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Author:Rev. George van Popta
 send email...
 www.vanpopta.ca
 
Congregation:Jubilee Canadian Reformed Church
 Ottawa, Ontario
 jubileechurch.ca
 
Preached At:Ancaster Canadian Reformed Church
 Ancaster, Ontario
 www.ancasterchurch.on.ca
 
Title:The One Sacrifice
Text:LD 28 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Lord's Supper
 
Preached:2003-08-03
Added:2004-01-22
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Reading of Scripture: Exo 12:1-14; Luke 22:7-20
Reading of text (Heidelberg Catechism) - LD 28
Songs: Ps. 81:1,2; Ps. 81:3,4; Ps. 81:5,9; Hy. 3; Hy. 49; Hy. 46
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. George van Popta, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ:

Did you know that you are all preachers?

Only a few of you have gone or are going to Theological College. Only a few members of the congregation are ordained as ministers of the Word. And yet you are all preachers. Did you know that?

Six times per year you preach a sermon. And you do not even need to go to the Theological College for four years. You do not need to learn the Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek languages. What kind of proclamation are we speaking of?

All you need to do to preach this sermon is to eat the holy bread and drink the holy wine of the Lord's Supper in faith. As it says in 1 Cor 11:26: ... whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.

You proclaim Christ. The death of Christ. The need for faith in Christ. Communion with Christ. Salvation through Christ.

THE LORD'S SUPPER FOCUSES OUR FAITH ON THE ONE SACRIFICE OF CHRIST ON THE CROSS

We: 1. Commemorate the death of Christ; 2. Communicate with the risen Christ; 3. Proclaim our salvation in Christ.

1. Commemoration.

At the Lord's Supper we eat the broken bread and drink of the cup in remembrance of Christ. It is a commemorative banquet. We remember the death of our Lord Jesus Christ. That he took our sins upon himself and died on the cross for our sake. The broken bread, a symbol of our Lord's broken body. The poured wine, a symbol of the blood which poured out of his wounds.

So the Lord's Supper is a memorial meal. That's not all it is. It is more than just a memorial meal. Yet, the memorial aspect is an important one of the Lord's Supper.

It is significant that the Lord Jesus instituted this meal of commemoration and gave it as a gift to his NT church while he himself was celebrating the OT meal of commemoration with his disciples. The Lord instituted his supper during his last Passover meal. That is what we read in Luke 22. Let me refresh your memory as to what the Passover meal was all about.

The Passover was instituted just before God brought his people Israel out of slavery in Egypt. (cf. morning sermons.) The people of Israel had been in slavery for 100's of years. God had sent Moses to Pharaoh, king of Egypt, to tell him to: Let my people go. Pharaoh refused. God had then hit the land, people and cattle of Egypt with nine terrible plagues, and still Pharaoh refused to let Israel leave Egypt.

Then came the tenth and final plague. God told Moses to go to Pharaoh and warn him that God was about to come and slay the first-born of all the Egyptians from the first-born of Pharaoh himself to the first-born of the lowliest slave and criminal as well as the first-born of all the cattle.

The Israelites, however, were to slaughter a lamb. They were to catch its blood in a basin and, with a hyssop branch, smear the blood on the door frames of their homes. God's destroying angel would pass over their houses. They would be safe. As they entered their homes they would pass through the blood. The angel would see the blood, and would pass over.

Well, this tenth plague was too much even for stubborn old Pharaoh. When he woke up the next morning and found that his firstborn son, the crown prince of Egypt, was dead-that the firstborn of every family in Egypt was dead-he pleaded with Moses and Aaron to take the children of Israel and leave the land immediately.

Israel did leave with haste. And every year after this, they were to celebrate a Passover meal to commemorate this great deliverance. It was their festival of freedom. A reminder of how God had rescued them from Egypt-how he had broken Pharaoh's strangle-hold on them and had set them completely free-how he had brought them to the Promised Land.

Throughout the OT, in the historical books but even more in the prophets, the theme of the Passover comes back time and again. The Exodus out of Egypt was the central fact in Israel's history. Israel knew the LORD best of all as the One who had brought them out of bondage into glorious liberty. And the Passover meal was his sacrament, his gift to them signifying this great event.

But it pointed to something even more glorious. The Passover meal looked back at a very real deliverance. But at the same time it looked forward to an even better one. The deliverance out of Egypt pointed to the ultimate deliverance of God's people from the land of sin and the Pharaoh called Satan. It pointed to the great redemptive act of God by which God would bring His people into the eternal Promised Land, the heavenly Jerusalem.

And so the Passover, as beautiful as it was, as comforting and assuring as it was, was incomplete. It was incomplete until the Lord Jesus Christ sat down around a table with his disciples in the upper room and held his last Passover meal with them. He sat down as the Passover Lamb. On the following day, he would be slaughtered and sacrificed on the cross. All the Passover lambs of the OT pointed to this perfect Passover Lamb. The Lamb of God who, as Baptizer John had said, takes away the sins of the world.

