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Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/mountnasura/
 
Title:You Prepare a Table for Me
Text:LD 28 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Lord's Supper
 
Preached:2017
Added:2017-04-09
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 104:1,4                                                                              

Hy 1

Reading – Luke 22:1-30

Ps 23:1,2,3

Sermon – Lord’s Day 28-29

Ps 63:1,2,3

Hy 59:1,2

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved in our Lord Jesus, if there’s a special occasion we’ll often celebrate it with a meal. Say little Johnny has his eighth birthday: his friends might be invited over for some games, then a tasty supper of pizza and celery sticks. Or if there’s a baptism, the happy parents might host family and friends for a time of fellowship, and some delicious food.

Mixing food and festivity is an old tradition. Weddings in Bible times were enjoyed with feasts that sometimes lasted several days. Or think of Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son: when the son finally returns home, the father wants to celebrate, and he does so with a great meal.

These Biblical feasts were times of festive celebration and abundant food. And they weren’t simply parties, they were occasions to give thanks for the Lord’s goodness. God himself says that a meal is a fitting way to rejoice in his Name. In the Old Testament, He commanded the celebration of no less than six different feasts: there were the feasts of Passover and Unleavened Bread; the feasts of Firstfruits and Weeks; and the feasts of Trumpets and Tabernacles—and later on, the Feast of Purim. Each of these festivals was a thoroughly joyful event: no work would be done; the people would have a meal; and sacrifices would be offered up.

And all along, God was thinking of a better feast, one with a greater joy. Throughout the Old Testament God was making ready the feast that you and I are invited to, the feast that Christians everywhere have the privilege to celebrate. Yes, the Holy Supper is a festive meal, like none other. Through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, his Supper is true food for the hungry, and true drink for the thirsty. Looking at Lord’s Days 28-29 together, we consider our invitation to this wonderful meal:

By faith we receive from Christ the signs and seals of Holy Supper:

  1. bread and wine
  2. broken and poured out
  3. eaten and drunk

 

1) bread and wine: When people go to a restaurant for a special meal, or even for a dinner to the home of a friend, an important question is always what’s on the menu. What tasty dishes are going to be served? Steak, pasta, maybe seafood? But when it comes to the Lord’s Supper, everyone knows what’ll be served. It’ll be bread, and wine. It’s not a wide variety. Moreover, the portions aren’t generous. They’re small: a cube of bread, and just a sip of wine.

If our greatest need was to have full stomachs while sitting at his table, God would’ve taken care of that. But God knows what we need, more than anything else—and it’s not food. He gives us bread and wine so that He can teach us what we really ought to yearn for and crave. The Lord’s Supper is about filling our hearts with joy, and strengthening our hearts with faith. We have to consider that bread, and think about that wine, but then we have to look beyond them to something—and Someone!—far greater.

We look to the One who “took bread, and when He had given thanks… [He] said, ‘This is my body which is for you’” (Q&A 77). We remember the One who “took the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood’” (Q&A 77). We have to be “far-sighted,” spiritually speaking—looking past what’s right in front of us, and looking up to the Lord who is seated in heaven.

For Holy Supper, just like holy baptism, is given to us as a sacrament. Remember what a sacrament is: a physical act or ceremony which is given by God to point us to a holy truth. So this means the supper is not firstly about eating bread or drinking wine with your mouth. It’s about believing and being assured with your heart.

What must we believe about that piece of bread? That it’s a sign, and it’s pointing us directly to Jesus Christ. “This bread is my body,” said Christ when He founded the Lord’s Supper. “This is my body...”

They’re familiar words, but let’s think about them some more. When Jesus instituted the sacrament, He did so during the Passover meal, a meal that was by then many centuries old. At that meal, a lamb that had been slaughtered earlier in the day at the temple was eaten, along with unleavened bread, and herbs. The lamb was killed, and its blood was smeared on the doorframes of the houses. That’s because in the Passover the people were recalling how God had rescued them from the oppression of Egypt.

Now it’s the final Passover meal that Jesus shares with his disciples. And Jesus announces that the bread is his body. Notice He doesn’t say this about the lamb—even though that might be what we expect. After all, the lamb was the “centre piece” of the meal; the killing of the lamb was the main event. But Christ makes his announcement about that loaf of unleavened bread, held in his hands. Jesus directs all the attention away from that portion of meat which was laying there on the table.

Why do you think He did that? It’s because Christ is the Passover lamb that’s been sacrificed! It’s now his offering that atones for the sin of his people! There’s going to be no more blood, so the bread now points to the true Lamb who once was slain. The bread reminds us that that “He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so He did not open his mouth” (Isa 53:7). The bloodless bread points to Christ and declares, “Behold, the true Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).

What should we believe about that cup of wine? It’s a sign, and it too, is pointing us directly to Jesus Christ. “This cup of wine is the new covenant in my blood,” said Christ at the founding of Lord’s Supper.

