This was a service that was centered around the Communion Table. We would sing, I would preach, and we would partake of an emblem. It is rather lengthy, but it covers the entire service.
In My Memory
The Body represented by
far as the disciples knew they had gathered in that upper room to participate
in the Passover. That’s why Jesus had sent Peter and John to prepare the upper
room. Surely in their minds this was just another Passover, the third they had
shared with Jesus. They were prepared to go through the customs and recite the
prayers just as they had every year of their lives. They were ready to eat the
bitter herbs, and taste the salt water just as they had in years before. But as
the apostles would soon realize this was not a common Passover meal, Jesus was
about to redeem this meal and show the significance of His death.
is striking to me that when Jesus wanted to give His disciples a way to
understand what was about to happen, He didn’t teach them theory. While there
is a lot of merit to theories about Jesus and our sin, He understood that we
would need something deeper. Jesus gave them and us an act to perform. Specifically
He gave us a meal to share that speaks more volumes than any theory. The best
way to understand what Jesus has done for us to participate in the meal
14:22 says And as they were eating, he
took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said,
"Take; this is my body."
I imagine that the disciples kind of perked up at this point. You see
Luke tells us that they had just taken the third cup, the Cup of Redemption, all
that was left to do was for them to take the cup of Hallel and sing some hymns
as they close out the seder.
instead we see that Jesus makes a change, He stops looking back at the
Passover, and begins to talk about His role in the redemption of all mankind by
discussing His body. For a moment I want you to think about what His body
endured on your behalf. John 19:1-3 says: Then
Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. And the soldiers twisted together a crown of
thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. They came up to
him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands.
at the words "...and flogged or
scourged Him...," Since we have never witnessed a scourging our mind
absorbs the phrase and passes to the next sentence. The Bible gives no further
explanation. There is no footnote explaining what it means. Most of us read
over it for years without really contemplating that word...scourged.
was somehow a part of the crucifixion. Maybe we heard a preacher say it was
some sort of a whipping, but it was so much more. Remember that these were not
civilized people by modern standards. We would not be allowed to treat a dog
today the way they treated our Lord. A scourging was a legal beginning to every
Roman execution because it weakened the victim through shock and blood loss.
Without scourging a strong man might live on the cross for several days. This
brutal flogging was called the "little death" and preceded the
"big death" or crucifixion.
tells us that a criminal was flogged either by two soldiers, called lectors, or
by one who alternated positions. Under Hebrew law a punishment was limited to
forty strokes. However, there was no such limitation imposed by the Romans.
scourging’s severity depended entirely on the lector’s disposition. The only
rule for the lector who scourged a man about to be crucified was that he was to
die on the cross and not at the stake. Therefore he tried to bring his victim
to the very verge of death, without crossing that threshold.
prisoner was tied to a post that was usually about two feet high. Their wrists
were strapped to an iron ring that projected near the top. The lector would use
a short-handled whip, called a flagellum, with several single or braided
leather straps of variable lengths, in which sharp pieces of sheep bones or
glass were tied at intervals. Sometimes the whip was made of several thin, iron
chains which ended in small weights.
the prisoner was beaten they were stripped so they stood naked, or with a
loincloth. They were stretched; face down, with their back positioned to
provide little protection for the underlying flesh. The body was rigid.
it came; the whistle of the whip and the dull thud as it made contact with
flesh. There was a burning sensation and the first trickle of blood. Then again
and again, more rapidly, blow after blow with unbearable agony the back, neck,
face, chest, and legs were repeatedly struck. At first, it caused deep
bruising. Then, as the lector continued; the whip, sheep bones, chains, and
weights cut into the skin and even muscle.
lacerations often tore into the underlying skeletal muscles and produced
quivering ribbons of bleeding flesh. As V. P. Black puts it, "They beat
Him until His shoulder blades looked like two whitecaps on an ocean of
what seemed like an eternity the prisoner was finally taken down from the post.
The body would be in circulatory shock. Also factor in that Jesus had gone
without food, water, and sleep for fifteen to thirty hours and that He had been
physically and mentally abused during the night.