And so, when the Lord Jesus sat at table with his disciples, he fulfilled the OT sacrament of Passover. He gave it its full meaning. He took some of the elements of the Passover meal and showed what their fullest meaning was. He took the bread the Israelites ate during the Passover meal, broke it, and gave it to the disciples. He said, "This is my body given for you. Do this in remembrance of me." And he did the same with the wine. He took the cup of wine which came at the end of the meal. There were four cups of wine associated with the Passover meal. He took the fourth and last one called "the cup of redemption" and said, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood which is poured out for you." The disciples drank the wine.

The Passover meal had come to an end. Just like all the OT sacrifices, it no longer had meaning. It had become redundant because of what Jesus, the perfect and final Passover Lamb did at Golgotha. But when the Lord Jesus brought to completion and fulfillment the OT meal of commemoration, he instituted a new one-the Lord's Supper. And he commanded us to eat this meal. To come together and share the bread and the wine in memory of what he has done for us. To focus our faith on his one sacrifice.

This command goes out to the children as well-even to Eunike being baptized today. The children and many of the young people do not attend the table yet. They must first make a public profession of faith. But they must not feel as if they are not welcome. When you were baptized, then God pledged himself to you. Now he is waiting for you to respond by making a personal, and public profession of your faith in him. God is waiting and, you must work towards that time that you can make that profession and take your place at the table. That profession must be made out of conviction. Not out of custom or peer pressure. Out of personal conviction and a firm willingness to commit your whole life to the LORD's service. But neither must your public profession of faith be delayed indefinitely. At some point it can become a matter of disobedience-a living in sin. A lack of response is sin.

And so, for the young people and the children-just like for all of us-every Lord's Supper celebration underlines the need for us to attend diligently and faithfully to the regular preaching of the word. It underlines the need for regular prayer and bible study. And learning your catechism. Because it is in this way that the Holy Spirit works faith in our hearts. Faith focused on the sacrifice of Christ on the cross as the only ground of our salvation. Faith of which we can make a profession and so join in at the table in commemorating the death of our Saviour.

2. At the Lord's Table we have communion with the risen and ascended Christ.

This is probably the most difficult aspect of the Lord's supper to understand. How are we united with Christ when we eat the bread and drink the wine? To his sacred body (ans. 76)? Scripture teaches that we are his body and his Spirit lives in us. But, admittedly, it is hard to understand. About this John Calvin wrote, "It is such a great mystery that I prefer to marvel at it rather than explain it."

What does the catechism mean when it says that when we eat and drink the body and blood of Christ, we are united more and more to His sacred body? We should not think that we are somehow taken up into the godhead. There is and remains that absolute difference between God and man. We do not become divine when we eat the bread and drink the wine. Neither is it a physical union. Christ is in heaven; we are on earth. There is that separation. It is a spiritual union. When we partake of the bread and wine we have a spiritual union with the body and blood of Christ.

Now we shouldn't think that because we are united spiritually to Christ, it is not a real union. We shouldn't think that a spiritual union is less real than a physical union. Spiritual means: Brought about by the Spirit-by the Holy Spirit of God. The Scriptures teach that the Spirit is stronger than the flesh. So a spiritual union is more powerful than a physical one.

The Holy Spirit lives in our Lord Jesus Christ, our Head; and he lives in us the body of Christ. As ans. 76 says: We are flesh of His flesh and bone off his bones. At the Lord's Supper, we receive the bread and the wine. As the minister says: The bread is the communion of the body of Christ; the wine is the communion of the blood of Christ. We receive these in faith-faith focused on Christ's sacrifice. By them we accept with believing hearts all the suffering and the death of Christ. By the Holy Spirit we receive the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. And by the Holy Spirit we are united with Christ. Communion with Christ. Communion with God earned for us by Christ when he lost communion. On the cross Christ gave up communion with the Father so that we might have communion with the Father and the Son in fellowship with the Holy Spirit. We can have communion at the table because Christ went to the cross. At the table, we have a cross-bought communion with God.

Yes, there is that physical separation between Christ and us, between the groom and the bride. And that fills us with sadness. When loved ones separate, they are sad. And so we are sad that we have been separated from the bridegroom. And yet, although we are physically separated, yet we are spiritually united. Although Christ is in heaven and we are on earth, yet we are intimately connected by the most powerful lifeline imaginable: the Holy Spirit of God.

Christ is present in the Lord's Supper. Not physically. Lord's Days 29 and 30 go into that some more. Christ is present by the Holy Spirit. A Spiritual although completely real presence. We eat the body and blood of Christ by faith. By faith we are strengthened by this eternal food; by faith we are assured of our salvation through the work he did for us.

