLOOD WAS GRUESOMELY POURED OUT - OUR BLOOD WILL BE PRESERVED.
So - why do Christians eat bread and drink the fruit of the vine in church on Sunday mornings? #1 Because Jesus told us to do so in remembrance of the Good news of His death in our place - the gospel. #2 Because it not only helps us remember the good news - and be thankful for it - but it also helps us proclaim it to our families, our children, our friends and to any visitor that shows up. Communion is our way of remembering AND proclaiming the greatest news in history! Allow me to close with some fantastic news - and an incredible insight - from Spurgeon:
And as to our Lord’s going away from us into heaven, it does at first sight have a very sorrowful aspect. We should be glad if He should occupy that chair (on the stage) tonight and say, “Take, eat; this is My body.” Oh, what a happy crowd would you all be who love Him, if He stood in this pulpit tonight and showed you His hands and His feet. We would stand at the posts of His doors for a whole week together to get a sight of Him. If He had His throne in Jerusalem in the present, what pilgrimages would we make if we might but come anywhere near His blessed person, and might kiss the very dust He trod upon! For what a precious Lord was He! Oh, in our times of sorrowing, if we could but once see His face, those dear lustrous eyes that seem to say, “I know your sorrows, for I have felt the same,” that blessed countenance that would speak consolation, though it said not a word, and would say to every mourner, “I will help you. I have borne your burden of old”—would it not be a joy to see Him? Surely I would be glad enough to cease my ministry, and you might be glad enough, however useful you might be, to give up your work as the stars hide their diminished heads when the sun rises.
But, brethren, there is no cause for sorrow...for our sorrow is turned into joy. It is a great gain to us not to have the Saviour here. And do you see how? He said, “If I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you.” Now, it is a nobler thing to have the Spirit of God dwelling in us than it would be to have Jesus Christ dwelling upon earth. For, as I have hinted, if He were on earth we could not all get at Him; He could only be in one place at a time, and how would the poor be able to get where He is? And if He walked through all the world in a natural way, it is only now and then He could come to one place, and so some of us would have to be pining all our lives to see Him. But now the Holy Ghost is here. The Holy Ghost is wherever believers are. “Do you not know that He dwells in us for ever?”
C. H. Spurgeon, Able to the Uttermost: Twenty Gospel Sermons (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2009), 50. Slightly modernized
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