The Lord's Table--Still Good News
AFBC 2000 07 02
Scripture Reading Mark 14:12-26
12 ¦ On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus' disciples asked him, "Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?" 13 So he sent two of his disciples, telling them, "Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. 14 Say to the owner of the house he enters, 'The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?' 15 He will show you a large upper room, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there." 16 The disciples left, went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover. 17 When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. 18 While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, "I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me--one who is eating with me." 19 They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, "Surely not I?" 20 "It is one of the Twelve," he replied, "one who dips bread into the bowl with me. 21 The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born." 22 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take it; this is my body." 23 Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it. 24 "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many," he said to them. 25 "I tell you the truth, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God." 26 When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
The institution of the Lord's table provided some very positive new information for the disciples. True, they learned to their sorrow that one of their number would betray their Lord, but they also were given some good news: a new example, a new interpretation, a new covenant, and a new hope.
II Good News
They say reporters should always include the who-what-where-when-why of a news story. Cover the essentials first, then expand on the story details later in the paragraphs that the editor might cut, or the preacher might not get to if he runs low on time.
The Lord's table was instituted by Jesus Christ. This is a remarkable act, for it involves such a change to the Passover celebration they were celebrating at the time that it replaced that venerable ceremony.
Why is this important? The significance of Passover is found in Exodus 12
1 ¦ The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, 2 "This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. 3 Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. 4 If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbour, having taken into account the number of people there are. You are to determine the amount of lamb needed in accordance with what each person will eat. 5 The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. 6 Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the people of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. 7 Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the door-frames of the houses where they eat the lambs. 8 That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. 9 Do not eat the meat raw or cooked in water, but roast it over the fire--head, legs and inner parts. 10 Do not leave any of it till morning; if some is left till morning, you must burn it. 11 This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the LORD's Passover. 12 "On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every first-born--both men and animals--and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD. 13 The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt. 14 "This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD--a lasting ordinance. 15 For seven days you are to eat bread made without yeast. On the first day remove the yeast from your houses, for whoever eats anything with yeast in it from the first day until the seventh must be cut off from Israel. 16 On the first day hold a sacred assembly, and another one on the seventh day. Do no work at all on these days, except to prepare food for everyone to eat--that is all you may do. 17 "Celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread, because it was on this very day that I brought your divisions out of Egypt. Celebrate this day as a lasting ordinance for the generations to come.
Four times the LORD invokes his own name in this series of commands, as he establishes what is supposed to be a lasting ordinance for his people for the generations to come. The LORD, the I AM, the great and holy God, the unchanging one, who lays down commands that must be obeyed forever, decreed by his own holy name this ceremony to be an unchanging remembrance of the deliverance of his people from their oppressors by his strong and mighty hand. It was the LORD who chose a people, determined to redeem them, and then did so in a spectacular, miraculous, and unexpected way. Their deliverance from Egypt was by no merit of their own, but simply because God had promised to make himself a people out of the descendents of Abraham, his friend and follower, and in God's good will and purpose, the right time had come to accomplish that plan.
But wait, if it is the LORD God Almighty who decrees this unchanging ceremony, who is this person Jesus Christ who authoritatively changes it, who metamorphoses it into a new ritual and announces a new covenant associated with it? Cannot only the LORD God make such a change? Of course, and this is one of the less subtle of many reminders of the divine nature and authority of Christ.
Other Examples of Christ's Divine authority:
i) He taught with authority, even in the temple of God
- Matt 7:28-29 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.