That is why, right before we eat the bread and wine, we are exhorted to lift up our hearts on high in heaven, where Christ is. We are to look beyond the outward symbols of bread and wine to Jesus Christ, the true heavenly bread. We must treat the bread and wine with reverence. They are holy. Do not ever say that the bread is "just bread." That the wine is "just wine." They are holy bread and holy wine. By way of them we are connected to Christ in heaven. And yet we look beyond the bread and wine to Christ in heaven. In faith. Salvation is not dispensed automatically through the bread and the wine. We look up to Jesus who died for us and who sits at the right hand of the Father and intercedes for us.

We must eat and drink in faith. If we don't then the Supper will not help us. But if we do-if we celebrate in faith, looking to Christ who once was dead but now lives-then we will be united more and more to Christ. The bond will grow stronger and stronger. And we will be governed, ruled, more and more by the Holy Spirit. This activity-this being united to Christ and governed by the Holy Spirit-will continue after the Lord's Supper celebration. If we eat and drink in faith, trusting in the sacrifice of Christ, looking up to the risen Christ, we will grow closer, and closer to Christ. Our communion with Christ will grow more intense. It will deepen. And the Holy Spirit will govern us as the members of our body are governed by our soul.

The Holy Spirit will also give us greater and deeper communion with each other. That's also part of it. We have communion with Christ our Head, but we also have communion with the body of Christ. My right hand does not only have a relationship with my head; it also has a relationship with my left hand and my ears. In the same way, we have a relationship with one another as members of the same body of Jesus Christ. A gift given by Christ through the Holy Spirit.

3. By the Lord's Supper we proclaim the Lord's death, his sacrifice, and our salvation, until He comes.

Partaking of the bread and the wine is an act of proclamation. The apostle Paul said that as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. Every time you celebrate the holy supper, you are proclaiming, preaching a sermon. You are announcing that salvation is only by the sacrifice of Christ. You are testifying that your faith is focused on that sacrifice. You are saying that faith needs to be focused on that.

Of course, the Lord's Supper is first of all Christ's proclamation to us. He proclaims to you his death. He says, "I died for you. Look. Here is bread and wine. This bread symbolizes my body which was offered for you. This wine symbolizes my blood which was poured out for you. Receive these. Receive the bread and wine in faith and you will receive my body and blood. My passion and death will be your sustenance. It will give you faith energy. It will give you life, new life, and it will sustain you in that new life."

That is what the Lord Jesus Christ proclaims to us when we celebrate holy supper. And we proclaim in response. We testify that, yes, Christ did die for us / me! QA 75 is all in the first person singular. His blood was offered for me. He body was broken for me. We sit quietly, and yet, our actions shout out to God and to man. We proclaim that we celebrate this not because we are good, but because we are, in ourselves, no good. Not because we are so strong in the faith, but because our faith is weak, and it needs strengthening. We proclaim that we seek our salvation outside of ourselves. We announce that we don't seek it here on earth, but up in heaven where our risen Lord is.

We proclaim that, yes, we do want to enjoy the fruits of Christ's passion and death. We do want to have our sins forgiven. We do want to enjoy eternal life with our Lord Jesus. This is what is important to us. Everything here on earth can fail. Wars and rumors of war. Economic hardship. Illness. Disappointment. Disease. Accident. Trauma. Handicap. Friends and family can turn their backs. Trouble and adversity. But I will go to church, participate in the holy supper, and proclaim that Jesus Christ is everything to me.

When I'm bowed under by my sins-when I'm groping in the dark, lost in my misery, then the Holy Spirit grabs my hand and pulls me into the bright light of God's grace. He brings me to church and says, "Take, eat, remember and believe that Jesus Christ died for you."

How shall we know this, beloved? How shall we know that these promises are indeed true? Open your eyes. See the bread in your hand. Taste it. Taste the wine as you drink it. And know that as surely as you accept these in faith, so surely are your sins completely and undoubtedly forgiven.

Keep proclaiming the death of Christ. Keep listening to the proclamation of the Spirit of Jesus Christ that your sins are forgiven through his sacrificed body and shed blood. Keep proclaiming that you believe that. Keep proclaiming that you want and need nothing but His deliverance from sin and Satan.

And look forward to the new banquet. The NT Lord's Supper replaced the OT Passover, but even the NT Lord's Supper isn't the final goal. The final goal is the Heavenly wedding banquet of the Lamb. Set your sights on that banquet. Our Lord's Supper is a foretaste of the heavenly and eternal supper. Keep your eye on that. Look forward to it. Expect it. And know and believe that you will one day sit at the table of that great marriage feast in the New Jerusalem. Amen




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. George van Popta, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was: http://www.ancasterchurch.on.ca/sermons/aug0303pm.html

(c) Copyright 2003, Rev. George van Popta

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