(Exodus 24:3-11; 1 Corinthians 11:23-32; Mark 14:12-26)
The Lord Jesus on the night when 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.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. (1 Cor. 11)
Our reading tonight from Mark 14 revolves around questions. “Where will we eat the Passover?” “Where is my guest room?” “Is it I who will betray you?” How fitting to begin this night with questions, for the Passover meal, which the Jewish people will celebrate tomorrow, begins with the question: Why is this night different from all other nights?
It was while celebrating the Passover that Jesus changed the Passover meal into His meal: the Lord’s Supper, or Holy Communion. We consider it tonight with the simple, but oh so important question:
what is this meal?
It Is a Celebration of Forgiveness.
This marvelous meal rests upon, proclaims, and actually gives the forgiveness that Jesus won for us. Christ’s forgiveness is the seasoning that flavors this meal and gives it a “taste” that makes it so much better than any other meal! And, like the important meals we prepare, this Supper of our Lord is one which was very costly and difficult to prepare. The holy and eternal Son of God became a mortal man; He then became sinful – filled with your sin! – and died a horrible death under the judgment of God so that your sins could be forgiven! “This is my body, given” – into death! – “for you.” Christ’s cross, His death as the sacrifice for our sins, is the seasoning that fills and flavors this meal.
And, oh, how unworthy we are to receive it! Don’t ever think that this Supper of our Lord is a meal that you deserve or have a right to receive. You don’t! It is a gift of our Lord, given to those who are unworthy.
This is clearly seen on the very night Jesus gives us this meal. His disciples all wonder which of them will betray Him. Each of them realizes how weak and sinful he is. It could be any of them! None of them, then, deserved this blessed meal of the Lord, not even though they were His closest disciples.
We are certainly not any better. Don’t ever think that you deserve this Sacrament, for if you do, you will not receive it thankfully as a gift. You will not rejoice in the forgiveness it gives. And, you will not hunger and thirst for it, and so will offend and anger your Lord who, just hours before He died, thought of you and not Himself, and so instituted this blessed meal for you. Recognizing and confessing your unworthiness is the necessary preparation for receiving this gift from your Lord! But remember: Jesus came in the flesh and lived among unworthy sinners. He called unworthy sinners to follow Him. And, He died on the cross for unworthy sinners. He will receive you. He will give to you His forgiveness in His very flesh and blood. “This is my body, given for you… This is my blood, shed for you.” We receive the body that hung on the cross and the blood that was poured out to purchase our forgiveness. What a blessed meal and gift!
It Is a Pledge of Commitment.
“Do this in remembrance of Me,” Jesus says as He institutes this Sacrament. In remembrance of what? Of His death for our sins. The cross reveals to us the truth of our sins, that they condemn to death and hell! Not even the Son of God was spared when they were charged against Him.
How important it is, then, for us to turn away from sin and strive to live holy lives, lives of obedience to God’s commands. When you come up and receive this blessed meal you are making a commitment to fight against your sin. "All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient," the people of Israel said to God after He had rescued them from their slavery in Egypt and brought them to Himself at Mt. Sinai. We are to say the same thing. Jesus has committed Himself to us. He not only died on the cross to rescue us from be condemned to hell for our sins; He also promised to be with us always as our Savior and holy Guide. His true body and blood is given to you that He might live within you and strengthen you! Let us learn and follow all of His words, and so honor Him with our lives.
This will certainly not always be easy. You will fail. You will fall into sin. You need to keep on eating, then, that you may continue to receive the Lord’s forgiveness and strength! As you do, lift up your heads! Look up and look forward! For, the final blessing of this blessed meal of our Lord is that:
It Is a Foretaste of Heaven.
“Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God,” Jesus says. He ushered in and established the kingdom of God by His death and resurrection. It is now the crucified and risen Christ who eats and drinks with us! It is His living body, the resurrected body that has triumphed over sin and death, that we receive!
Our Old Testament reading from Exodus gives us a vivid picture of what is happening in this meal, of a miraculous truth which you cannot see with your eyes:
“Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, and they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. And he did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank.”
Here we behold God! You are in heaven when you are worshiping your Lord and receiving His Supper! It is only a taste of that blessed place, a taste that is so slight – it’s hidden under rather tasteless bread and a sip of wine, and among sinful people and a ritual that is ordinary and repetitive – that the presence of God’s heavenly kingdom is easily missed. Keep it in your mind and heart! Don’t every doubt it. Believe, and it is yours. For Jesus promises (John 6:47-48, 54): “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life… Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
Why is this night different from all other nights? Because on it we received the feast that is greater than all other feasts. Give us faith, Lord, to lift up the cup of salvation and faithfully call on Your saving name!