Matt 21: 23-27 Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. "By what authority are you doing these things?" they asked. "And who gave you this authority?" Jesus replied, "I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. John's baptism--where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or from men?" They discussed it among themselves and said, "If we say, 'From heaven', he will ask, 'Then why didn't you believe him?' But if we say, 'From men' --we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet." So they answered Jesus, "We don't know." Then he said, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.
ii) He was recognized as directing supernatural powers and healing with authority:
Matt 8: 8-9 The centurion replied, "Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, 'Go,' and he goes; and that one, 'Come,' and he comes. I say to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it."
iii) His healing with authority demonstrated his authority to forgive sin
Matt 9: 2-8 Some men brought to him a paralytic, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven." At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, "This fellow is blaspheming!" Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, "Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up and walk'? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins...." Then he said to the paralytic, "Get up, take your mat and go home." And the man got up and went home. When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to men.
iv) He claimed to have all authority
Matt 28: 16-20 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
and, here in our passage in Luke, he exerts authority over the LORDs Passover and the LORD's covenants with his people. This Jesus Christ is no mere man; he has all the authority of the Most High, the Holy One of Israel. Though fully a man, he is in fact, as many New Testament passages much more blunt than this one indicate, of the same nature and substance as Almighty God, equally divine, and equally authoritative.
When he speaks, we must heed him. He has authority over us.
The Lord's table is a simple ceremony, one of many simple but eloquent word pictures the Bible uses to teach profound and important truths to people like me who are slow to learn and thick of understanding. Note that Jesus speaks of the emblems as representing his own body and blood. This is because, just like the Passover, the Lord's Table is intended to be a remembrance, a memorial, a reminder of a great redemptive event. 1Sa 7:12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebeneezer, saying, "Thus far has the LORD helped us." The Lord's table is an Ebeneezer, if you will, a monument of reminder of the Lord's help.
As the Passover was to rivet the attention of the Lord's people on their deliverance from Egypt, so the Lord's table is intended to rivet our attention on an even greater redemptive event, of which the exodus from Egypt, despite its own importance was itself a word picture or foretelling. In this case, the emblems of Christ's body and blood remind us of the cross, and Christ's sacrifice there for sin. He died so that God could count all who trust in him and his redeeming death on the cross as having had the penalty for sin paid by Christ, and having Christ's righteousness also applied to our accounts. God leads a people out of sin and into saving faith, then he marks their sin account "Paid in Full" and their righteousness account "see the entry for My Son." Again we could ask, what man could do this? Live in perfect righteousness to satisfy the demands of the law for himself and to be a perfect sacrifice, the lamb of God slain for sin? The answer: only God himself, made flesh in human form could apply his righteousness and death to free us, for all other humans are themselves sinners, incapable of rescuing themselves from the wrath of God for sin, let alone anyone else.
The bread, Christ's body in metaphor, reminds us that all who have truly partaken of his body, that is, have had his death on the cross applied to them, are his people forever. As he said in John 6 : 32 -36 "I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." "Sir," they said, "from now on give us this bread." Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe.
6:45-58 It is written in the Prophets: 'They will all be taught by God.' Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me. No-one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live for ever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live for ever."
Note how in this passage one participates in the bread of heaven by doing as the father wills, and that consists of believing in the one he has sent. Thus, all who believe in him and accept his death on the cross as applying to them obediently partake of the bread of heaven and receive eternal life.
The grape juice, Christ's blood in metaphor, speaks eloquently of his death on the cross, scourged, crowned with thorns, torn by nails, and later his side pierced, his blood spilling on the ground. Le 17:11 For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one's life. Christ's life-blood actually achieved the salvation to which all the blood of sacrificed animals merely looked forward or prefigured.
It is worth noting in summary here (in the manner of the book of Hebrews) that when we compare The Lord's Table and the redemption it celebrates with the Passover and the Exodus it celebrates:
- - the deliverance is a much greater, more significant, event,
- - the redemption involved is permanent rather than temporary,
- - the application is to all peoples, not just to one,
- - the redeemed are equally unworthy sinners unable to redeem themselves,
- - the redeemer is the same God, now revealed in the person of Christ,
- - the redemption is effected on the basis of God's sovereign grace, not merit.
The original Lord's table was conducted in a gathering of the disciples in the upper room of a home in Jerusalem--arranged in a somewhat cloak-and-dagger fashion, probably because of the need to finish there before Judas betrayed. Today, God's people are called on to celebrate it
I Cor 10:33 ...when you come together ... That is, context, rather than physical location is important.