His body had not taken enough abuse, after the scourging they put a crown of
thorns on His head, put a reed in His hand, and put a purple robe on Him.
thorns probably came from the lote tree. This tree had thorns averaging one
inch in length. It was improbable for anyone to form a wreath-like crown using
these thorns without being injured. It would be more probable, that the crown
of thorns was more like a helmet. In fact, it would have been easier to cut off
a branch and use it as a helmet of thorns.
soldier then took the reed and hit Him over the head, driving the thorns deeper
into his flesh. Since even a small cut to the head bleeds profusely, imagine
how the blood must have run down His face, into His eyes, nostrils, and mouth.
following the scourging, Jesus’ clothes were put back on His massacred back.
Imagine how the garment must have soaked up the blood. How uncomfortable it was
to have that rough material scratch against His open wounds! As the blood began
to clot, His clothing became stiff and dry. Just about the time His bleeding
stopped, they ripped His clothes off and placed the robe on Him opening the
of this would have happened before Jesus even began the torture of the cross. This
morning when we stop to take this bread, it is a representation of the body of
Christ. We stop to reflect on the body that was embarrassed, humiliated, spit
on, and tortured so that we could have a relationship with Him.
us now partake of the bread, a symbol of the body that endured the torture and
pain for you and me.
The Blood Represented by the
Fruit of the Vine.
idea of drinking wine at the Passover was not a new idea with Jesus or His
apostles. It was not only the custom, but the Rabbi’s taught that it was an
obligation. We read in the Mishnah that even the poor are obliged to drink the
four cups (Pes. 10:1). Each cup represent the four expressions of deliverance
promised by God Exodus 6:6-7: "I will bring out," "I will
deliver," "I will redeem," and "I will take."
most of us are not very familiar with the sight of blood. But for the Jew the
sight, and smell of blood was a part of their daily lives. History records that
on a Jewish Holy day, the temple floors were covered with the blood of animals
that had been sacrificed for the sins of the people. When you think about the fact
that every family would bring a lamb, or bull to be sacrificed for their sins,
the amount of blood would have been enormous. It would have been enough to
cover the people’s feet and even get on the bottom of their robes.
was a central part of the lives of first century Jews and the book of Leviticus
talks about the importance of the blood. It is amazing to see the lengths that man had to go through
to please God and cover sin. If we look to the book of Leviticus in chapter 4
we see that Moses was spoken to by the Lord about how the Israelites had to
atone for their sin. There were precise methods that God required and specific
items He required for a sin offering. These sacrificial offerings always
required blood to cover sin.
blood of an animal was required to make atonement for sin. The animal would be
brought to the priest and the priest would perform all the necessary steps
required by God. The Bible tells us what the result was for those acts in Leviticus 17:11 where we read For the life of the flesh is in the blood,
and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for
it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.
was such an important part in the Jewish culture because it reminded them of a
The Blood is a reminder that we are sinful.
to Leviticus 17:11 Animal sacrifices were used to cover the sin of the people.
The sacrificial system was necessary because we are a sinful people as well who
need the cleansing and forgiveness of God.
read in Leviticus 19:2, Be holy, because
I, the Lord your God, am holy.” The blood sacrifices were a reminder to the
people that they were sinful and God wanted them to be holy as He is. The
Israelites purified themselves through the sacrificial system. Their was an
abundance of blood shed as the Israelites appealed to God to forgive them of
their sins. The sight, smell, and feel of blood was everywhere and served as a
physical reminder of their sinfulness.
Blood is a reminder that sin is costly
we look in Leviticus to these sacrifices, we see that it cost the Israelites
something whenever they sinned. If you had a problem, let’s say with a quick
temper, each time you blew up at someone you would end up paying for it with a
sheep. Think about how that would impact your life is we collected fines here
at the church when you sinned? Everyone showed up on Sunday morning and paid
set fines: $50 for each time you cussed, $75 times for each time you lusted,
$100 for each time you acted proudly, think about what our budget would look
has always been costly. It brings great damage to us personally. It separates
us from the love and fellowship of our God. And it cost the life of our Lord
we see that Blood is a reminder that Salvation comes through Jesus Christ.
was born for the express purpose to be a sacrifice for our sinfulness. The Levitical
law stated that the animal sacrifice had to be an animal without blemish, and
the sacrifice had to be made over and over again. The sacrifice of an animal
only pushed our sins forward, they could not pay the penalty for them.
