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Author:Rev. Mark Chen
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Congregation:First Evangelical Reformed Church in Singapore
Preached At:
Title:Nourished and Refreshed by Christ
Text:LD 28 1 Corinthians 11:23-32 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Lord's Supper

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Trinity Hymnal Revised 1990, The Psalter 1912

Psalter 133 - The Church of the Living God
Psalter 313 - Consecration and Dedication
TH 420 - At the Lamb's High Feast We Sing

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

Nourished and Refreshed by Christ

LD 28 and 29, 1 Corinthians 11:23-32

When my wife and I were married, we had a grand wedding. The single minister of the church was finally married. Someone said yes! The youngest son of the family was at long last married. So it was quite grand. But it was also significant - friends, family, and church came together to witness and celebrate our vows. To this day, I remember most of the details. A year later, we were in the United Kingdom. I was a poor student. My wife worked a part time data entry job earning £10 an hour. So for our first wedding anniversary, we saved up for a short holiday in Bath. It was very different from the reception, banquet, and decorations we had a year ago. 

But there, in the modest restaurant, by ourselves, with a small gift exchange; we celebrated our first anniversary. Things were different, but they were the same, as we recalled our vows, spoke about our wedding, and remembered. We talked about the future, how we needed to improve. It brought alive again our wedding day, it evoked feelings of joy and resolve - how it should be better. That’s why many celebrate anniversaries - to remember, to evoke, and to be refreshed in marriage. And when they do, they nourish their love - to fan the flames of passion.

We come today to speak about the Lord’s Supper. That anniversary meal where we remember what Christ has done for us, to regret how we’ve not been as we should, to experience his love and forgiveness, to be refreshed in our walk, to stir desires in ourselves to do better - to nourish our souls - to deepen in our love for him. It’s a sacrament of the church - a pledge from God to save us and forgive us by Christ’s death. We celebrate it and each time we do, we grow in love, experience forgiveness when we repent, anticipate the time when we will be in heaven. It’s our anniversary of our relationship with Christ. There are 2 divisions in this sermon. Firstly, Christ’s institution of the Lord’s Supper. Secondly, Christ’s intention for the Lord’s Supper on believers.

Firstly, Christ’s institution of the Lord’s Supper. Verse 23 says - “For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread.” Christ instituted the Lord’s Supper at the last supper - on a Thursday night, at the start of the Passover, the night before he was crucified, the night in which he was betrayed by Judas Iscariot. So this was a passover meal. There are many evidences of that. In Luke 22:8, Jesus said to Peter and John - “Go and prepare us the passover, that we may eat.” In Luke 22:15, he said to them, “With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer.” So the meal was the passover meal. And this was a memorial meal that the Jews were supposed to eat to commemorate how God redeemed them from slavery in Egypt. In fact, the very existence of the Israelites was grounded in this deliverance.

After 9 plagues failed to convince Pharaoh to let the Israelites go, God sent the tenth plague. He visited judgment on the land of Egypt for their mistreatment of Israel, but as he did so, he provided a means of salvation for his people. God would pass through the land of Egypt and smite all the first born of men and beast. This was judgment on Egypt for their mistreatment of Israel. But as he did this, he would provide a way to escape this judgment - he provided salvation for his people.

Exodus 12 instructed the Israelites to take young male lamb without blemish, keep it with the family for 4 days, and on the 14th day of that month, they were to sacrifice it. If the household was too small, they could join with another house for this meal. They would take the blood of the sacrifice and smear it on the doorframe of the house. God would see the blood on that house and he would passover it and not judge it. They would roast the lamb’s meat, and not remove the head, feet, or guts. They would eat it with bitter herbs and unleavened bread. They were to eat it fully clothed in travel attire, sandals on, with a walking stick in their hand. They were to eat it quickly. And thereafter, they were to keep it as a memorial. God told them in verse 14 - “And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the LORD throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever.” Why? It would serve as a continual reminder of the great salvation that God brought to his people through a great act of judgment.

What was it the specific things they were supposed to remember? In eating the whole lamb - body, head, feet, and entrails - it signified that this lamb died instead of the firstborn of the household; that God spared his people and any who trusted in God to spare them from his judgment. The lamb was not eaten raw, neither was it boiled in water, but it was roasted with fire. It showed the great fiery judgment from which they were spared.