NOTE: Ex 12:48 An alien living among you who wants to celebrate the LORD's Passover must have all the males in his household circumcised; then he may take part like one born in the land. No uncircumcised male may eat of it.
That is, the Passover could only be celebrated by those who were under the covenant. The context of the Lord's table makes it clear that it can only be celebrated in the gathering of the redeemed, and no where else. Others may watch, but they dare not take part, lest the Lord be angry with them for acting out a lie by saying by the picture that they are one of his redeemed people when they are not.
Also, the Passover emphasized family fellowship, and so does the Lord's Table. 1Co 10:21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord's table and the table of demons.
This bread and cup are pictures of the body of Christ.
1Co 10:16 Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?
So important is discerning this fellowship, this body of Christ (used in the sense of the Church) that Paul also says:
1 Co 11: 28-29 A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognising the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.
This is one reason a person should be baptized before participating in the Lord's Table. Though not an absolute or legal requirement (for salvation or to participate in the Lord's Table), Baptism is also a public declaration and word-picture re-enactment of salvation (buried and raised in Christ) and if a person is unwilling, unable, or unready to be baptized, they are surely not ready to be acting out the salvation Christ has given them in this other word picture, the Lord's table. How can one who has not in public declared themselves a part of the body recognize that body in the people around? Before enacting a weekly declaration that you do recognize the body of Christ by being a member of it yourself, it surely is necessary to make the more public and more individual declaration that you belong to Christ and are ready to be a part of his body, the Church, by following his command to be baptized.
Exodus 121 ¦ The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, 2 "This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year.
Here, we see that the Passover was so momentous an event it triggered a change in the calendar. It is so with us as well. The calendar of years began anew with the incarnation of Christ, though the date was calculated a little off, which is why, even if dates were important (which they're not particularly) nothing happened on January 1, 2000--it wasn't the beginning of the second millennium from Christ's birth, anyway, and the Bible does not guarantee any particular date for the next event of God's timetable.
A more important reckoning of a new calendar by The Lord's table is that life begins anew for the person who accepts Christ as saviour. The person starts life over again, and nothing before that counts for much, whether of good or bad. So momentous is this new reckoning of days for the believer, that we are said to be "born again". I.e. we have a new-birthday that we mark, only we celebrate it more often.
As for when we ought to celebrate the Lord's table ourselves, we have:
Ac 20:7 On the first day of the week we came together to break bread.
and 1Cor 11:26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. The word "whenever" there is sometimes translated "as often" and it does suggest that the believers frequently celebrated the Lord's Table. Indeed, it would appear that the early believers did so daily.
And why do we need to regularly act out a repetitive, ceremonial reminder of all this?
1. Because we're a forgetful bunch of sinners, that's why. Without a constant reminder of what God has done for us, we would take him for granted, or forget the depths of sin he has rescued us from and what he has done for us in our new life. Psalm 103:2-5 says: Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits-- who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.
We gather around this table "lest we forget" i.e in order to remember.
2. 1Cor 11:26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. There is a gospel message delivered when we proclaim the Lord's death, and a careful explanation of what we're doing is a witness to the gospel that Christ died for sinners, of whom I am chief . Moreover, we do it "until he comes" so there also is a looking forward, a proclamation of the day of Christ's return.
3. 1Cor 11:23-24 23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: 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; do this in remembrance of me." Besides remembrance, this gives perhaps the most important reason of all--The Lord's Table is enacted at the request, indeed the command of Jesus Christ. It is not optional for the church, but required. There is a concept here that is all too often ignored--that of the Lordship of Christ. He is lord of the universe he created, lord of heaven, lord of the church, and lord of each individual he has redeemed. He has all authority, nothing excepted except for the person of God the Father, to whom he voluntarily submits himself though equal with him.
One does not "make" Christ Lord of one's life, he already is. Better to stress the importance of acknowledging him as Lord in all that we think, and say and do. One piece of the puzzle is this celebrating the Lord's Table, by his command.
And, not only ought the Church to provide the opportunity to obey, but individual believers are obliged to be here when it is done.
