Memories are such an important part of life. In America and around the world people have always memorialized those who were important to them, those who made a difference in their lives or in the lives of their community or nation. On a national scale we have days throughout the year like Presidents Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and Memorial Day to honor those who have made a difference in our nation.
In addition to “days” we also have memorials that have been built to honor those who have died. The Oklahoma City Memorial and Museum, right here in our own city, is visited by thousands of people every year to remember what took place on April 19, 1995 when 168 people lost their lives. I’ve been to Israel three times, and each time we have visited Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial. Yad Vashem is filled with names and stories of those who lost their lives in the Holocaust. One of the most recognizable pictures in the world is a memorial, the Taj Mahal, built by Shah Jahan as a memorial to his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died in 1631 while giving birth to the couple’s 13th child. The construction on the Taj Mahal began in 1631 and was completed 17 years later in 1648. This memorial was voted one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
For more than 2.3 billion people, Jesus is the most important person to ever live. His impact on each of their lives has been transformational in so many ways. Even though He lived 2000 years ago, He continues to change lives to this very day. His life and teachings have not only changed the lives of individuals, but it has and continues to change entire families and communities in every country of the world. Yet, where do we go to pay our respects? Where is the beautiful memorial that we can travel to and remember His life and contribution to society? Don’t look for one of the Seven Wonders of the World or a backlit granite monument where flowers are laid and you can sit and remember. Where do we go? We go to the table, the Lord’s Table.
On Jesus’ last night with His disciples He shared a meal, the Passover meal. He took the bread and redefined it. He gave new meaning to the cup that had been used by God’s chosen people for centuries. When He was finished, Jesus told His disciples, “Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19 NIV). Let’s continue our study from last week and turn to 1 Corinthians 11:23-34.
23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. 27 So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. 29 For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. 30 That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. 31 But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment. 32 Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world. 33 So then, my brothers and sisters, when you gather to eat, you should all eat together. 34 Anyone who is hungry should eat something at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment. And when I come I will give further directions. (1 Corinthians 11:23-34 NIV)
Before we dig into the Scripture we just read, I have to go back and remind us that in the verses leading up to our Scripture for this morning, in 1 Corinthians 11:17-22, Paul came down hard on the brothers and sisters in Corinth. Why was he so upset? They had turned the celebration of the Lord’s Supper into nothing more than a social event where the rich enjoyed their fancy food and wine and the poor went away hungry and feeling left out.
If you will notice, in our Scripture for this morning, verses 23-25 are focused on what Jesus did the night He shared the last supper with His disciples. The verses leading up to these verses show us the church was celebrating something, but it certainly wasn’t the Lord’s Supper. The verses following 23-25, verses 26-34, are Paul’s wise words as to how to correct what had gone wrong so the church could get back to using the loaf and the cup to remember Jesus and what He had done for them.
I had a conversation this past week with a friend. We were talking about how the modern-day church in America has lost touch with our roots, our history. He shared with me a story about when he visited a church one time. At the end of the service the pastor or one of the leaders said, “On your way out grab one of the crackers and juice.” That’s how they celebrated the Lord’s Supper. I’ve thought about our conversation a lot this week as I’ve been studying these Scriptures. It is my prayer for all of us that when we leave here this morning we will be so familiar, so in awe, with what took place at Jesus’ Last Supper with His disciples that it will forever change the way we all spend time together on Sunday’s celebrating at the Table.
The final meal Jesus shared with His disciples is found in all four of the Gospels. It wasn’t a going away meal like we might have if we were moving out of state and leaving our family. The final meal Jesus shared with His disciples was the annual Passover meal. The first Passover meal was shared in Egypt while the Hebrews were slaves of Pharaoh and the Egyptians. God had brought nine plagues on the land of Egypt in order to force Pharaoh’s hand to let His people go. On the night before the 10th and final plague, the death of the firstborn, God gave His people instructions as to what they were to do. We can read God’s instructions found in Exodus 12. Let’s just read verses 5-11 together to get the picture of what took place.
5 The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. 6 Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. 7 Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs. 8 That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. 9 Do not eat the meat raw or boiled in water, but roast it over a fire– with the head, legs and internal organs. 10 Do not leave any of it till morning; if some is left till morning, you must burn it. 11 This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the LORD’s Passover. (Exodus 12:5-11 NIV)
They were to smear the blood of the lamb over the doorway of their homes so the death angel, when he passed through the land of Egypt would see the blood of the lamb and “passover” the houses of the Hebrews, sparing their firstborn children. They were to eat the meal fully dressed and ready to go because the next morning they would be leaving Egypt for the Promised Land. This simple meal, celebrated thousands of years ago in Egypt, is still being celebrated today by Jews all over the world to remember God’s deliverance from the Egyptians. In Exodus 12:14 we read,
14 This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD– a lasting ordinance. (Exodus 12:14 NIV)
In generation after generation leading up to the days of Jesus, thousands of lambs would be killed in Jerusalem each year as the travelers would arrive from all over for Passover. The lambs were not just any lambs, God had called His people to choose a lamb without spot or blemish, only perfect lambs would do. It is more than interesting that when Jesus arrived on the scene, and John the Baptist saw Him coming his way, we read,
29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29 NIV)
The Lamb of God, not just any lamb, but the perfect Lamb, the spotless, sinless, undefiled Lamb of God who had come to take away the sins of sinners like you and me.