Now, when you read Exodus 12 you might notice that God didn’t command the Israelites to drink wine at the Passover meal. It’s quite likely that they did, though. Certainly by the time of Christ, cups of wine had become a regular part of the Passover. Actually, in the celebration there were four or five different times when a cup of wine would be passed around the table from which all could drink. And they did that because wine is a festive drink! Just like you go to a wedding or banquet today, and there might be a couple of bottles on each table—because wine is a joyful drink, it’s fitting for a meal of celebration.

At his final Passover meal, Jesus says that the cup of wine represents his blood. What is He saying by that? He says that it’s He who will now bring joy to his disciples. It’s Christ who will give true cause for celebration.

There’s a lot we can take from this and think about. But here is one point: Christ gives us himself, and He promises that He’ll be our refreshment, and He’ll be our lasting food. He is food and drink to our souls! And that means we don’t have to look anywhere else in this world for fulfillment or for happiness.

People look in so many places to find their sense of satisfaction, to fill the hole in their life. Maybe we do it too. We go shopping. We start eating. We drink and drink. We work and work. The message that we hear a lot from this world is that fulfillment comes through the things that can be held in the hands, or tasted in the mouth. Or maybe we can be fulfilled through our wonderful experiences, through exciting adventures, or self-expression.

But Holy Supper gives a different message. It tells us, “Be filled with Christ—let him fill the hole in your life. Let him satisfy you!” Says the Catechism, Christ “wants to teach us by his supper that as bread and wine sustain us in this temporal life, so his crucified body and shed blood are true food and drink for our souls to eternal life” (Q&A 79). When you get to know Christ, you learn that He can sustain you. When you draw close to Him, you experience how true it is that He can give us joy—a joy that is lasting, a joy that is real! It all comes through that glorious moment when his body was crucified, and his blood was poured out.

 

2) broken and poured out: It’s not a hard comparison. We “get” how the bread points to the flesh of Jesus, the wine to his blood. Some time earlier Jesus had even said of himself, “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” (John 6:35). It’s simple: like a sandwich and a glass of milk keep our body going, so Christ sustains our souls.    

But Christ adds a level of meaning. What I mean is: the bread doesn’t remain a nice, tidy loaf, nor does the wine remain safely stored in that jug on the table. Jesus, Luke 22 says, “took bread, gave thanks and broke it” (v 19). And though we don’t read about the actual filling taking place, for Jesus to give the Passover cups to his disciples, He first had to pour out the wine.

Broken and poured—that may seem really obvious. The disciples weren’t going to gnaw off a piece of bread from the loaf. They weren’t going to drink straight out of the jug. It’s obvious that the elements needed to be broken and poured out, yet don’t miss the close and important connection to what Jesus had just said: “This bread is my body. This wine is my blood.” It meant that something was about to happen to his body and blood—they were going to suffer a terrible violence.

For what was going on, that very moment of the Passover? Opposition to Jesus was reaching a breaking point. The Jewish leaders hated him, for He exposed their hypocrisy, and rebuked their unbelief in him as Messiah. So Jesus knew what was coming. He had just told his disciples, “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Luke 22:15). It was coming quickly… As Luke tells us, “The hour had come” (22:14). Jesus was about to be handed over, tortured and mocked and finally crucified. And at this moment, Jesus institutes the Holy Supper.

Said Christ, “The bread which I break is my body.” The unleavened bread which broke apart in his hands—torn between his fingers, just like that—this was a simple foreshadowing of what was yet to come. In an hour, Christ’s body would be tormented in the garden, wracked with fear and trembling. Then He’d be bound, taken away, and interrogated.

Then the abuse of his body would start: the beating, the whipping, the crown of thorns. Soon the long walk to Golgotha, with the heavy cross-beam resting on his shoulders. Nails through the hands, nails through the feet, and lifted up on the cross—yet even this was only the beginning of being broken.

For the Father himself would break his Son. He’d break him with darkness, with being put out from the very presence of God. Like the loaf of bread that had crumbled in his hands just hours before, so Christ would crumble under God’s wrath.

Then think of what Christ also said at the Supper, “The wine which I have poured out is my blood.” The wine which flowed from the jug—a quick and reddish stream that all of them could see—this was another foreshadowing of what was to happen in the next few hours. Already in the garden, Christ’s blood began seeping out, his anxiety was so great.

And the blood would continue to flow, even in great splashes at a time: as the whip traced lines on his back; as the thorns pressed deep into his scalp; as the nails sank into his flesh, through the bones and muscle, and out the other side, into the wood. And then as the Roman soldier finally plunged his spear into Jesus’ side. In its entirety his blood would be spilled. For it was the Father, pouring out his Son. Like that wine was poured out by his own hands just the day before, so Christ’s blood would be poured out in God’s wrath.           

Open wounds and spilled blood—if it was a movie, this would be rated M or even R. It’s a gruesome picture. But Jesus gives us a meal to remember it! Because He knows what sinners need. And if we’re at all aware of God’s truth and the reality our own lives, we know it too: we so badly need a Saviour! Someone to be our substitute, to bear the burden of God’s holy anger.