Hebrew writer would say it this way, The
Law of Moses is like a shadow of the good things to come. This shadow isn't the
good things themselves, because it cannot free people from sin by the
sacrifices that are offered year after year. If there were worshipers who
already have their sins washed away and their consciences made clear, there
would not be any need to go on offering sacrifices. But the blood of bulls and
goats cannot take away sins. It only reminds people of their sins from one year
to the next. (Hebrews 10:1-4)
sinfulness demanded a better sacrifice. Jesus lived a perfect life, and was the
only one able to provide that perfect sacrifice for our sins. The wine that the
Apostles used during their Passover meal reminded them of what God had
promised. In very much the same way we partake of the cup so that we can
remember the blood that Jesus shed on our behalf.
Jesus told the disciples to take the cup and remember Him, He was reminding us
to love our God, who reconciles us to himself. The cup reminds us of our
sinfulness, his holiness, and his salvation.
grew up in the church, so it seemed every Sunday after the men had passed out
the cup a man would stand up and say “Now separate and apart from the Lord’s
understood what they intended, but I also believe that they were wrong. What we
are about to do cannot be separated from what we have just done. Think for a
moment, we have just stopped and remembered what a wonderful gift that God has
given us. Jesus purchased us with His body and His blood. The creator became
fully human so that He could experience a horrible death and redeem us from
we are faced with the reality, how do we respond? The collection that we take is, in essence, our response to
the goodness of God.
is a wonderful story about a young boy living in Chicago. His parents had
turned him loose one Sunday morning, and in his boredom he made his way into a
church. He had never been in a church before and found the singing and
preaching very interesting. At the end of the service they participated in the
communion service, where a gentleman described the depth of God’s love and what
a cruel death Jesus died on the cross.
it came time for the offering and the man said that this was a time to give God
what you wanted him to have. The little boy watched anxiously as the collection
plate drew nearer and nearer to him. He saw person after person put money in
the plate and he began to rifle through his own pockets looking for something
to give. He searched his pockets and found only a single button. He was stricken with fear as he
realized he had no money, he had nothing to give to Jesus. Fear shot through
that little boy, what would the preacher say, what would the people around him
the plate arrived, he took it with trembling hands, then he knew what he wanted
to give to God. He gently placed the plate on the floor and stepped very
carefully onto it and whispered, “Lord I give myself”.
writes in 2 Corinthians 8:5 that the Macedonian Church did very much the same
thing. Having nothing they gave
themselves first to the Lord. Because of their thankfulness of what God had
done for them they were willing to give generously. It’s noted that they gave far above their means and even
pleaded for the chance even the privilege of giving to the work of God seeing
it as a service to the saints.
morning we pause here to let go of our wants or our time and remember that we
are not our own. You and I have been brought at a price the precious blood of
Christ was spilled out on the cross of Calvary. With the incredible gift we
have been given, the very least you can do is give yourself to Him.
of you know that I am a fan of LSU. And by most standards I am a pretty good
fan. I have been to some games, I have some t-shirts and jackets, and I even
have a sticker on the back of my truck. I read different blogs about the team
and I check twitter to see the final scores. I cheer for them when things are
going right and I fuss about them when they are losing. But at the end of the
day that’s as far as it goes.
know this is not your usual Easter Sermon, but I stand before you this morning,
after seeing everything that Jesus has done on my account, and I wonder if we
are content with just being fans, or are we compelled to be a follower.
most Christians today, we attend some of the services, wear the Christian
T-Shirts and bracelets, occasionally read different books or blogs about the
Bible, and even check in from time to time to see what the Bible has to say. We
get all excited when the church does something I am passionate about, and we
gripe when they make a decision that makes me uncomfortable, but at the end of
the day that as far as it goes.
you read through the Gospels you will find example after example where Jesus puts
people in a position where they had to make a choice. There are several
examples of times where large crowds were following Him and He would preach a
sermon that would determine who was committed to being a real follower.