Now, let’s fast forward to the night when Jesus shared the Passover meal with His disciples. The story is told in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and is also found in the larger context of Jesus’ teaching in the Gospel of John, but let’s go with what we read earlier in 1 Corinthians 11:23-25 where Paul shares what he “received from the Lord.”
23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” (1 Corinthians 11:23-25 NIV)
Bread and a cup. With bread and a cup Jesus established a forever reminder for His followers of the new covenant, a new Passover for all who would believe in Him. Let’s take a look at each of these just for a moment. It was unleavened bread that was eaten at the first Passover and at every Passover meal since. It was unleavened because those Hebrew slaves didn’t have time to let the dough rise, they would have to leave Egypt at a moment’s notice, when God gave them the go ahead. But there’s another significant aspect of the bread that we need to recognize, it was called “the bread of affliction.” In Deuteronomy 16:3 we read,
2 Sacrifice as the Passover to the LORD your God an animal from your flock or herd at the place the LORD will choose as a dwelling for his Name. 3 Do not eat it with bread made with yeast, but for seven days eat unleavened bread, the bread of affliction, because you left Egypt in haste– so that all the days of your life you may remember the time of your departure from Egypt. (Deuteronomy 16:2-3 NIV)
The unleavened bread not only reminds the Jews that they left Egypt with haste, but it was also meant to remind them of their suffering. On Jesus’ final night with His disciples He took bread, broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” Jesus wanted His disciples and all of His followers from that night until this day to remember the suffering He endured for our own deliverance, our own redemption.
Now, let’s go back to the church in Corinth just for a moment. Do you remember why Paul was so upset with them? It was because they were divided. They weren’t united at the agape feast, when they celebrated the Lord’s Supper. They were the “haves” and the “have nots” and there was no mistaking who was in which group. When Paul recites Jesus’ words, “This is my body, which is for you…” He is using a plural personal pronoun in Greek. If you were reading the NOT version of the Bible, the New Okie Translation of the Scriptures, then you would read, “This is my body, which is for all y’all!” He died for you, singular, yes that is true, but don’t ever forget He died for all of us who are His followers as well. Let’s take a look at the cup just for a moment. Paul wrote, in verse 25,
25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” (1 Corinthians 11:25 NIV)
If you read the original Passover story in Exodus you’ll find no mention of a cup, but Jewish tradition, which came along later, said the cup was to be filled with red wine as a reminder of the shed blood of the Passover lamb. For many people today the thought of a lamb’s shed blood is just gross. What purpose could the shedding of blood possibly serve? That’s a great question so let’s take a look.
Jesus, when He took the cup said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood;” We need to understand the word “covenant.” We don’t know much about covenants because we have contracts in our day. Contracts are broken every day and that’s why we have lawyers. Covenants were entered into with great seriousness and were seen as absolutely binding in the ancient Near East. The best description I can give you is found in Genesis 15 when God “cut a covenant” with Abram, but before we read the Scripture I need to fill you in on something important.
When covenants were made in biblical times the two parties would take animals and cut them into two pieces, laying one side of the animal on each side with a path between. The two people making the covenant would walk between the animals that had been sacrificed and commit to the covenant. The dead animals signified to both parties the seriousness of the covenant. They were a visual sign that in effect said, “If I break this covenant, may it happen to me what has happened to these animals.” I told you, covenants were solemn, serious business in the ancient world. Now turn with me to Genesis 15 and let’s read about the covenant God cut with Abram.
9 So the LORD said to him, “Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.” 10 Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half… 17 When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. 18 On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates– 19 the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, 20 Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, 21 Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.” (Genesis 15:17-21 NIV)
God made a commitment, He cut a covenant with Abram and his descendants, and God has kept His covenant because He is a covenant keeping God.
In Exodus 24:7-8, after God had given His people the “Book of the Covenant,” which is the Mosaic Law, we read that God’s people agreed to keep everything in the law. Moses then acted on behalf of the people. Let’s read it together.