And then we rejoice that Christ has stood in our place. With eager hands and with the mouth of faith, sinners take and eat the broken flesh, and drink the poured-out blood of the Lord—and we do so in joy. Because Christ did all of this for us!

Says Christ, “This is my body which is for you” (Q&A 77). If you’re a sinner, and if you believe in Him, then his body—his fully human body, his righteous and perfect, his sin-atoning body—is also for you, so that you can live again!

And again Christ said, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many, for the forgiveness of sins” (Matt 26:28). It was poured out for many. Like the old hymn goes, “Though millions have come/ there’s still room for one/ there’s room at the cross for you.” Poured out for many—and poured out for me! At Lord’s Supper each of us remembers this most personal gift, “his body [was] offered for me on the cross” (Q&A 75).

So how’s your appetite? How’s your appetite for grace? If you are humbled in your sin, then you’ll be hungry. If you have realized even a little of what the cost of your rebellion is, then you’ll be thirsty—you will crave the gift of God’s mercy. And then coming to Christ every day again, you will rejoice in him. Every day, you will thank God for how fully Christ gave himself for us. He was broken, so that we might be made whole. He was poured out, so that our cup of blessing might run over.

 

3) eaten and drunk: As humans, we like nothing better than to watch. That’s the attraction of media, of course, which invites us to sit back and enjoy. Put on a movie, and let it take you away to another place, where you don’t have to get involved. But when Jesus breaks the bread and pours out the wine, He doesn’t allow his disciples to sit and watch. He forcefully commands them. Of the bread He says, “Take and eat,” and of the cup He says, “Drink from it, all of you.”

From dozens of previous Passovers, these disciples were probably used to following the lead of their father during the celebration—or taking the lead in the midst of their own family. You would divide the lamb, you would distribute the bread, pass around the cups, and you’d offer the prayers. Up to a point Jesus follows this Jewish Passover custom, but the words He just said make this meal stand alone. “This bread is my body—now take and eat!” He says. “This wine is my blood—now drink from it, all of you.” It’s time for action.

Jesus insists on it, because everyone who follows Him has to share in what He’s doing. We may want to stay on the sidelines of faith, and do whatever requires the least effort, but Jesus says, “Take, remember, and believe!” Follow the Master, and trust Him, even if He goes to the shameful cross and He dies. Even then, be willing to admit that you know him, that you believe in him, that He’s your Saviour and Lord!

Christ on the cross wasn’t there to be stared at. In the same way, the Holy Supper is no spectacle. We can’t just look dumbly at the bread and wine, or watch passively as the bread is broken and the wine is poured out. It’s not Netflix. No, Christ invites to share in his meal. Not only invites—He commands us to partake! Because He doesn’t want us to starve. He doesn’t want us to die. Christ loves us, and Christ wants us to live, and so his words are urgent and direct: “Take and eat! Drink from it, all of you!” He knows that we need it.

Beloved, this means we shouldn’t stay away from the table because we think that our sins are too grievous—for Christ calls. If we have truly repented from our sins, and if we earnestly desire his grace, then we ought to come to his table. Christ calls us! He doesn’t want us to watch salvation go by, but He wants us to participate, to share in Him, and in all the benefits of his life and death. We’re called to eat the meal of the Lord.

For even that little piece of bread, and that small sip of wine, are enough to awaken our senses. We taste and feel the bread in our mouth, as we chew and swallow. We taste the wine, as we put that cup to our lips and drink. After we’re done the meal, even after we have sung a song and made our way back to the pew, the tastes endure and the smells linger.

With the body and the senses that God has given us—with the eyes, with the ears, with the mouth and even with the nose—we experience the Holy Supper. God knows that we learn things best by experience, by seeing and doing. He gives us bread to eat, and wine to drink, so that the message of his grace might become a little more real in our hearts. Just as sure we eat the bread and drink the wine, just as sure as we taste it inside us, so surely has Christ died for us, his people! It’s that certain, that real.

As we eat the bread in faith, we are nourished. We accept with a believing heart that his body was broken for us—and in that gospel is a new energy, a firm hope, and a real sense of purpose. At Holy Supper, Christ strengthens you for the kingdom work that you have to do tomorrow. He feeds you for the journey that still lies ahead. He sustains you for those spiritual battles that must still be fought.

And as we drink the wine in faith, we are refreshed. His blood was poured out for us—and in that gospel is a new joy. At this feast there flows the joy-giving wine of Christ’s blood. He causes us to rejoice, with a joy that no cloudy day can spoil, a joy that not one of life’s disappointments can ruin. For we rejoice in Him!

Beloved, this is the feast that you are called to. And not just every second or third month, but every day of your life you’re called to this—you are invited to know and commune with Christ your Saviour. By faith you can share every day in the life-giving body and blood of Jesus. For this is what our Saviour says, “My flesh is real food, and my blood is real drink... Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life” (John 6:55,54).

Go then to Christ—eating and drinking, remembering and believing, trusting and obeying. Go to Christ, and remain in Christ, now and always!  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was: http://frcmn.org/sermons/

(c) Copyright 2017, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

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