Sign of the Cross: Communion
We are looking this morning at the second sign of the cross. Last week we spoke of Baptism. This week, we will talk about Communion. At least that’s what we Baptists call it. If you were from another denomination, you might call it “The Lord’s Table,” or “The Eucharist.” Regardless of the title, I bet when you think of communion, you don’t think of this. Most of us are familiar with astronaut Neil Armstrong's historic statement as he stepped onto the moon's surface: "That's one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind." I bet you didn’t know however about the first meal Buzz Aldrin ate there.When Apollo 11 landed on the surface of the moon on Sunday, July 20, 1969. Buzz Aldrin had brought aboard the spacecraft a tiny Communion kit provided by his church. Aldrin sent a radio broadcast to Earth asking listeners to contemplate the events of that day and give thanks.Then, in radio blackout for privacy … [Aldrin] read, "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, bears much fruit." Then, he gave thanks, and took communion.
No matter what you call it, or how you see it, communion describes an incident that happened in the life of Christ during the last few hours before his death on the cross. Paul describes it like this:
For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”
26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.
I want to show you communion from three angles this morning. I want to draw, if you want to say it this way, three pictures of what Communion is all about. Seeing these pictures will focus your attenion and explain what this curious little ceremony is all about. In the first place, Communion is a picture of our sin.
DIV 1: COMMUNION IS A PICTURE OF SIN
We begin with this picture because, without it, the cross would have been unnecessary. But, through the disobedience of Adam and all of us, his children, we are sinners. We might admit that, but we sometimes don’t really see its hideousness. Ephesians really fleshes out the picture of sin for us. In Ephesians 2:1-3, you see it plainly. It says
And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.
You find, here, that sin has a culture. It’s culture is the “course of this world” mentioned in v. 2. That simply means that every commercial on television, every billboard on the highway, every human approach to problems, every psychological excuse for failure comes from a mindset that follows the “course of this world.” Sin has a culture.
And sin has a master. V2 also says that we walked “according to the prince of the power of the air.” The master of sin is the master of this world’s course. It’s the master contender for God’s glory and the master schemer against God’s plan. It’s the enemy of holiness and the enemy of our souls. Its Satan. Sin has a master; Sin has a culture.
And then sin has a following. V 2 says we walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, notice, “the spiritu who now works in the sons of disobedience.” We are slaves to the culture and the master of sin, but we are willing slaves. We have followed the course of sin and it has captured us in its unyielding grasp. Like lemmings we walk blindly towards the cliff of disaster enslaved by the spirit “that now works in the children of disobedience.” Sin has a following.
And sin also has an addiction. V3 says, “among whom we also conducted ourselves (watch) “in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind.” A “lust” is simply a strong, controlling desire. Can anyone say “co-dependence”? Can anyone say “addiction?” Hey, its not just crack and its not just cocaine. This addiction extends to almost every act of sin. We become sitting ducks for the slavery of addiction through the appeal of sin to our sinful nature. Sin has an addiction.
And all of this just leads to this last one: Sin has a destiny. V 3 says that “we were by nature children of wrath.” Politically correct churches might want to ignore this one. The truth is, God’s mad about our sin. Apart from the communion we are talking about today and what it means, we will fall under the wrath and the judgment of God. Sin has a destiny and that destiny is eternal separation and torment under the wrath and judgment of God. Sin has a culture. Sin has a master. Sin has a following. Sin has an addiction and sin has a destiny. Not a pretty picture, is it.
Dallas Willard writes about a 2-and-a-half-year-old girl in her backyard who one day discovered the secret to making mud (which she called "warm chocolate"). Her grandmother had been reading and was facing away from the action, but after cleaning up what was to her a mess, she told little Larissa not to make any more chocolate and turned her chair around so as to be facing her granddaughter.
The little girl soon resumed her "warm chocolate" routine, with one request posed as sweetly as a 2-and-a-half-year-old can make it: "Don't look at me, Nana. Okay?" Nana (being a little co-dependent) of course agreed.