Here we see again the requirement to be an active part of the church when it assembles for prayer, worship, and to remember Christ.
Now, having covered the basics, let us expand on the content of the good news. What were some of the things the disciples received on our behalf?
III A new example,
On that fateful last night before the crucifixion, and in connection with the founding of the Lord's Table, we also find this incident:
3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel round his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped round him. 6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?" 7 Jesus replied, "You do not realise now what I am doing, but later you will understand." 8 "No," said Peter, "you shall never wash my feet." Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no part with me." 9 "Then, Lord," Simon Peter replied, "not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!" 10 Jesus answered, "A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you." 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean. 12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. "Do you understand what I have done for you?" he asked them. 13 "You call me 'Teacher' and 'Lord', and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
This is a critical passage in understanding what it means to provide example and leadership in the church. So are the ones where Jesus answers his disciples when they argue about being the greatest in the kingdom, and he says Lu 9:48 For he who is least among you all--he is the greatest." We need to associate service with the Lord's Table, keeping in mind that it reveals Christ as the servant of all--the one who went to the cross to die for the sins of others so that we could become reconciled with God. Would we follow him? Our lot is not to be great but to serve. Church leaders do not hold office to advance their own agenda, to do as they wish, to gain followers for themselves, or to impose their will on the church. Church leadership is never about self, it is always about others. They hold office
1. to serve as examples of Christ in offering unconditional and absolute forgiveness, gentle and loving care, and dealing with sin in their own lives and that of others,
2. to do as their Lord commands with respect to shepherding his sheep preaching his word, making disciples, and otherwise helping the people of God to follow him,
3. to serve the people of the church, also as the lord commands.
IV A new interpretation
We often find ourselves being shown new things about the Old Testament when its prophecies and pictures are fulfilled in the New Testament.
The Exodus 12 passage has
12 "On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every first-born--both men and animals--and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD. 13 The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you.
The blood of the sacrificed Lamb was a sign for an angry God, come in judgement, that certain households could be passed over and spared that judgement. They were "under the blood" and would not have to pay the penalty for sin themselves, because it had been paid for by the lamb. But the lamb had to be sacrificed every year; its blood did not give permanent freedom from judgement. Moreover, the tabernacle and temple priests had to sacrifice animals every morning and every evening as part of the same ritual reminder that sin demands death. No sinner can come into the holy presence of God-who-is-life.
Now, near the beginning of the Apostle John's Gospel, we have John the Baptist twice proclaim:
Joh 1:29 The next day John saw Jesus coming towards him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
Joh 1:36 When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, "Look, the Lamb of God!"
That is, Christ is the true and perfect Lamb, provided by God not just as a temporary covering for sin, or a foreshadowing of its forgiveness, but in order to take sin away from us entirely.
Hebrews 9: 25-28 puts it this way in speaking of Christ Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.
Also see: 1Pe 3:18 For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.
You see? The repetitive sacrifices were temporary in effect, limited in application, foreshadowing in purpose, and repetitive to remind the worshippers of these principles. But Christ's sacrifice is permanent in effect, unlimited for those who trust in him, the finality of which the others were shadows, and it needs never be repeated. We poor, forgetful sinners still require the reminder, so we have Baptism and the Lord's Table, but these are symbolic re-enactments, they are not new sacrifices each time they are performed. There is no more need for sacrifices. Christ finished and perfected all that.
V A new covenant
In the passages on the establishment of the Lord's Table, we are told that it involves a new covenant. In the scriptures, a covenant is an agreement, entered into by God, to establish a people for himself. He selected Abraham and swore a covenant to him for his descendents, that among other things would see all nations blessed through one of them fulfilled in Christ). Later he gave covenants to Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, and Solomon to the same effect. The one who would bless and redeem would come from their family. In return, he asked them and theirs to serve him, and many of them did.
Now, we have the fulfilment of all those promises, and of another one:
Jer 31: 31 "The time is coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them," declares the LORD. "This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares the LORD. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbour, or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest," declares the LORD. "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more."
