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          The Meaning of Communion (143)

          James R. Davis

          Luke 22:15-22
          And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer: For I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves: For I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come. And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.  But, behold, the hand of him that betrayeth me is with me on the table. And truly the Son of man goeth, as it was determined: but woe unto that man by whom he is betrayed!

          Have you ever moved from one house to another? When we move, we almost always go through our personal belongings and try to discard things that we haven't used in years. When we get through with the sorting, we usually end up with a few drawers full of what others would call junk. We cannot bring ourselves to throw the stuff away. As we touch them, handle and look at these items they bring back fond memories. They are common things that have a meaning far beyond their intrinsic value.

          I remember spending four years in the Air Force. When you enter a branch of service you receive a metal Identification Tag. We called it our "dog tag". After being discharged from service I put this dog tag on my key chain and carried it around for 25 years. It wasn't an icon or my rabbit's foot but it is a reminder of where I had spent four years of my life as a young man.

          There is a difference between a sacrament and an icon. We must be careful because sometimes such items can become an icon. When Moses made a brass serpent and lifted it upon a pole to save the Israelites in their rebellion the brass serpent was placed in the Tent of the Tabernacle as a reminder. But later it became an icon.

          II Kings 18:4
          He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it. (It was called Nehushtan.)

          I. Symbolism

          Symbolism has always played an important role with God's people.

          Feast of Tabernacles

          Jesus took ancient symbols at the Passover, and gave them a new meaning. The same emblems would represent his blood, his sinless life and his body given on the cross for our sins.

          Luke 22:19-20
          And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.

          II. Importance of Remembering.

          There is a direct correlation between the accuracy of our memory and the effectiveness our mission.

          A lonely destroyer skipper ran his ship with both strength and compassion, but he kept almost entirely to himself. He had one ritual, however, which puzzled his fellow officers almost beyond endurance. Every morning before coming up to the bridge he would unlock a special drawer in his desk, take out a strongbox, unlock it, remove a small scrap of paper, read it carefully, return it to the strongbox, replace the box in the drawer, and lock the drawer. One day, during a heavy air attack the skipper was killed. After the funeral, his executive officer led a mad dash to the captain's cabin, unlocked the special drawer, removed the strongbox, unlocked it, removed the mysterious scrap of paper, and examined it carefully while his companions waited breathlessly. On it was written, "Port is left; starboard is right."

          Likewise if we lose sight of the cross of Christ we want know our right from the left, we want know what is right and what is wrong.

          2 Peter 1:12-16
          Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth. Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance; Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me. Moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance. For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

          Without remembering there is a loss of personal identity with no sense of self. This is the basis for the biblical commands to remember. Without memory we lose our ability to make centered decisions, to take initiative.

          We may not be teaching people what to do be saved because we have forgotten what it means to be lost.

          We may not be teaching the message of forgiveness because we have forgotten what it was like to be guilty.

          If we are not preaching the cross, maybe subconsciously it is because we have forgotten its appeal.

          Paul admonished Timothy to remember Jesus.

          1 Cor 11:24-27
          And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come. Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.

          No church will survive without focusing on Jesus. Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper by saying: This is my body. This is my blood. This is shed for many. Do it in remembrance of me. Paul said, " For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come."

          Jesus is the focal point. It is easy to lose sight of Jesus.

          III. Important Things to Remember

          When we gather around the Lord's Table we are brought to the foot of the cross to be reminded that we must trust in God's grace.

          Jesus Christ reminds us of our position before we became children of God.

          Titus 3:1-7
          Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men. For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour;  That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

          Because of his great devotion and faithfulness to his king, a Persian shepherd was promoted to the position of Prime Minister. The other ministers were angry that one of such lowly origin should be so highly honored. They therefore sought to bring in some evil report that would place him in disfavor. After watching him closely, they found nothing objectionable except that once a week they found nothing objectionable except that once a week he would enter a little room which he kept locked and would shut himself in for an hours. The noblemen informed their monarch of this, declaring that they were certain he must be gathering there a secret hoard of his master's precious possessions. The king doubted their story, but gave them permission to break in and search the room. The only thing they found was a small bundle containing a dilapidated pair of shoes and an old robe. Brought before the ruler, the minister was asked why he kept them, and he replied, I wore these things when I was a shepherd. I look at them regularly lest I should forget what I once was and how unworthy I am of all the kindness and honor your majesty has bestowed upon me."

          We are reminded that we must trust in God's righteousness; we have none of our own. We are reminded that God is the source of life. As we focus on communion it emphasizes what God does . . . not what we do. The cross brings us face to face with our worst failures. It is here, that we are forced to focus on the source of life.

          John 15:4-5
          Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

          Men want to provide their own security. When God was raining bread, which was called Manna, from heaven many tried to gather enough to last more than one day and it would be eaten by worms. They had no alternative but to trust God. God led them through a wilderness with massive roadblocks.

          Today Jesus Christ is the BREAD OF LIFE.

          As we come to the Cross we must learn the lesson of humility. We must understand our smallness. It is impossible to salvage our lives without God.

          When we depend upon man, we get only what man can do; when we depend on grace, we get what God can do.

          2 Corinthians 5:14-15
          For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.

          We are reminded that Christ is our salvation. "He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed." (Isaiah 53:5) "For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly." (Romans 5:6)

          We are reminded that God's grace reigns through his righteousness.

          Romans 5:16-21
          And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification. For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.

          I John 2:2
          And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.

          John 10:10
          The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

          It is important for us to remember the joy of our salvation.

          Dr. Paul s. Rees wrote, "Sometime ago I saw an intriguing tittle, 'Gloomy Caesar and Happy Jesus.' In the short article that followed, the author contrasted what e know of Tiberius Caesar, who ruled Rome in A. D. 30, with what we know of the Savior. Of Tiberius with all his power, pomp and possessions, the historian Pliny wrote, 'He is the gloomiest of mankind.' But of Jesus we read that sitting in the shadow of His cross, He took bread and gave thanks and broke it and gave unto them, and when the holy supper was over, they sang a 'hymn' and 'went out'."  Dr. Rees concludes by saying, "You and I are not to be dispensers of Caesar's gloom, but rather transmitters of Jesus' joy!"

          Hebrews 12:1-2
          Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

          The Lord's Supper reminds us of the price Christ paid to set us free.



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