The Gift of Communion
“Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples…”
A New Invention
On a hot August day, three brothers, Hyman, Maxwell and Norman Cohen entered the Dearborn, Michigan, offices of Henry Ford, the car maker. “Mr. Ford,” Norman Cohen, the eldest of the three said, “We have a remarkable invention that will revolutionize the automobile industry.” Ford looked skeptical, but when they threatened to offer it to his competitors, he listened with interest. Please, they said, “We would like to demonstrate it to you in person.”
After a little convincing, they brought Mr. Ford outside and asked him to get into the black automobile parked in front of the building. Hyman Cohen, the middle brother, opened the door of the car. “Please step inside, Mr. Ford.” “What!!!” shouted the tycoon, “Are you crazy? It must be two hundred degrees in that car!!” “It is,” smiled the youngest brother, Max, “but please sit down, Mr. Ford, and push the white button.” Intrigued, Ford pushed the button. All of a sudden a whoosh of freezing air started blowing from vents all around the car, and within seconds the automobile was not only comfortable, it was quite cool.
“This is amazing !” exclaimed Ford. “How much do you want for the patent?”
Norman said, “The price is one million dollars.” Then he paused. “And there is something else. We want the name ’Cohen Brothers Air-Conditioning’ must be stamped right next to the Ford logo!” Ford replied “The money is no problem, but there is no way I will have your name next to my logo on my cars!”
They haggled back and forth for a while and finally they settled. Five million dollars, but the Cohens’ last name would be left off. However, the first names of the Cohen brothers would be forever emblazoned upon the console of every Ford air conditioning system. And that is why even today, whenever you enter a Ford vehicle, you will see those three names clearly printed on the air conditioning control panel: NORM, HI and MAX. J
A little fun humor as we embark preparing for Easter and this season. For the last 2,000 years Christians take the time to reflect on the meaning of Christ’s death in these weeks just before Easter. Some churches recognize this by celebrating lent.
Read Passage – Matthew 26:17-30
17 On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?” 18 He replied, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.’” 19 So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover. 20 When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. 21 And while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” 22 They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?” 23 Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.” 25 Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?” Jesus answered, “You have said so.” 26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” 27 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” 30 When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
Feast of Unleavened Bread
Growing up when I did, I remember how everyone seemed to have basic Christian beliefs, even if they didn’t believe them, and it was common to ask where someone might go to church. In fact, everyone kind of understood what sin was.
Point: I think that is why people could go door to door or stand on a street corner and people would actually talk about sin.
Not so today. Not only do people today tend not to believe in sin. It’s not uncommon for people to say something like, “What is sin?”
Ex. Claudia and I have some good friends who we love and respect but they don’t believe in sin. I am purposely not sharing their name or belief system but I wanted to give you an example of how people think today. They go around the world teaching these values. They believe (in a nutshell):
- Everyone comes into the world with a bright and pure heart.
- Every person was once thought of a cute, cuddly precious, and even miraculous.
- At some point in our growth we were all hurt.
- Because of that hurt we begin to protect ourselves so we build walls and barriers to do that
- Some of these walls and barriers are the self-destructive behaviors we practice like drugs, abuse, disorders, negativity, violence and even suicide
- Regardless of our hurts and barriers, we are all intrinsically good
The passage that we are looking at today has much of that same flavor. Sure the Israelites believed in sin but the Romans didn’t care about the Jewish religions or traditions. So when Matthew begins this passage he talks about things the Israelites would understand because his book was meant to be heard by the Jews. He mentions something that the Israelite people would all know very well; the Feast of Unleavened Bread. This was a celebration that happened for 7 days prior to the Passover. This feast was the remembrance of Jewish people fleeing Egypt. In their quick exit they didn’t have time to wait for the bread to rise, the effects of the yeast, so they had to eat unleavened bread, bread without yeast. In Deut. 16:3the Jews are commanded to eat the “bread of affliction” or unleavened bread for 7 days. Yeast, also called leaven, eventually came to be a symbol that represented sin because it fermented the dough and it naturally led to the decay of the bread. . So one of the traditions that the Israelites practiced was to clean their houses to make sure there is no yeast, not a drop, anywhere during this time.
Then came the Passover. Passover is the celebration of the final plague that God used to free the Jews from the Egyptians. In that final plague, there is a whole meal the Jews were to take part of and it meant slaughtering a lamb and spreading the blood on the doorposts and frames so that when the plague came at night, God’s hand would “pass over” that house with the blood and the firstborn would be spared.