was never impressed by the size of this crowd, it’s the commitment level that He
cared about and still cares about. Today Jesus wants to know if we truly want
to be a follower or are we happy just being a fan. Where we may wear a cross,
but we don’t bear the cross. You can come to church, know all the songs, open
your Bible and take notes, walk out to your car with a Jesus fish on the bumper
and say grace before lunch, but that doesn’t necessarily make you a follower.
need to confess to you this morning that I was raised to be more of a fan than
follower. I attended churches and worked with churches that confused knowing
about Jesus with knowing Jesus. But I now understand that there is a difference
between knowledge and intimacy. You can know a lot about Jesus, but still not know
didn’t come to this earth so that you would be better behaved or to tweak your
personality or fine-tune your manners or smooth out your rough spots. He wants
total transformation. The objective of the gospel is not to make you a
well-behaved person but to turn your life upside down. Jesus didn’t come to
change me but to kill me. When I quit fighting for the controls of my life and
surrender everything to Him, when I die to myself and live for Him I find life
that that is truly life.
was serious about calling us to be more than fans, He called us to be followers
in passages like Luke 9:23 where He says if we want to follow Him we must deny ourselves and take up our cross daily. And
that’s different from my modern view of being a disciple. You see I have been
taught that the call of Jesus was to be comfortable.
I am realizing now is that a true follower doesn’t ask “How can I be
comfortable?” But when Jesus challenged the comfort level of those who were
following Him, when He began to say difficult things like, deny yourself, take
up your cross and follow me, many of His followers left. When it got hard to
follow Christ let quit following Him.
need to you hear me today when I say, there’s nothing comfortable about the
call to follow Jesus. He demands full commitment.
have a friend who claims to be a vegetarian. And most of the time she is very
strict about what she eats, and how she cooks it. But she has a little problem,
she really likes bacon so every now and then she makes an exception. She will
tell you that while she really like vegetarian food, she’s not 100% committed.
wonder if you understand where she is coming from. I wonder how many of us are committed
until it becomes inconvenient and uncomfortable. So when the special is Filet
Mignon then our commitments can be adjusted. I mean we really like Jesus, but I’m
not really excited about serving the poor. I happily call myself a Christian,
but there are so many other things I can do besides going to church. While I
love Jesus but in this area of my life I’m not 100 percent committed.
say, I want to follow Jesus but don’t ask me to forgive the person who hurt me.
Don’t ask me to release that bitterness and resentment I’m not going to let
want to follow Jesus but don’t ask me to give a percentage of my money. I
worked hard for that.
follow Jesus but don’t talk to me about my sex life, I can’t help my desires.
wear the name Christian and then we pick and choose the teachings of Jesus that
we’re going to follow like the teachings of Scripture were a buffet, where you
just take what looks good to you and don’t worry about the rest.
what fans do. They are there to cheer from the side lines when things are going
their way, and they are quick to complain when things get uncomfortable. But
they never get into the game, never make the sacrifices needed to be a real
follower. The truth is that many of us were raised in Church, but we weren’t raised
in Christ. We were taught to be a fan of Jesus instead of a follower of Jesus. Most
of us have a little bit of God, we have some Biblical morals. But one of the
most dangerous ways to be raised is with a little bit of Jesus…it’s like an vaccine.
A little bit can make you immune
to the real thing.
time to follow Jesus is now. He doesn’t want your time, or your money, or your
stuff. He wants you, all of you. Jesus isn’t looking for half-hearted fans.
Following Him part-time isn’t an option. He has no interest in weekend
visitation. He wants all of you, so that He can give you all of Him.
sacrifice demands that He is your one and only. Jesus says the most important
command is to love the lord with ALL your heart, ALL your soul, ALL your mind,
and ALL your strength. That’s the kind of relationship He wants to have with
invitation hasn’t changed. Jesus still says, If anyone would come after me he
must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me. My favorite word in that
invitation is anyone. No matter what your story, no matter what you’ve done
this is the relationship Jesus wants to have with you.
who has ever laid awake in bed and thought I would give anything to undo what
I’ve done. Anyone who has looked at themselves in the mirror and said I can’t
believe what I have become. Anyone is an all-inclusive term, Anyone means
everyone. Anyone means me and anyone means you.
morning you have seen what Jesus has done for you. How can you do anything less
than be a follower of His.