Words in the Upper Room/November 5, 2017

Second Baptist Lincoln
November 5, 2017

Words in the Upper Room

Matthew 26:20-30                 

20 When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve.
21 And while they were eating, he said, "I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me."
22 They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, "Surely not I, 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 not I, Rabbi?" Jesus answered, "Yes, it is you."
26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take and eat; this is my body."
27 Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered 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 of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father's kingdom."
30 When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

There are many kinds of sermons.  Most are intended to instill wisdom and understanding of scripture so it will affect the outcomes and behaviors of our lives.  We think of sermons as teaching.  But today’s message isn’t that at all.  You will hear nothing that I haven’t said before.  Rather, this is a message of remembrance, of recalling the words of Jesus so that as we go into communion today, this act of obedience, ritual and remembrance will be framed by the very words of Jesus.

If you knew that you were going to die tomorrow what would you want to do? Would you want to go somewhere that you’ve never been before, or see something that you’ve never seen before?   What would be your Bucket List?  If you knew that you only had a few hours to live who would you want to talk to? Who would you want to spend time with? Would you want to talk to the President or go see an old friend that you haven’t seen since college? Or perhaps you would just like to spend a relaxing evening at home with your family.

This morning I want us to spend a few minutes talking about how Jesus chose to spend the last few hours of his life. You see, Jesus realized that His life on earth was quickly coming to an end.   He didn’t choose to do something that He had never done before, or talk to someone that He had never met. Instead He chose to do something that He had done several times. He chose to observe the Passover with His Disciples. 

Jesus interrupted the meal with a startling statement. He said, "One of you will betray me." Jesus had mentioned to the Disciples on several occasions that He would be delivered into the hands of his enemies, but he had not told them that one of them would be the one to actually betray him.   When Jesus dropped this bomb on them, the disciples couldn’t believe it. They were deeply disturbed and saddened by what Jesus said. They each examined their relationship and commitment to Christ.   Jesus knew who would betray him, but he allowed the other disciples to examine their hearts and motives, which is something else that we should be doing this morning as we prepare to partake of the Lord‘s Supper.

The Disciples turned to Jesus and asked, “Is it I.” Even Judas went through the motions of asking Jesus, even though He knew he was the one that Jesus was referring to. The others doubted, they questioned, they wondered.   Judas on the other hand knew, because He had already agreed to hand Jesus over to the chief priests for 30 pieces of Silver.  When the Holy Spirit convicts a person of their sin there is no room for doubt or debate. We know exactly what we did or didn’t do. We also know that God wants us to confess our sin to Him and renew our relationship with Him.   Maybe Jesus was giving Judas one last chance to repent of the evil that was in his heart and mind. When it became evident that he was not going to repent, Jesus told him to go, and do what He had to do.

You will notice that in the apostle Paul’s version of the Lord’s Supper, he says, “A man ought to examine himself before partaking of the bread or the cup (I Cor. 11:28).  He says that to eat or drink in an unworthy manner would be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.   I remember when I was a kid, I would look over at my Mom during communion and she had her eyes closed tightly and was obviously in deep prayer.  Whenever I hear that phrase from I Corinthians, “A person ought to examine themselves”, I think of my Mom preparing herself for communion.  

What does it mean to examine ourselves?  What does it mean to take the bread and the cup unworthily.    What does this mean?  The Catholics call the Lord’s supper the Eucharist.  This means thanksgiving.  It is a meal of recognition of what Christ did.   I believe that taking communion without the sense of THANKSGIVING for Christ’s life-giving blood and sacrifice is taking it unworthily.  When we take it because it is ritual or when we take it because it’s a habit, we tend to forget his sacrifice and we fail to experience the gratitude that the Lord’s Supper represents.

Jesus again interrupted the Passover meal. This time he interrupted it in order to transform it into the Lord’s Supper. He took the bread and he told his disciples that the bread represented His body. Bread was seen as a symbol of sustenance. In doing this Jesus was saying that His body was going to be offered as a sacrifice so that all could live.I don’t know if we can fully realize the absurdity of his claims in this passage.  For 1500 years, the Jewish people had been celebrating the Passover.  They gave remembrance to the mercy and greatness of God who freed Moses and the people from Egypt. 

All of Jesus’ life he had experienced the Passover table each spring.  But now he steps to the table and with the bread and the cup, he makes pronouncements that would bring shock to any good Jewish person.  Yet it didn’t seem to phase these disciples.  When he said, “This is MY body” and “This is MY cup.”, they seemed to immediately accept that idea. After all, he had proved himself beyond a shadow of doubt that he was who he said he was.  He healed the sick, cast out demons and raised the dead.  He spoke with authority. 

The disciples were to "take" or "receive" the bread, which represented the body of Christ, and they were to drink the wine, which represented His blood, which would be shed for them, and for us.  This represents the wonderful truth that we can have life and forgiveness and be released from the power of sin by receiving Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.

This is the New Covenant that we remember and celebrate today.   Covenants were established through our the Old Testament.  The Edenic Covenant where God said not to eat of the tree was broken by the temptation and fall of Adam and Eve.   The Noahic Covenant said that God would never again destroy the earth in the manner of a flood. The Abrahamic Covenant stated that the offspring of Abraham would be as numerous as the sands of the sea and the stars of the sky.   The Mosaic Covenant was the giving of the law to Moses and for the benefit of the Israelites pointing the way to conduct befitting people of God. 

As we go to the table, be reminded that of all the covenants made in the Bible we broken, but this NEW covenant brings life and not death.  Humans failed to uphold their end of the covenants but in the NEW covenant, God has secured it through his son.

We are set free not from our righteousness, but by the obedience and righteousness of Christ. Amen.