So why is all this important? Good question. Because this is all meant to lead to Jesus Christ. Even the Jewish people were of the time this passage was written were waiting and hoping for the Messiah. Prior to this time Jewish people need to make atonement for their sin. Jesus comes to live among us and lead us to God and to die on the cross to atone for our sin. It says in Phil. 2:8:
“And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!” Phil. 2:8
You see, sin is real and in order for us to be restored into a full relationship with God that sin needs to be atoned for. Jesus Christ pays the price once and for all. His sacrifice covers sin forever. Now where that leads us to is communion; the remembrance of what Jesus Christ did for us through his death and subsequent resurrection. He paid the price once and for all.
God’s Gift of Communion to Us: Look…
And here is what we discover; communion is a gift. It is God’s gift to us to never forget what Jesus Christ did for us. And that gift has some really important understanding that comes with it. It calls us to look at certain things.
- Back and Forward
First, we are called to look back and to look forward, much in the same the Israelites were looking back but always looking forward too. The disciples ask in verse 17b:
“Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?” vs. 17b
It pointed the Israelites back to the Passover and God’s redemptive work free the Israelites from the Egyptians after 400 years of captivity and slavery. God wants us to know history, that’s why we have His Word. History is important. Hopefully we learn from history. For us, communion points us back to the death of Christ and his redemptive work on the cross.
The Israelites were also called to look forward to the appearing of their Messiah. So we too are called to look for the return of Christ. Looking forward points us to the time when we will celebrate again in the heavenly realms with Christ himself. Jesus talks about that in verse 29 when he tells the disciples:
“I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” vs. 29
We look back with thankfulness and we look forward with anticipation.
Ex. I think we do this in a practical sense as well. We remember those we love and care about but look forward to spending eternity with them. I think it is natural for us to look both back and forward.
Another direction communion points us is inward. Communion is s time of self-examination and confession. 1 Cor. 11:28 tells us:
“Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup.” 1 Cor. 11:28
This is a time of inward reflection and purification. The way that is done is by taking a hard look at yourself and being honest with yourself. We have to get real and honest with ourselves and humble ourselves before God. This is hard stuff and not very fun. Looking inward drives us back to the cross and the realization that there is a price to be paid for our sin. That’s hard to admit and confess. But…through it comes of the gift of forgiveness. We are assured that God forgive every sin (vs. 28) and that nothing, not even sin, can separate us from the love of God (Rom. 8:39).
Next, communion directs us to look up. Looking up is the idea of seeing God and seeing things the way he sees things. I would even challenge you on this that the call is to have a bigger vision; a bigger vision of life, of material things, and of trying to discover God’s bigger plan. Col. 3:1-2 says:
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” Col. 3:1-2
Circle “set your mind on things above.” The clue here is that we tend to put a lot of value and importance on earthly, temporary things. Those things are gifts to us from God but should never have greater importance than eternity. When we set our minds on earthly things we get self-centered, a narrow focus, and frustrated because the earthly things can never completely satisfy. But…when we set our minds on things above we find hope and encouragement.
Ex. Struggle with dad’s health and death
Communion is also meant to cause us to look around. Communion was never meant to be practiced alone. Think about this; this sacrament goes all the way back to the time of Moses. The first Passover was celebrated with family and the mandate from the Old Testament is to celebrate it with family. Christ also set the example for us as we see in verse 21:
“When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve.” vs. 21
Jesus celebrated communion with the 12 disciples, those closest to him on this earth. We are called to celebrate communion with those we worship with because we will be together for eternity. In fact, look around for a moment, you are going to spend eternity with those around you…and so many more.
Ex. Introducing someone in the congregation to those who have gone before us
1 Corinthians 10:17 says:
“Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf.”
1 Cor. 10:17
We are one, just as the there is only one loaf in the communion.
Ex. The old way of taking the loaf and passing it and pulling a piece off. Had to stop for sanitary reasons.
And finally, communion causes us to look out. By out what I mean is that it is an expression to those outside of the church that we believe in Jesus Christ, the son of the living God, and that salvation is a free gift that comes from the sacrifice that Jesus made for us. Paul states in 1 Corinthians 11:26:
“For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” 1 Cor. 11:26
But this message is two-fold. Notice that Paul uses the word proclaim. First we are proclaiming to the world what we believe. But, secondly, we are proclaiming that all are welcome to come. We want everyone to know the gift that comes through Jesus Christ and to live in the love, peace, joy, and strength that God provides.
Eternity with the Lamb
As we take communion, we are proclaiming now but we will also be proclaiming in eternity the good news of Jesus. Rev. shows us a glimpse of heaven and those there proclaiming:
“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” Rev. 5:12
We have this incredible gift of salvation that comes through only one person; Jesus Christ. So let us proclaim Christ’s death and resurrection this morning.