The bitter herbs signified something else. Exodus 1:14 tells us what the Egyptians did to the Israelites - “And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in morter, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field: all their service, wherein they made them serve, was with rigor.” The bitter herbs reminded them of their bitterness and hard service of slavery when they lived in Egypt. The unleavened bread demonstrated the haste with which the Israelites had to leave. There was no time for them to proof the bread, to punch it down, to let it rise a second time, and to shape it, and to bake it. It was a quick bread. It was chapati. And we know that this was the primary meaning because the Israelites had to eat this wearing travel clothes, shoes, and carrying a stick. It was to show their preparedness to leave behind bondage. Yes, leaven and yeast could refer to sin and sinful influence. 

But imagine, year after year, the Israelites were to commemorate this meal - the entire preparation, the recounting, the tasting, the seeing? What would they be confronted with? That God had rescued them from bondage by a substitute - a lamb, with all of its burnt body, its head, feet, even its entrails. They would taste the bitterness of the herbs, as they remembered how bitter it was for their ancestors in that land of slavery. They would taste the bread - not soft - but hard - no time to lose. They would realize the need to live for God. Holy, not with the influence of sin. And all the while clad in clothes, ready to go. They didn’t experience this first hand, that first generation in Egypt did - but they were experiencing it in multi-sensory perception - each year on the 14th day of Nisan when Passover was celebrated.

By the time of Christ, the Passover was celebrated with all elements present, but other things that were added; certain ceremonies and customs. To make sure there was no leaven in the household, a rabbi would go around with a blowtorch or a flame to burn away the leaven. Another custom was the use of wine - specifically 4 cups of wine. According to this custom, Christ and his apostles began the meal with a prayer of thanksgiving over the first cup, which was drunk. This was followed by the meal of herbs, along with the recounting of the exodus events, finishing off with the singing of Psalms 113 and 114. A second cup of wine would be drunk. Here, the unleavened bread was eaten. After the bread was eaten, the lamb was eaten. After which, the third cup, or the cup of blessing was drunk, to signify the blood of the lamb spilled and smeared on the doorframe to protect the people from God’s judgment. After this, there would be a prayer of thanksgiving, followed by the singing of Psalms 115-118. With the fourth cup - the cup of the coming kingdom - being drunk.

When Christ came together with his disciples for the Passover, he took these elements and he changed the meaning to apply to himself and what he was going to do. It now became a new covenant meal. The new covenant was a better covenant than the old. Things would be better and clearer than the old covenant. The old covenant celebrated redemption from bondage to slavery to go to the Promised Land of Canaan. God’s people were the Jews - the physical descendants of Abraham. Only the male believers and their male children were circumcised. Lambs had to be sacrificed and blood spilled continually. But there was not even atonement for high-handed sins. So things were going to change to be better and clearer - to show the reality. 

The new covenant celebrated redemption from bondage to sin to go to the true Promised Land of heaven. God’s people were no longer just the physical sons of Abraham - but his spiritual sons by faith. The mark of covenant - was no longer a bloody cutting - but a washing, extended to believers - male and female, and their children. Lambs were no longer needed to be offered continually - only a one final sacrifice of the Lamb of God, whose blood would be spilled. 

That lamb that was to be sacrificed was Jesus. When John the Baptizer first saw Jesus, he said in John 1:29, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” Paul said in 1 Corinthians 5:7 - “For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us.” He took the elements and he changed the significance. No longer bloody sacrifice to remember Christ. Verses 24-25 tell us what he did. After the second cup was drunk and the lamb was eaten, he took the bread and broke it, and said this is my body, broken for you. And the cup of blessing - the third cup that Jesus blessed and gave thanks for - to symbolize his blood that was shed. So Jesus instituted a better covenant - a better system. He said when you take this meal, do it and remember me. Not Egypt, but Christ. And the new covenant was inaugurated when he died. The very moment when that happened, the veil in the temple split into two, symbolizing that the old was gone, the new had come. One bloody sacrifice for all. No more blood shed. So that’s why when believers celebrate that anniversary of his death, by eating the broken bread and drinking the cup, while we were not there at his death, we experience it in multi-sensory perception.