God promised to dwell, under in new convenant, not in some special way like fire and smoke within a temple or tabernacle structure, but in the person of his Holy Spirit within the very bodies of people to teach and empower them. And, we are told by Paul
1Co 11:25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me."
The covenant is that God has set aside a people for his own use and for the glory of his own name. That's always the point of his covenants, by the way, to have people who acknowledge his glory. We are asked in turn to remember him. Now, there's a lot in that, as already suggested, but remembering him includes knowing him (coming to salvation in the first place) and following in his ways (else we are not truly remembering) which includes obeying him by acting as he would, repenting of sin (disobedience) and forgiving and loving others.
What does Jesus Christ do for the people he has redeemed?
Joh 6:54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.
Joh 10:28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no-one can snatch them out of my hand.
1Jo 5:13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.
(Observe that it is possible to know we have eternal life. Why? Because it depends on Christ's act of redemption, which is complete, perfect, eternal, and sure--not on our works, which are incomplete, temporal, and of no effect to obtain salvation. They are of benefit only as acts of obedience performed by one already redeemed. When Christ sees his son in us doing what is right, he is pleased. No work done by a sinner in his or her own unaided power can please him, because it is flawed, when he demands perfection, as the scripture says:
Eph 1:4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.
1 Pet 1: 15-16 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy."
Keep in mind that this redemption comes by faith in him Joh 20:31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
VI A new hope.
(Reprise) 1Cor 11:26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.
The Lord's Table is first and foremost a looking back to the great and mighty act of redemption, the work of Christ on the cross. It also reminds us of when we were called to Christ and had that redemption fully and permanently applied to our accounts. It is a token of fellowship as a church. We do it together as a sign that we are collectively the people of God.
But, it also looks forward to the next great act to be played out on the vast stage of heaven and earth. For the one who was long promised, who was covenanted by God to come for redemption, and did so according to that promise, is just as sure to come again.
1Th 4:16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.
As the first coming of Christ was sure, and only a matter of time, which is not very significant to God, so also the second coming of Christ is sure. He will come first to collect the people redeemed under his covenant, as the verse we have just read indicates. Two passages in Revelation are typical:
Re 11:18 The nations were angry; and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name, both small and great--and for destroying those who destroy the earth.
Re 14:7 He said in a loud voice, "Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water."
Now the people of God who have been redeemed by the blood of the long-promised and now-sacrificed Lamb provided by him will not face that judgement. This Lord's Table is in part to remind us of that fact.
But it ought also to remind us that many are still under judgement. The very re-enactment of this ritual, with its reminder of the cross, redemption ,and Christ's soon return, ought to convict sinners and draw them to Christ. It ought to spur the people of God on to the preaching of the Gospel, for the time is short and he may be standing at the door of time knocking, and about to put an end to history. What if he returned today? Would you be ready? Have you accepted his salvation so you'll be among the ones taken to be with him, or will you be left behind for judgement? If you are one of his, will he find you obedient and ready when he comes?
How does the Lord's Table speak to you? Does it tell you clearly for the first time of a saviour who is ready to receive you if only you will repent and have his sacrifice count for the forgiveness of your sin? If so, I urge you to pray now to receive him as that substitutionary sacrifice and know your sin forgiven. Speak to one of the church leaders afterwards and learn how to come into the personal saving relationship with Jesus Christ that is necessary to see God in his heaven.
OTOH, do you remember? Does God's Holy Spirit witness within to your spirit that you are indeed saved, your sins washed away by the blood of God's Lamb, your soul eternally secure in that salvation? What works of love, forgiveness, service, and the giving of yourself for others does this sacred reminder spur you on to?
If the new covenant in Christ's life's blood does indeed apply to you, then he invites you to
1. break bread, perceiving in it Christ's body broken for you, and that you are part of his redeemed body of believers around you, and
2. take the cup as the symbol of Christ's blood applied to your account with God to mark it PAID forever, and as the symbol of the fellowship you have in common with his people.