There is a story told of a little church that had an unusual ritual every Sunday morning. When they sang the Gloria Patri they stood, turned to the right facing a blank white wall and sang. Every Sunday without fail they did this. A newcomer to the church was puzzled by this and asked, “Why do you do this?” No one knew. The only answer they could come up with was, “we’ve always done it this way.” That answer did not satisfy the newcomer. Other people were asked the same question. Finally an elderly man who had gone to church longer than anyone else remembered the reason. It seems that at one time they didn’t have hymnals and the words to this song were painted on the large white wall. Everyone stood, turned to the right facing the wall and sang. Over the years the words faded and the wall was repainted numerous times yet no one remembered the significance for standing and turning toward the wall. Often we lose the real significance of why we do certain things such as partaking of the Lord’s Supper. Just what is the significance of communion for us in the 21st century? We live in a fast-paced technological society where we rush through our days failing to look back at the reasons why. We just go through the motions and go on to something else. We don’t often stop to think about the meaning behind things that are a part of our worship. It’s always been DONE THAT WAY. Can we give an explanation for it? So let’s try to Understand the History of the Lord’s Supper: In Luke chapter 22 the traditional Passover was approaching and Jesus’ disciples had made preparation for the occasion. The Passover was a Jewish festival commemorating their exodus from Egypt. It was repeated annually. The bread and the wine were traditional parts of the Passover. They understood this, but Jesus gave these elements new meaning. In verse 14 he said, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” The reason why this was so important to Him was that He was ready to go to the cross and He was going to use the bread and the wine to explain the significance of what he was about to do on the cross. He used things that they were already familiar with to lead them into a new spiritual dimension. The Passover was under the Old Covenant, but Jesus’ death on the cross seals a New Covenant between God and people. The Old Covenant involved forgiveness of sins through the blood of animal sacrifices. In the New Covenant or agreement between God and man, Jesus, Himself, would become the Lamb of God and die on the cross in place of sinners. John the Baptist who was the forerunner of Jesus, “cried out Behold the Lamb of God which takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29). His blood would be effective in removing the sins of all who placed their faith and trust in Him because He is God. Jesus sacrifice would not have to be repeated over and over again. It would be good for all eternity. Does that not just make you want to stop, close your eyes and say….WOW? It does me. God wasn’t going to change his mind. A sign on an airline executive’s desk in Chicago said, “Don’t bother to agree with me: I’ve already changed my mind.” Thank goodness…God is not like that. Jesus was drawing from their knowledge of the past--the Passover and the old sacrificial system to open up their eyes and understanding of the significance of a new everlasting covenant or agreement. The importance of this particular Passover Last Supper with them is that the time had come for the long awaited New Covenant and Jesus wanted them to understand it. He instituted the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper which we still observe today. He said, “do this in remembrance of me” (v. 19). He retained the emblems off the bread and the wine by giving them a brand new meaning. He said, taking the bread, “this represents my body which was given for you.” He took the cup and said, “this cup is the New Covenant in my blood which is poured out for you.” So, sitting right there in your seat….ask yourself….What is the Significance for Me?: Jesus is saying “every time you take the bread and the cup I want it to remind you of me and of what I did for you.” Sometimes we don’t stop to think about that.At different times we might think of someone who has gone on to be with the Lord--a grandmother, grandfather, etc. You look back at something they gave you or you look at their picture. Some symbol or momento reminds you of this person. I have two things that remind me of my parents with me today…. My favorite pictures of them both…..just looking at their pictures you could not know that they were both Christians, they were Methodists, they were generous person and hard workers. Jesus said, “remember Me--remember my teachings--remember what I did for you on the cross and remember that the New Covenant is for you today.” Just as the Passover was a very significant reminder of their deliverance from slavery in Egypt, so the Lord’s Supper celebrates deliverance and freedom from sin by Christ’s death. Under the Old Covenant people could only approach God through the priests and the sacrificial system. The New Covenant opened up the way to approach God directly. The New Covenant completed the Old Covenant by fulfilling it rather than by doing away with it. The Lord’s Supper is not an empty ritual for us today. We do it in remembrance of what Jesus did for us on the Cross. So, What is included in the New Covenant that we are remembering? What exactly does he want us to remember?
1. Forgiveness from our sins--Ephesians 1:7 “in him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins...”
2. Peace with God--Romans 5:1 “...we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
3. Reconciliation with God--II Corinthians 5:19 “All this is from God who reconciles us to himself through Christ.”
4. Right standing with God--II Corinthians 5:21 “God made himself who had no sin to be sin for us so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
5. Access to God--Ephesians 2:18 “for through Him we have access to the Father.”
6. Liberty and Freedom from the devil’s power in our lives. Gal. 5:1 “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” (Also see Hebrews 2:14).
7. Christ’s intercession for us--Hebrews 5:16 “Let us approach the throne of grace with confidence that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
All of this applies to us today. Sometimes we just take it all for granted. A family moved to a new town and began attending a new church. Four year old Alisha loved the singing and especially the communion service. One day while at the baby-sitters she was eating her favorite lunch of burritos and apple juice. The baby-sitter overheard the little girl doing communion with her lunch. She seemed to have memorized the words pretty well except when it came to the cup. She was heard to say, “and Jesus took the cup and he blessed it and he gave God thanks for it and he said, “Fill it up with Folgers and wake ‘em up.” You know….How we Approach the Communion Table is important: Communion is a means of grace to us. We come into His presence with a thoughtful attitude. In what ways have I been missing the point? In what way am I overlooking the significance of the New Covenant and the benefits that are there for me? Come and receive new cleansing from sin. It is for you. Come and receive peace with God. Come and receive freedom and liberty from the power of sin over your life. Come and receive His healing. Because it is an everlasting covenant, we have hope for our future. As a believer today we observe the Lord’s Supper until he comes again (I Corinthians 11:26). Today come and apply it to yourself and receive the benefits and comfort of it. Let it strengthen your faith as you REMEMBER Christ’s death on the Cross as the Lamb of God.