That’s leads to the second learning point. Christ’s intention for the Lord’s Supper on believers. Verses 23-26 tell us that Christ had 3 intentions - to commemorate, participate, and anticipate. It was to commemorate. Christ wanted his disciples to remember - this do in remembrance of me - Christ said it twice. We often think that the disciples were not with Christ when he died, that they were not by his side save John at his crucifixion. And this is true, but they witnessed these things from a distance. Luke 23:48-49 says, “And all the people that came together to that sight, beholding the things which were done, smote their breasts, and returned. And all his acquaintance, and the women that followed him from Galilee, stood afar off, beholding these things.”

As they broke and ate the bread they were to remember how his body was beaten and crucified for their sins, as they drank the cup, they were to remember how his blood was shed for their sins. Now, the cup that Jesus referred to in verse 25, the cup of blessing or thanksgiving was the cup drunk to signify the sacrificial lamb, whose blood was smeared on the doorframes.

But the remembering was not merely to recall. It was to participate. Jesus said, in verse 24 and 25 - this do ye. Do it. When the Jews were to eat of the bitter herbs, the herbs were bitter. They tasted and remembered; they tasted and the bitterness evoked national memory of the bondage of slavery. They tasted the unleavened bread; it was not fluffy, but hard and crisp - to be taught the need for haste. They ate the roasted lamb, to be taught the fiery judgment on those who have no atonement. While the Jews were not there, they participated. Every year in many parts of the world, there’s Remembrance Day to recall World War I; there’s a moment of silence; the wearing of poppy flowers, etc. In our context, it’s Total Defence Day on 15 February to remember Singapore’s fall to the Japanese; where you remember, you participate, to say that it will never happen again - to be fully prepared.

This is why as you see the bread broken you think on the death of Christ; as you taste its hard crispy texture - we use unleavened bread or a biscuit - you think on the hastiness of the trial, the fiery trials that he went through to burn away our sins; the suffering he went through which broke him. This is why as you see the cup poured, you think of his shed blood - from his head, his stripes, his side, his hands, and feet, how his blood cleanses us of our sins. We participate by sight - to see the symbol; by taste - to know that we need his sacrifice to nourish our souls with salvation and forgiveness; by hearing - the bitter words of the law that condemn us in our sin, the gospel in the words of institution, the forgiveness assured to those who judge and examine themselves. As the Israelites celebrated as families, even opening their homes to others, to eat as a community; we eat together. Jesus said in the words of institution - it is broken for you (plural), this do ye (plural). As often as you (plural) eat this bread. We participate together. It is called communion because we take it together as his body. Christ is with his body. He is the head of the body. He is in our midst. And because he says this is my body; this cup is the new covenant in my blood - when we partake of these elements, they indicate to us, our need for him - his sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin, his purity, his judgment in place of us - in bearing in his body and soul the fiery wrath of God. These elements indicate to us that if we believe and have partaken of Christ spiritually, we are in him, and he is in us. It evokes gratitude, assurance, affection for his love for us.

And it is to anticipate. The Passover was conducted once a year - to remember redemption from slavery to the Promised Land. The Lord’s Supper would be celebrated as verse 26 says, “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come.” We learn in Acts 2:42 they broke bread daily. But by Acts 20, it was a weekly affair - celebrated on the first day of the week. The day of resurrection, the day of ascension, the day of the Holy Spirit’s filling. And they were anticipating the day of Christ’s return. As often as you eat and drink, you do show the Lord’s death until he comes. It anticipates heaven. 

After Jesus partook of the third cup, there was the fourth. He said if you recall, “I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” While the Jews looked forward to Canaan, we look forward to Heaven - the real Promised Land. That time when our salvation will be complete - where not only are we declared holy, but we are perfectly holy and without sin. Where we are clothed in white and at that great marriage supper of the lamb. 

And that is why, the Lord’s Supper is not only a commemoration of Christ’s death, a participation in the benefits , and anticipation of heaven, there’s examination. Only when we examine ourselves will our partaking of the sacrament be enriching and nourishing. But that’s next week’s message.

What can we gain from this? I think practically, it is to know that God doesn’t only preach the gospel in words - he encourages us through these pictures. When we take, let us taste the bread, the cup, and be refreshed as we remember Christ. Be nourished when you seek to live afresh for him.

Sermon Outline:

1. The Institution of the Lord’s Supper

    A. Its significance as a passover meal

    B. Its change into a new covenant meal

2. Christ’s Intention for the Lord’s Supper on Believers

    A. Commemorate

    B. Participate

    C. Anticipate

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mark Chen, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2021, Rev. Mark Chen

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