Larissa continued to manufacture warm chocolate. Three times she said, as she continued her work, "Don't look at me, Nana. Okay?"
Then Willard writes: "Thus the tender soul of a little child shows us how necessary it is to us that we be unobserved in our wrong."
Any time we choose to do wrong or to withhold doing right, we choose hiddenness as well. It may be that out of all the prayers that are ever spoken, the most common one—the quietest one; the one that we least acknowledge making—is simply this: Don't look at me, God.
It was the very first prayer spoken after the Fall. God came to walk in the garden, to be with the man and the woman, and called, "Where are you?"
"I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid," Adam answered, "so I hid." Don't look at me, God.
If the cross tells us anything, it tells us that God desperately wants to be in communion with us. He wants to look on us and for us to look on Him . . . to have a relationship with Him. The only way for that to happen to a sinful man is for that man to experience the reality that lies behind communion. To experience the reality of the cross. It is this ceremony of the cross, this communion that shows us the picture of our sin, and just how far God will go to deal with it. Communion is a picture of sin, but it is also a
DIV 2: PICTURE OF SACRIFICE
In our text, 1 Corinthians 11, we read about the body of Christ. V 23, 24 says “ . . . that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you. His body, represented by this bread, speaks of the sacrifice Jesus made for us on that cross. V. 24 says “This is My Body. . .” We tend to read right over that phrase, but don’t miss the importance of it. Jesus’ body was the only body that could have been offered like this. Put me on a cross, and my death might be noble, but I could not save you. Christ alone was able to save us because He was God and He was sinless. His sacrifice was sufficient.
And His sacrifice was a suffering sacrifice. Notice He says, “This is my body which was broken for you.” A medical doctor, Truman Davis, contemplated the cross to determine what it was that caused Christ to die. Here’s what he wrote about the suffering of Christ:
The preliminary scourging was done with the victim naked, his arms tied to a post above his head. The heavy whip is brought down with full force again and again across Jesus’ shoulders, back, and legs. At first the thongs cut through the skin only. Then, as the blows continue they cut deeper until the half-fainting victim is untied and allowed to slump to the pavement, wet in his own blood.
At the site of execution, the crossbeam is thrown down, and the victim is pushed to the ground, his arms stretching over the wood. The legionnaire feels for the depression at the front of the wrist. He drives a heavy, square, wrought-iron nail through the wrist and into the wood. Quickly, he moves to the other side. Jesus is hauled up and lifted onto the upright post.
The left foot is now pressed backward against the right foot, and with both feet extended, toes down, a nail is driven through the arch of each, leaving the knees moderately flexed. The victim is now crucified. As he slowly sags down with more weight on the nails in the wrists excruciating pain shoots along the fingers and up the arms to explode in the brain—the nails in the wrists are putting pressure on the median nerves. As he pushes himself upward to avoid this stretching torment, he places his full weight on the nail through his feet. Again there is the searing agony of the nail tearing through the nerves between the metatarsal bones of the feet.
At this point, as the arms fatigue, great waves of cramps sweep over the muscles, knotting them in deep, relentless, throbbing pain. With these cramps comes the inability to push himself upward. In this position, air can be drawn into the lungs, but cannot be exhaled. The victim fights to raise himself up in order to get even one short breath. Finally carbon dioxide builds up in the lungs and in the blood stream and the cramps partially subside. Spasmodically, he is able to push himself upward to exhale and bring in the life-giving oxygen. It was undoubtedly during these periods that Jesus uttered the seven short sentences recorded.
The common method of ending a crucifixion was by the breaking of the bones of the legs. This prevented the victim from pushing himself upward; thus the tension could not be relieved from the muscles of the chest and rapid suffocation occurred. This was unnecessary for Christ, who died after six hours of crucifixion.
Apparently to make doubly sure of death, the legionnaire drove his lance through the fifth interspace between the ribs, upward through the pericardium and into the heart. There was an escape of water fluid from the sac surrounding the heart, giving postmortem evidence that our Lord died not the usual crucifixion death by suffocation, but of heart failure due to shock and constriction of the heart by fluid in the pericardium. He spiritually and physically died of a broken heart!
