And Jesus said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer: For I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God. (St. Luke 22:15-16)
With desire you desired your wedding day.
Remember how glorious that day was? If you are a Christian, you’ll remember how astounding it felt to stand before the presence of God and of a company of friends, taking part in a sacred event.
To the calloused soul, a wedding seems nothing more than a formality – saying words, giving two bands of gold and signing a paper.
But if you accept God’s mysterious gift of marriage with thanksgiving, and if you take marriage seriously, you know the meaning of those bands. You know the importance of those words, “I do.” The band reminds you of your and of your spouse’s pledges. The band reminds you of your love. The band reminds you, really, of God’s mysterious grace.
The symbols become sacred, because the reality behind them is sacred. The day was special, because through word and symbol you understood in a new way what Godly love really was.
Something so formal … something so sacred.
In some way, the service of matrimony has striking similarities to the Holy Communion. The wedding day is a day of anticipation, a day to be desired. Yet not for the food and for the flowers – rather, for the love between man and woman and for the presence and gifts of God. Symbols become sacred. Symbols take on powerful meaning.
This morning, the Fifth Sunday in Lent, we come to the Lord’s Table as is our custom in this parish.
But did you come with desire? With anticipation?
Jesus himself said this holy meal – using common elements of bread and wine – was an event he earnestly desired.
Why? Because of the sacred meaning of these everyday symbols.
First, we see the bread and wine as symbols of our forgiveness. Second, you and I see the bread and wine as symbols of our fellowship. And third, we see the bread and wine as symbols of our future.
Jesus feeds you spiritually in this meal through the spiritual use of symbols: come, then, and feast in faith.
These are common, everyday elements, this bread and this wine. But the Lord Jesus earnestly desired to share them with his disciples, because in that meal he taught them – and you and me today – that these are symbols of our forgiveness in him.
The meal would have been familiar to Jesus’ followers. They were Jews and therefore observed the Passover each year, so they knew of unleavened bread and the cups of wine and how those elements stirred their remembrance of the exodus from Egypt.
In reality, Jesus was teaching them of a greater exodus than the one they knew: an exodus from the life of sin and death and a journey into his abundant life.
You’ll recall from the book of Exodus (and from our first lesson this morning) that the Lord wanted His people free from Egyptian bondage so they could inhabit the land He had for them. They were content to be slaves; He wanted something better for them. The covenant-keeping God was going to fulfill His promises of land and rest to the children of Israel.
To free the Israelites to leave Egypt, the Lord sent down the worst plague of all, the Death Angel, to kill the firstborn of the Egyptians. By smearing the blood of a sacrificed lamb on their doorposts, the Israelites would be passed over by the Death Angel and enabled to flee their captors.
The blood of the paschal lamb appeased God’s wrath, and it marked the Israelites as His people – a people moving on to better things.
And so Jesus takes the familiar bread and wine and tells the disciples that they “are” his body and blood – no, not in a literally physical sense; that can’t be possible. Spiritually, though, they symbolize his body and blood poured out for them so that they might escape God’s holy wrath … and journey to heaven.
The Reformer John Calvin says it well. To paraphrase, this bread and this wine are means that God uses to communicate His grace to you; they are the “Word of God preached to the senses.”
You can hear a million sermons on forgiveness and on God’s love for you in Christ. The fact, though, remains: God made you and me to be feeling, touching, sensing, chewing, drinking beings. So this morning, hear His Word; press the bread to your teeth; drink the wine; trust in Christ as your Savior as you partake of this holy meal; and you will be nourished in your soul. His Spirit, present in this Supper, will lift you into the heavenly presence of Christ.
That’s why Jesus was so eager to eat this meal with his disciples: he wanted them to know, in a familiar and “touch-able” way, that because HE suffered, THEY were forgiven and accepted by God. Because of His eternally appointed death at Calvary, they – God’s elect – would have life.
That’s why you and I, prone NOT to forgive ourselves, need to desire this meal, this tangible symbol of forgiveness.
Jesus also desired to eat this meal with his disciples because it represented the unity and the humility they were to possess.
The Gentiles, or non-believers, were different from Christians, Jesus taught at the Last Supper. Non-Christians focus on “me first.” Their main concern is prestige and power in the light of society. You and I, due to our indwelling sin, want to put self first and to worry about prestige and power.
Notice, regrettably, how quickly the disciples started disputing about who should be No. 1 in the kingdom. Not only were they wondering who would betray Jesus; they also – perhaps primarily? – wanted to know who the foremost disciples would be in Jesus’ kingdom.
In the Lord’s Supper, however, Jesus revealed his deep love and humility for his followers. He certainly deserved the place of honor; yet he was among them as one who served.
Being nourished by one body and united by one cup, you and I are live out our unity in Christ through humble service. You must imitate Jesus.
This meal is a symbol of blessing, because it reminds you and me of the fact that we’re a family at Leakesville Presbyterian Church. We’re a family of believers in Greene County and in America and throughout the world. And you and I are to serve our Father by serving one another.
This means pastors talking with five-year-olds. Youth visiting those in retirement homes. Busy adults taking time to listen and to help struggling people in the church.
Why? Because of our fellowship. Because we have a our common Savior and a common Father. Because of the example of our Lord.
Look around this morning as you commune. See someone chewing the same bread and drinking the same cup as you. Someone – anyone. You have an eternally deep connection to that person.
Make it a point to love and to serve that person. He, she, is family.
This meal is, third, a symbol of your future.
It’s a meal you should desire, because it reminds you of your forgiveness and of your fellowship with the greatest family of all. But in a broken-down, sin-stricken, painful world, this sacrament reminds you and me of our exodus to glory. It’s our future!
Jesus said he wasn’t going to drink of the fruit of the vine until his kingdom was fulfilled. Interpreters offer countless suggestions as to the meaning of our Lord’s words, but really the meaning is plain: Jesus was pointing to the wedding banquet of the Lamb, when we will be with him in the New Heavens and New Earth.
Jesus was giving you hope.
In a sense the kingdom ALREADY had come in Christ. He is the perfect Davidic king, and you and I are members of his kingdom even now.
Yet we also anticipate a better day, the Last Day, when Christ will come and judge the living and the dead. He will be acknowledged as King of all creation. Those of us covered in his paschal blood will be judged on Christ’s perfection and, thus, invited to rule with him.
And what a glorious dwelling it will be!
Right now, food spoils. Bodies get cancer. Relationships are strained.
One day, you and I will live life as God intended from creation. No spoilage. No cancer. No disharmony. Matter, such as bread and wine and trees and flowers, will exist – but in a perfect and immaculate existence.
Spring is brilliant on the Gulf Coast right now, isn’t it? It’s always my favorite time of year: a time of renewal and of rejuvenation.
Chewing this bread and drinking this cup, I can’t begin to imagine how joyous it will be in the presence of God, free of sin and free to live.
It’s a good thing to desire your wedding day, or to feel that desire rekindled when you look back on it. Those of you who are married know it’s far more than a ceremony. They are far more than gold bands. These are words and symbols of undying love and of mysterious grace.
Jesus wants you to desire this meal earnestly today, for even greater reasons.
It begins with faith in him as Savior, as your Passover Lamb. But faith grows hungry. Faith needs nourishment. Faith needs fellowship. Faith needs hope.
And those are the blessings God’s Spirit pours out to you today as you come – and feast by faith on Christ.
Faith – your faith – needs this meal of blessing.