Last Sunday our bible teaching was on Jesus’ last supper with his disciples. So we decided to integrate communion in with the teaching
At Wednesday After School Club the kids are often hungry. We offer them biscuits, sweets and cakes. But quite often what they really want us bread. They find something that will satisfy their hunger.
Today we are going to be talking about bread and wine. We are going to witness a meal that Jesus had. What significance did it have then? What does it mean for us? Why do we celebrate communion? Is it just a ceremony? Who should take part? How does it help us?
- Trust in the Lord who provides and guides (v12-16)
The disciples ask Jesus about where they are going to eat the Passover. This was the special festival that they had come to Jerusalem for. You were mean to eat it in Jerusalem if possible so they probably did not want to go back to Bethany. But given the controversy Jesus was stirring up, it would not be easy to organise.
He gives two disciples instructions to go and find a man carrying a water jar. This would have been unusual. Men did not carry water jars, women did. It would have been a signal to them. They were to ask him to take them to the room they would use. When they got there, they found it exactly as Jesus told them.
Now, it looks like what we have here is a simple case of planning and preperation, but at the same time, we see that it is Jesus’ plan. We are reminded that he is in control. He is the one who brings order. At communion I am often reminded that this is the specific part of the service that Jesus planned out for us! It points me back to God’s plan, His salvation plan. I may come here this morning with all the worries of the week ahead but I am reminded when we hear those words 2I received from the Lord….” that God knows what is going to happen this week and he will be with me.
- Trust in the Lord because it is your relationship to him that matters (v17-21)
It is our relationship to Jesus that matters, not whether we attend a meeting, are members of an organisation or even have positions of responsibility. I think we can become forgetful and start acting as though it’s the membership or attendance that counts.
Jesus announces at the meal that one of the twelve will betray him. Literally, they will hand him over to the people who want to kill him. Mark has already told us that Judas has plotted to do this. The disciples don’t know this yet. They are shocked. “Surely not me” they all cry out.
Betraying someone that you had just eaten the Passover with was deeply shocking.
- Eating together a sign of close fellowship. In Jewish homes when you eat together you cast salt over the bread as a sign of loyalty and friendship
- The 12 were meant to be the hand picked chosen ones. They should have been loyal to Jesus.
- The Passover itself was a meal that was particularly meant to unite God’s people a meal that was meant to represent how being together under one roof under the cover of the ritual sacrifice. It represented safety from judgement and enemies
So what Judas did was especially shocking. Now let me say two things here. First of all, some Christians will feel that deep distress. Your reaction is “Surely not me” or even “could it be me?” Could I end up rejecting Jesus? Could I commit the unforgivable sin? I want to re-assure you. The very fact that your conscience is tender. The fact that such a possibility troubles you is usually a strong sign of the Holy Spirit’s work in your life. You are sensitive to him. Your heart’s desire is not to fail Jesus. So don’t be held back from participating in the Lord’s Supper today by a tender conscience. This meal is here to remind you that God loves you, that you are saved by grace and that your salvation is in his hands. He will not let go of you.
But we must be careful not to confuse sitting in this meeting and eating the bread and drinking the wine with being a Christian. We eat and drink because we already know Jesus. It’s a serious thing to go through the emotions without really trusting him. That’s why we often remind each other to examine ourselves and to make sure we are right with God and each other. I
So this meal reminds me that I need to know Jesus. Seek first his kingdom and all these things will be added to you. Some of us come to church because we enjoy the community. I’m glad that you benefit from that and you are very welcome here. But if we come for the community and do not come to Christ then we will not really get what it means to be part of his community. We will lose it. If we put Christ first then we will find in him a family that we will never lose.
- Trust in the Lord because he is the one who saves (v22-24)
As they shared the Passover, they would have sung some of the Psams together (Psalm 113-118). One of them would have taken the role of the eldest sons and asked questions “Why do we do this?” “What happened when our people were in Egypt?” and so on.
Now the picture we should have is of a small group talking and eating at a leisurely pace. This week I met with some of our Spanish speakers for Bible study. It wasn’t like our normal Home Groups where we have fixed timetable to keep to. We sat round the table and people begaqn to ask questions, we covered some big issues and kept turning back to Scripture. We talked and laughed together. Whilst this went on, someone brought in some food and so we continued to talk and eat.
Imagine this happening over several hours and then very naturally, Jesus picked up the bread. It would have been unleavened bread. He gave thanks to God and broke it. He probably would have said something along the lines of “This is the bread of our affliction” meaning that the bread represented the bread they ate in a hurry as slaves under the threat of death before God rescued them.
Then…he adds “This is my body” and he passed it round for them to eat. What he was saying was that this bread represented something special. In another place, he announces that he is “The bread of life.”
Do you remember those kids at the afterschool club? They know that they need bread to live. Jesus says that we need him. If we are to have eternal life then we need Jesus. And it is only Jesus that we need! It is through his death that we live. It is because he was punished that we are forgiven.
And so we take, eat and remember.
Then Jesus takes one of the cups of wine and says “This is my blood which confirms the covenant.” When the slaves ate the first Passover meal in Egypt this did so because God was going to kill all the first born sons in Egypt. However, the Israelites were told to cook a lamb and to sprinkle the blood on the doorposts. When God’s angel came, he saw the blood and passed over their house. They were kept safe because God had made a covenant or agreement with them. The covenant mean tthat they were God’s precious people. Later in Exodus 24 after Moses has been given the en Commandments the people assemble. They pledge to keep the covenant and Moses sprinkles them with blood. Peter alludes to this in 1 Peter 1:1-2.
Jesus tells them that his blood will be poured out on behalf of many. Jesus died on your behalf. He has took your place. Where yo deserved punishment, he bore it. Because he has received the penalty you are forgiven if you have put your trust in him.
So we drink and remember
- Trust in the Lord because only he can give hope (v25)
Jesus says “I won’t drink wine again until I come into my Kingdom. This is his last meal with them before his trial and execution. Note, it is not his last ever meal. It’s the Last Supper before the wedding banquet! Jesus knew that he would rise from the dead.
The bible often uses the picture of a wedding feat to represent Heaven. The promise is that this is a meal which we will share in. The Church is the bride at the wedding feast.
As we saw two weeks ago, Jesus is coming back. Christians have hope. We face the week ahead, we face difficulties, opposition, trouble knowing that we have certain hope.
As often as we eat the bread and drink the Cup, we proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes again.