That was the suffering of his sacrifice. And what was its significance? Its found in those last two words of that phrase in v 24. “This is my body which was broken (look) for you!” You are the reason He gave His life!
Yes, He did this for you, but it will only apply to you if you accept it. We are about to pass out the bread of communion. It symbolizes the sacrifice Christ made for you, but if you refuse to accept that sacrifice. If you say, “I don’t think I’m so bad,” or “I’m not ready to follow Him,” or “I think I can make it on my own,” His sacrifice will have been in vain.
And I should also tell you that just eating this physical cracker we’re about to pass around won’t save you either. All this cracker is is a representation of Christ’s body. To really receive what He has done for you requires you to come to Him in complete surrender and commit your life to Him, trusting in Him alone for salvation.
You may be here today, and you know that you really don’t know Him as your Savior. If that is so, I invite you to do two things as we take this bread together. While these ushers are passing out this bread, simply pray and tell God that you are a sinner and you want to come to know Him today. You can be saved just like that. It’s a simple matter of putting your complete faith and trust in Christ. If, however, you are not prepared to make that commitment, please to not partake of communion with us. It is only for those who really know Christ. If you are not prepared to make that commitment, simply watch as we celebrate His sacrifice for us.
COMMUNION: PASS THE BREAD - THE GOSPEL SONG - OTHER PIANO MUSIC.
For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.
There’s one more picture that communion shows us. It is not only a picture of sin and a picture of sacrifice. Most of all, its a
DIVISION 3: PICTURE OF FORGIVENESS
1 Cor 11:25 says something thats a little vague till you understand it. It says: “In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” Notice He says that “this is the ‘new covenant . . .’” What does that mean?
To answer that question, you have to go back to the Old Testament. Jeremiah was a prophet to the nation of Israel. Because Israel had rebelled against God and gone into sin, God had told them that He was going to punish them and that He would do whatever it took to bring them back to where they needed to be with Him. Well, it was Jeremiah’s job to deliver the bad news. For that reason, much of his book is kind of negative. But in the middle of all the dire predictions, there is a shining light of hope. It’s found in Jeremiah 31:31-34. It is to these verses I believe Jesus refers when He speaks of the “new covenant” here. Look at what Jeremiah said:
“Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— 32 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”
This “new covenant” that Jeremiah spoke of was the “new covenant” that Jesus established through His cross. It is a powerful covenant. Notice that Jeremiahsays in v 33, I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. No more will the people simply and futilely try to keep the law with their own strength, but God will, through the power of the cross, change their hearts so that they will actually be able to obey Him. This is a powerful covenant.
And this new covenant is a personal covenant. V 33 goes on to say, I will be their God and they shall be my people. Because of the cross we will not have to speak to God through a priest or have someone to offer sacrifice for our sins. The sacrifice has been offered on the cross and now, we can come boldly into the Holy of Holies and, there, have fellowship with God. The new covenant makes our relationship with Christ personal.
And this covenant is a pleasing covenant. The last phrase of v 34 says For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more. On what basis does God forgive our sin and redeem us? Ephesians 1:7 says: In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace. This new covenant is brought about through His blood, and it is His blood that is signified by this grape juice. We are forgiven by His blood.
Has that blood ever been applied to your sin? See, you could drink a gallon of grape juice and you’d still be as full of sin as when you started. The only way to have His blood applied to your life is to simply come to Him in faith, trust what He did for you on the cross, and receive His forgiveness.
That is what we celebrate now. As the deacons pass out this symbol of Jesus’ blood, I invite you once again to come to Him in faith and trust Him as your personal Savior if you have not already. And if you’re a believer who is away from Him, the same blood that saved you, is the same blood that can cleanse you from your sin. Spend some time right now in confession before him.
COMMUNION - ALAS AND DID - MUSIC ON THE PIANO.