7 Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, “We will do everything the LORD has said; we will obey.” 8 Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, “This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.” (Exodus 24:7-8 NIV)
Covenants were serious business. The blood of an innocent animal was shed as a symbol of the seriousness of the agreement, the commitment that was being made. Do you know the problem with all of the covenants God made with His people prior to Jesus? The problem was one party was unable, and oftentimes unwilling, to keep their part of the deal and that party wasn’t God. Over and over again God’s people broke the covenant God had made with them. Then one day, through the prophet Jeremiah, it was prophesied, announced by God, that He would one day make a new covenant with His people. You can find it in Jeremiah 31.
31 “The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them, ” declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 31:31-32 NIV)
And then… Long the world had waited for the arrival of the new covenant. God’s people had failed time and time again to keep their end of the deal, their agreement to keep the covenant. The day arrived when Jesus took the cup and said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood;” The new covenant wouldn’t be ratified by the blood of bulls or even a lamb, but it would be ratified by the priceless, sinless blood of the perfect Lamb without spot or blemish. In Hebrews 9 we read that “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin.”
We get things so twisted in our day because we’ve lost sight of this biblical truth. Let me repeat it: “There is no forgiveness without the shedding of blood.” Do you realize what that means? It means that you can’t be “good enough.” Oh, I know you and you are really good people, but you are not good enough. What we are is sinners. What we aren’t is good enough. Jesus said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood;” What we are unable to be, He is! He is our Redemption and Redeemer. He is our Sacrifice and sanctification.
Oh the countless sacrifices that were made at the temple for the sins of God’s people! Day after day and year after year burnt offerings, sin offerings, guilt offerings, peace offerings–sacrifices were made by the priest, the blood of the innocent was shed for the guilty. The sacrifices were not able to save poor sinners–they merely covered over the sins of God’s people. Then the day came when the perfect Lamb of God came and offered Himself–and no more sacrifices would ever be needed. The writer of Hebrews put it this way.
25 Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. 26 Such a high priest truly meets our need– one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. 27 Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. (Hebrews 7:25-27 NIV)
The door to reconciliation, restoration, and redemption has been opened through the blood of the Lamb, God’s only Son, Jesus our Savior. How was the door opened? Was it through your goodness? My goodness? No my friend. God saw our helpless state, our hopeless condition, and He knew we could do nothing, absolutely nothing to bridge the divide between our sinfulness and His holiness so He acted on our behalf. This was God’s plan long before Jesus was ever born, long before the crowd yelled, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” and long before they nailed Him to the cross. Isaiah prophesied 700 years before Jesus was born. Hear these words and see if they don’t drop you to your knees.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6 NIV)
700 years before Jesus was born the plan was already in place. It was a plan to save you and me even at the cost of God’s only Son. Jesus took the cup and said,
25 …”This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” (1 Corinthians 11:25 NIV)
I can already see that we are not going to make it as far in our study as I had hoped, but we’ll come back and finish our study in the future. The reason we aren’t going to make it through verse 34 is because I want to sit in this phrase, “In remembrance of me” for a few minutes. Jesus told His disciples that whenever they come to the Table to eat the bread and drink from the cup they were to remember Him.
We don’t have any problem remembering those we love that have gone home to be with the Lord. My mother died nine years ago last month. On the anniversary of her death I thought about her throughout the day. Oh, the memories that flooded my mind! I think about my mom whenever something significant happens in the life of my family. There are also times that mom will just randomly come to mind for no apparent reason. On the anniversary of her death my mind and heart were flooded with story after story and memories that I treasure of the times I shared with her.
When we come to the Lord’s Table we don’t rememberJesus in the same way we remember those we love who have died. We remember what Jesus has done for us in giving His life for our salvation. We remember that our Savior is not dead, but He is alive, and He is coming again. Ciampi and Rosner write,
It is crucial for our understanding of the Lord’s Supper that the remembrance is not an act of remembering a long-lost friend, present only in the memories of the community. It is understood by all that the Lord who is being remembered and whose death is being proclaimed did not remain dead but is living and present with the community as they celebrate what he accomplished when he first came, not ‘to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’ (Mark 10:45; Matt. 20:28) and as they look forward to his return to consummate his redemptive work (Ciampi and Rosner. The First Letter to the Corinthians. pg. 553).
We not only remember the life Jesus lived, the death He died on the cross, and His glorious resurrection, but we also remember our Savior has promised to come back for us one day. He has died, the sinless for sinners like you and me. God raised Him from the dead, so that you and I might know that death has been defeated, not just for Jesus, but for all of us who put our faith in Him. And we remember that our Savior lives and He is present with us right now. Right now. Right now He is inviting you to come to Him, to receive Him as Lord and Savior of your life. Won’t you come?
Britton Christian Church
September 5, 2021
1 Corinthians 11:17-34